Startup Street: Risebird Is Helping IT Firms Find Skilled Coders

On Startup Street this week: Risebird’s quiet ascent, India’s push for female entrepreneurs and Odisha’s startup ambitions.

Lines of codes are displayed on a screen (Photographer: Gilles Sabri/Bloomberg)  
Lines of codes are displayed on a screen (Photographer: Gilles Sabri/Bloomberg)  

This week on Startup Street, a video-interviewing startup that is helping software services providers speed up their hiring processes. India’s push for women entrepreneurs. And Odisha, a ‘top performer’ in India’s startup rankings, plans to set up more hubs. Here’s what went on:

Risebird’s Quiet Ascent

At startup incubator Growthstory a couple of years ago, Ashutosh Seth and his colleagues were working on an idea to assess tech job candidates based on their hands-on skills instead of their knowledge.

The idea grew on Seth. He tested it for his friend, Sanjay Goel, senior director at Cleartrip, who was then looking to hire engineers. Of the 200 candidates, more than 150 preferred to be assessed for a hands-on coding session rather than the traditional self-paced assessment powered by a chat bot.

“There was a clear preference for human experience over any automated bot. We shared the video recording of candidates,” Seth told BloombergQuint. “Sanjay immediately liked it and hired engineers through me.”

That gave birth to Risebird.

Ashutosh Seth, founder, Risebird. (Source: Risebird) 
Ashutosh Seth, founder, Risebird. (Source: Risebird) 

The startup has carved a niche for itself in doing video interview assessments for information technology firms, helping them hire the right engineers. To be sure, Risebird doesn’t select the candidates. It gets external domain experts to screen and evaluate candidates selected by the company based on a hands-on coding interview and mapping of voice and facial sentiments.

In the 60-minute interview, candidates are made to troubleshoot real-time customer problems based on pre-set tech stacks. During the interview, the facial expressions candidates are also mapped to give behavioural insights. All this culminates into a final score, which along with the interview recording, is sent to the companies.

We’re helping companies accelerate technical screening of job applicants. In a nutshell, we help them find needles in the haystack.
Ashutosh Seth, Founder, Risebird
Seth demonstrates the Risebird’s sentiment analysis. (Source: Risebird)
Seth demonstrates the Risebird’s sentiment analysis. (Source: Risebird)

Outsourcing interviews saves precious time for IT firms. More so in a country like India where finding quality coders is difficult. A 2017 study by Aspiring Minds had found that about 95 percent engineers were not fit for software development.

U.S.-based Karat, which has a similar offering like Risebird, has raised nearly $40 million from investors, including Tiger Global Management. But Seth says that Risebird is a lot cheaper—about a fourth the price of any other online-interview offering.

And while the concept is still nascent in India, it has found takers.

Two of Risebird’s biggest clients are prominent names in Indian IT: Mphasis Ltd. and Persistent Systems Ltd. Both firms, which have signed annual contracts with Risebird, are using them to hire for their U.S.-based clients. Risebird has also done a pilot with Tata Consultancy Services and is in talks with ITC Infotech.

Customers have vouched for the startup. “Risebird’s live video interviews help us see the candidates: personality, communication and coding style. This helps in taking informed hiring decisions,” Gaurav Gupta, vice president and delivery head at Persistent Systems, told BloombergQuint. “The hiring process has become more data driven, fast and cheaper because of them.”

Cleartrip’s Goyal agreed. “We were ramping up our product team and engineering hours weren’t available for first-level screening. Risebird video interviews was a perfect fit to our need,” Goyal said in a text message. “It saved us lot of time. Engineers we hired through Risebird are valuable resources of our tech team.”

The seven-member team is currently based in Bengaluru. Risebird has raised about $100,000 from senior staffing industry experts in the U.S. and India, Seth said without naming anyone. In the last six months, the company has generated about Rs 34 lakh in revenue. Seth says due to its asset-light model, it’s already operationally profitable.

He’s targeting about 10,000 interviews per month by year-end—the company does 500 right now. And it wants to use artificial intelligence to strengthen its match-making algorithm so that it can provide the best interviewer match to its customers.

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India Takes Steps To Promote Women Entrepreneurs

The Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade will take steps to make sure that at least a third of the beneficiaries of Startup India are women.

It will encourage other departments and states to promote women entrepreneurs as well, Ramesh Abhishek, secretary of the department, said in a tweet. “(We) will also organise interactions of women entrepreneurs with venture capitalists and banks to ease access to equity and debt.”

Abhishek also said the department has earmarked Rs 1,000 crore out of the Fund of Funds for women-led startups. Online and offline courses and programmes will be designed and implemented for capacity development of women entrepreneurs, he said, adding that legal, tax and financial advisory will also be taken care of.

The Start-up India action plan provides tax and other incentives including income tax exemption. So far, 18,813 startups have been recognised by the department. They can apply for availing incentives.

Odisha To Set Up Startup Hubs

The Odisha government has approved a proposal to set up startup hubs in major cities of the state to boost the ecosystem for emerging businesses, officials said.

Chief Secretary AP Padhi, while reviewing the progress of the startup policy implementation on Thursday, directed officials to prepare a detailed business plan of the proposed hubs for its effective management and operation. The exercise, initiated by the DPIIT, aims to review the startup ecosystem of states, while encouraging budding entrepreneurs to work on their business ideas.

As many as 592 startup ventures have been registered through the Odisha Startup Portal, of which 423, including 138 women-led startups, have been recognised by the startup council, officials said.