How MountBlue’s coding bootcamps are aiding entry-level tech hiring in startupsSohini Mitter
MountBlue turns unskilled, unemployed engineers to industry-level full-stack developers who are being recruited by the likes of Zomato, Freshworks, Zolo , and more.
At a glance:
Startup: MountBlue Technologies
Founder: Konark Singhal
Year it was founded: 2017
Where it is based: Bengaluru
The problem it solves: Entry-level tech hiring for startups
Sector: Tech reskilling and upskilling
Funding raised: Bootstrapped
When Konark Singhal was running MockBank (an online test preparation and search engine for public sector jobs), he discovered that “a high percentage” of engineers and computer science graduates applied for low-level sarkari jobs, sometimes even “peon-level” ones that had no connection with their past education.
It baffled Konark, an engineer and IIM-B alumnus with successful stints in Bain & Co and MapmyIndia. He took some time to identify the problem. Those taking tests on MockBank, a startup Konark founded in 2013, were candid enough to admit that though they were engineers, they lacked coding skills. This made them unemployable to tech companies, and sarkari naukri was the only available option to most.
“This was a disconnect staring right at our faces,” Konark tells YourStory. “We were ourselves struggling to recruit engineers for MockBank. So, I reckoned there was an opportunity there. That was the germ of the idea.”
That idea ultimately led to MountBlue Technologies, a startup that began operations in Bengaluru in June 2017. It is Konark’s third venture after SourceWeb (a SaaS startup later acquired by US-based Xeeva) and MockBank.
What MountBlue does
Konark calls MountBlue a “coding bootcamp” that re-skills and upskills engineers to make them ready for employment in tech startups and various high-growth ventures. In a year, MountBlue has had nearly 100 engineers graduate in 10 cohorts and are now deployed in 45-plus startups, including Zomato, Rivigo, Freshworks, Zopnow, Idfy, Vymo, Mobisy, Active.Ai, Liv.Ai, Mahindra Trringo, Letsventure, RoofandFloor, Zolo, and more.
“We had multiple X the demand than we supplied. Our hiring is extremely high bar and selective. The last batch had been recruited from over 20,000 applicants. We chose 55 of them through a 4-5-step process, which included multiple online coding tests, tech interviews, fit/culture interviews, etc.”
At any given point, MountBlue cohorts have 45-50 computer science and IT grads undertaking a 9-12-week coding programme to become industry-ready. These cohorts are managed by “mentors” who are professionals with coding experience of at least 3-5 years. “There is no conventional teaching; mentors do code reviews and offer practical guidance,” Konark says.
“We invest in unemployed engineers and add value to them by taking them from good college project makers to great industry-level production ready engineers. Doing all this, we are also able to solve entry-level tech hiring, primarily for startups and other high-growth ventures, which in itself is a huge problem.”
How the bootcamps work
The bootcamps are intense affairs that span six days a week and include 10-12 hours of coding and code reviews every day. By the time developers finish the programme, they would have written 4,000-5,000 lines of code each.
After the completion of the coding programme, MountBlue engineers are deployed at the startups and are on their payroll for the next 12 months. So, essentially, startups pay MountBlue a certain fee for utilising its talent pool; the rest is paid as salary to the developers.
Konark reveals that all 10 engineers from MountBlue’s first cohort have “got direct offers” from the companies they were deployed at. “Many customers have said that our people are doing better than the ones hired from campuses,” he says.
What customers say
One of the startups that has deployed coders from MountBlue is foodtech giant Zomato. It helped that Konark was familiar with Zomato founder Deepinder Goyal from their time at consulting firm Bain & Co. In a short span, Zomato has on-boarded five engineers in full-stack developer roles from MountBlue.
Gunjan Patidar, CTO of Zomato, tells YourStory,
“I first met Konark about four months ago. At that point, we were not really looking to add entry-level developers to our team. But when he explained the whole process of how they select, train, and deploy developers, it was clear that these candidates can start adding value very quickly.”
“The first developer MountBlue deployed at Zomato has been doing great overall. Although he did not get trained on the tech stack we use, he quickly picked up and is contributing as part of our web team. Based on this experience, we have since then on-boarded four more engineers from MountBlue's cohorts. The other developers joined just a week ago.”
Team and future plans
A lean, bootstrapped startup, the MountBlue team includes Founder Konark, five mentors in charge of five cohorts, and an HR manager. All mentors are engaged full time, but they also take up activities like incubating their own startups, and so on.
“Market remuneration rates are offered to mentors. This is also a chance for them to give back to society,” Konark says. “They can have their offs though. Some of our mentors take off for 20-day Vipassana courses, and we are fine with that,” he adds.
While MountBlue has established the clear need for upskilling engineers to make them coders in high-tech startups, the challenge is to scale this model up - have more cohorts, more mentors, shorter bootcamps, and so on. Konark says he wants MountBlue to go from five mentors to 20 soon, and eventually “pivot to a largely online model”.
“That is when we would need risk capital from angels or VCs… to develop a model like that of UpGrad or Simplilearn or Udacity - but only for coders,” Konark says. Until then, MountBlue will continue to run on debt from NBFCs, family and friends.