How to become a global startup in just a year?
Hi, my name is Iza. I’m the co-founder of ChallengeRocket.com — platform enabling companies to access innovative solutions and sourcing of tech talents through groundbreaking formula of high-profile tech challenges and hackathons. It’s Wednesday morning, some of us are still resting after New Year’s Eve celebrations, and I was kindly asked to write a lovely summary of the year 2017 — the deadline being today :) Facing challenges is my second nature so I took up the gauntlet! Armed with inspiration and a hot cup of tea I’m going back in time to tell you a story, our story. It’s only 16 months of events so don’t worry, it’s not that long.
A lot has happened in the world of technology in 2017. Scientists have advanced immensely with brain implants restoring motor skills for people suffering from various injuries. We’ve seen the emergence of autonomous cars, quantum computers, as well as spherical cameras that started a new era in photography and changed the way in which people will be sharing their memories. 360 degree selfie? Don’t mind if I do! We have been building our startup somewhere along those ground-breaking events, we’ve been doing our best to join the group of people and organizations who left a mark on the pages of technological revolution of this world. I am well aware of the fine line between being proud of one’s achievements and shameless bragging, so I will healthily balance of pride and humility for you, kind reader, to find this piece as a valuable source of inspiration. Ready? Let’s go!
Facebook likes us
Let’s start with a bang — according to Facebook ChallengeRocket is the best platform for developers to improve their craft. We have received this prestigious distinction in a contest organized by social media giant just shy of 2 weeks ago! Despite having shown only a portion of demo version of our new system that we’ve been working on, the jury found our efforts sufficient to award us the first place as well as $20.000, which we plan to smartly invest.
If we stop it’s only to enjoy our spot on the podium ;)
Aside from daily hard work connected with developing the platform, sourcing and servicing our clients, we have also participated in several interesting contests aimed at startups. Those have strengthened us in what we do and provided us with an influx of motivation when we most needed it.
During this year our startup has been awarded for innovation in:
- 1st prize in European Economic Congress
- 1st prize in prestigious ABSL congress
It is worth noting that according to ABSL contest jury, our project has had the best chance of acquiring international leads.
That is exactly what has happened! During last few months we have managed to organize amazing events aimed at sourcing innovation and discovering talents, among others, for: Bank Zachodni WBK (Santander Group), Fortum, AccorHotels, and NVIDIA.
Let’s take a moment and talk about NVIDIA for a while. A global leader in electronics market decided to choose our small team from Poland to manage the first international challenge for robotics and artificial intelligence specialists. ChallengeRocket won this project competing with other platforms in their homeland and is responsible for global marketing for the giant from Silicon Valley. The online challenge was launched on ChallengeRocket.com platform end of October 2017 and will last until February 2018. Only during first two hours from launch over 100 people have signed up from all over the world. Currently over 2000 participants from 60 countries have signed up for the Challenge.
Aside from hackathons and challenges that we manage directly, we have been involved in organization and promotion of over 40 similar events for programmers, which took place in many locations globally as well as online. Our partner networks, as well as the community of ambitious tech enthusiasts are getting stronger by the day!
Alright, but do Benjamins check out?
Actually, yes, since the very beginning we’ve had interesting and profitable projects. Investors have been knocking at our door as well, and even more so after the enormous wave of media coverage (we have been covered in over 200 publications in 2017), that appeared every time after we’ve succeeded in some area. Along with growth of popularity different personas and institutions have expressed interest in our actions and possibility of joining our project. After months of discussions we have decided to collaborate with Leonarto fund, and by doing so, to finalize this year’s first investment round. Truly amazing people are working in this venture, individuals with valuable experience in the field that we are active in. Right since our first meeting we’ve found ourselves to communicate on the same wavelengths, it was a good sign!
An individual investor has joined our team on top of that — founder and ex-president of SMT Software — Sebastian Łękawa. We feel honored to be working with him.
The icing on the cake was grant from Polish Agency of Enterprise Development in “Startups Development from Eastern Poland” program. We’re proud to have been awarded the most amount of points in this round!
Benjamins do check out indeed! Those are the resources we will use in 2018 to dynamically grow, and we couldn’t be happier about it. Nothing spectacular will come to effect, however, if those efforts won’t be of our whole team!
We’re growing by the month, new programmers, graphic designers, project managers, marketing experts are joining us constantly. The workload is increasing, but so is the number of tasks and ideas that we want the talented people to entrust with. People who love the startup environment, exciting projects, extraordinary tasks requiring responsibility. Rest assured, nobody here knows what boredom is :) A good, involved Team is our strongest side, and it is no coincidence that I write this word with capital “T”. I feel it’s a moment for my own plug, as I want to personally thank Tomek and Paweł (for the uninitiated, they are the co-founders of ChallengeRocket — there are three of us, just like in Matrix):
Dear ChallengeRocket Team — THANK YOU for being the passengers of our rocket, for travelling with us on full throttle into the unknown space of challenges! It will be an unforgettable journey for You — both in terms of professional, as well as personal development.
With a Team of our dreams, new strengths, amazing product, and financial resources we believe that 2018 will be the year of great achievements. Of course, like usual, a little bit of luck is welcome, as it never left us in 2017. We hope to have it by our side this following year as well.
Why do we want to conquer the outer space in 2018?
Space is limitless, undiscovered, full of challenges, unpredictable. Even though, on one hand there are no limits out there, lack of such boundaries might prove problematic as we will never be quite sure if we’re close to our achieving our goals. The feeling of being limitless gives us an empowering freedom to act and awakens the creativity inside. In 2018, aside from kaizen philosophy, which is our second nature, we’re introducing the no limits philosophy. Of course, we will always act in the light of stars called universal rules of healthy competition and ethical business leading.
Very soon, come 2018, you will see a completely new version of our platform. We’re working together with best specialist to bring you more effective ways of communication, improve usability and user experience, and we cannot wait for the final result! Recently we went through rebranding — our new logo better represents what we do, we’re sure of it.
Tech enthusiasts — beat the average!
In 2018 we will motivate out community to beat the average. What does it mean? By taking part in our challenges, which, by the month, are going to be more complex and refined (on-site and online events, short ones — few minutes long, as well as long ones — a few months long) we will present how the average of a given challenge, or group of challenges, was beat. The world belongs not to the few best ones, but to the crowd of hard-working ones, constantly improving their competences — individuals willing to rise above the average.
Dear HR representatives — recruit faster, cheaper, more effectively, educate and engage
HR departments in companies around the world can also get ready and prepare to test our complex solution soon. It is going to help in faster, more cost-effective and more successful recruitment of new employees, as well as improve the education processes and awaken involvement and creativity in currently employed people.
We can share a little secret with you. We’re nearing the end of works on our system of automated assessment of skills of candidates applying for technical positions, as well as a predictive model for optimization and automation of recruitment processes in IT.
Main characteristics of our automated IT specialists recruitment product:
- automation of assessment process (an algorithm should assess the correctness of answers without human interaction)
- prediction of programmer’s efficiency in real project environment (development of predictive model that highlights experience and programmer’s select characteristics)
- automated creation of programmers’ classificatory models (in terms of better profiling of a given person to assess types of projects)
- testing time optimization.
In terms of education and self-improvement as well as engagement and creativity of employees, we can offer to HR departments a set of tools for organizing internal hackathons, as well as testing platforms for skill improvement with elements of gamification.
“We can offer something not only for HR departments. Marketing experts (especially product marketing) as well as R&D can successfully organize their own challenge aimed at local or global community of tech enthusiasts. What for? To gain interesting ideas (so-called “crowd wisdom”) and build technological community around their brand. Every challenge is a perfect opportunity for promotion of the company and its products.” — says Tomasz Florczak, co-founder of ChallengeRocket.com.
The possibility to organize online challenges thought the platform enables our tools to be used by every company around the world that seeks innovative solutions and is willing to discover talented employees.
What can you wish us in the New Year?
Our wish list is long, but let’s focus on the most important points:
- Most of all, wish us humility. There is a lot of exciting events taking place around us. We must, however, maintain vigilance and ability to keep balance between being a young startup and the feeling of mentally belonging to Fortune 500 brands.
- Not being humble at all, I have been nominated to Businesswoman of The Year 2017 title in startup category. The results will be announced at the beginning of 2018. Tomek summed it up by saying: “Naturally, we all wish her first place! Obviously not out of goodness of our hearts. This award would just give us a few respect points.” Curtain!
- When we began our efforts with ChallengeRocket we’ve had one goal in our collective mind, that is for our business to be global and profitable. We also wanted our work to echo positively in the world. Fortunately, the formula of hackathons/challenges is hard-coded into DNA of modern approach to CSR (corporate social responsibility), aimed at cooperation with investors and joint creation of solutions. Lately we have published an e-book titled “CSR Hackathons: how to effectively engage stakeholders in the oint creation of ideas and solutions?” which can also be accessed on SlideShare. Our content partner is Responsible Business Forum, and CI ONZ in Warsaw has taken an honorary patronage of this project. In the e-book we have shown the case study of this year’s series of #Connect2Effect hackathons organized by ONZ. In 2018 we hope to collaborate with ONZ in more areas like organizing global, virtual hackathons focused on Sustainable Development Goals. We are confident that our solution is going to help ONZ to better promote SDG and to reach their goals more effectively.
- In 2017 several of our clients have expressed their plans to collaborate with us in the following years, and this makes us extremely happy! We wish for challenges organized on our platform to bring in many new and interesting ideas worth further development and finalization. We also hope that these events will enable us to acquire new leeds with talented individuals and potential future partners and associates.
Slowly coming to an end…
It has been a busy year, busier than ever, and full of achievements. A year full of success stories, but also full of difficulties and signs of weakness that young, ambitious startups are familiar with. A year that let us define ourselves — who we are and what it is that we want to do (yes, there was a moment when we found ourselves at a crossroads), as well as a period of trial and error, and continuous betterment in kaizen philosophy. It’s the end of the year and 16 months of our hackathon-filled marathon have passed. Lots of interesting challenges are ahead of us, so please, keep your fingers crossed!
Epilogue for persistent ones — what is ChallengeRocket.com? (Photo at the end!)
Our startup, ChallengeRocket.com, was founded in September 2016. The project was born from the initiative of three entrepreneurs and new technologies enthusiasts — Paweł Kwiatkowski, Tomasz Florczak, and Izabela Błażowska — who set out a goal of revolutionizing the HR sector through automating the processes of sourcing candidates and assessing their technical skills.
Sounds sublime and dignified, but there’s also an easier way of saying it:
“There is a significant shortage of specialists with technical skills on the market. Traditional methods of sourcing candidates are becoming decreasingly effective and cost-effective. There are no reliable candidates’ skills assessment methods during job interviews. We are helping companies with faster, more cost-effective, and more successful sourcing of employees with technical talents.” — says Paweł Kwiatkowski.
ChallengeRocket is currently one of the most dynamically developing startups in HR-TECH and global innovation sector. Our global mindset has lead our way since the very beginning. We specialize in complex and automated approach to IT workers recruitment (candidate sourcing and skill screening) using methods of artificial intelligence with help of our SaaS tool. We provide advisory and operational services in the field of acquisition of innovative ideas and discovering talents using the formula of hackathons and online challenges. We rapidly grow our global community of programmers, graphic designers, project managers, scientists and startups thanks to those events.
ChallengeRocket is the first European platform that enables:
- Companies to creatively utilize challenges and hackathons to reach hidden talents and gather innovation,
- Talents and startup teams to showcase their skills and projects to big brands, win prizes and have a good time!
In the beginning of this piece there is a photo with sublime vibe to it, now you get to see us in our natural environment — as usual, framed by our selfie-master Paweł! :)