A startup that turns practicing your programming skills into a game, CodeFights, has just raised $2.4 million in seed funding to further develop its real-time, social game where developers can participate in "code battles" versus either a timed clock or other opponents directly. While the site has only been live for around six months, already 70,000 users have shown up and have solved 1.5 million challenges, says co-founder Tigran Sloyan.
He also notes that the site has been growing by 30 percent to 40 percent month-over-month since its debut.
Investors in the round include Felicis Ventures (Aydin Senkut), Sutter Hill Ventures (Mike Speiser), Adam D’Angelo (Facebook co-founder/Quora CEO), Auren Hoffman (LiveRamp CEO), Tom Fallows (Google Shopping Express founder/Uber), Raffi Krikorian (Twitter VP of Eng/Uber) and others.
The idea for the startup, says Sloyan, an MIT grad originally from Armenia, was sparked following he and his co-founder, Aram Shatakhtsyan's, experiences participating in international math and coding competitions, including the International Mathematics Olympiad and the International Olympiad in Informatics, for example.
Sloyan even proposed the site's concept as his master's thesis at MIT, but he ended up leaving before writing it to work in Silicon Valley at companies like Oracle, Google and a Google Ventures-backed startup called Premise.
But the idea, he says, stuck with him.
"Instead of challenging stupid skills like rearranging candy or shooting birds, you're actually challenging someone's programming and math skills," says Sloyan of CodeFights . "People feel like they're not wasting time when playing it - they're coming out of it by having learned something new."
The first challenge is short - it only takes a couple of minutes to solve. But as the rounds progress, the games get harder and players are given more time. On the site, players can choose to race against the clock, or an automated matching system can put them head-to-head with others who are also online and looking to compete.
Right now, that matching system is fairly basic, but over time the plan is to begin matching people based on skill level once there's a larger pool of participants involved, says Sloyan.
The site currently features over 1,500 challenges, and the co-founder says that he's seen some programmers reach up to level 100 so far.
With the seed funding, the plan is to expand the content selection on the site to appeal to other developers, as well as introduce different types of challenges. Sloyan says he would also like to see things like database challenges for engineers or those where you're looking for mistakes in CSS code, for instance.
In addition, while the site today targets those who are more advanced, Sloyan believes the site could be used as a learning tool for beginners, too, by offering simpler games that let newer programmers practice their skills.
The startup, which is also co-founded by ex-Googler Felix Desroches, is now hiring. And, as it turns out, they already have an interesting potential base of applicants to choose from. "We're looking to our community," notes Sloyan. "It's best to hire people who love your product," he says.