Silicon Valley dev community targets European businesses

San Francisco-based cloud consultancy Appirio is aiming to make its developer community more appealing to European businesses by expanding its operations into Dublin, Ireland, and Munich, Germany.

Appirio’s TopCoder community, which encompasses 630,000 designers, developers and data scientists around the world, can be harnessed by enterprises that lack the skills to role out apps themselves.

“We take a problem for an enterprise and provide them with a virtual development centre through the crowd,” TopCoder president Narinder Singh told Techworld while on a trip to London, where he was looking to sign up new customers.

Enterprises such as Coca Cola, eBay and Kaplan tell Appirio what their problems are and Appirio aims to solve them by releasing a series of challenges to its TopCoder community.

“For example, we just did this cool mobile app for NASA that tracks astronaut nutrition in space,” said Singh.

Cash prizes are usually awarded to the top three applicants but Singh declined to say how much each one was worth. However, he was able to reveal that Appirio has paid out $50 million (£29 million) to developers over the last 10 years.

“Our best developers can make far more than they do in a day job,” said Singh, adding that some can earn up to $300,000 per year if they win multiple challenges.

“Let’s say you’re the best developer in your company. And then the average developer sits next to you...the difference in your pay is probably only 20 percent because companies can’t pay the 10x that we believe really great developers are worth.”

The TopCoder challenges, which often focus on building mobile applications, can take anything from a few hours to several weeks.

Beyond cash, Singh said developers enter the competitions in order to improve their programming skills and gain recognition.

“If you have a high rank on TopCoder, you’ll skip the first four or five rounds of interviews at places like Google or Facebook,” he claimed.

However, of the 630,000 developers in the community, Singh said just 10 percent have a ranking and only one percent are “very active”.

The vast majority of the community is based in Asia, where talent availability significantly outstrips the number of opportunities.

Singh said there aren’t many UK developers in the TopCoder community.

“There are two potential reasons for this,” he said. “The first is if there’s so much opportunity locally...they say 'hey there’s no reason to go and do other things'. The second part is that there’s not the skills we value. It’s hard to know.”

Appirio said the expansion into Dublin and Munich is designed to help Appirio better serve its growing base of continental European and UK customers.

Appirio also announced it has appointed Tim Medforth, formerly of Accenture, as senior vice president and general manager of Appirio Europe, Middle East and Africa.

“After 25 years at Accenture it is clear that Appirio is redefining the professional services marketplace," said Medforth. "The Appirio difference is all about great people, cloud enabled working and the ability to apply the talents of the [topcoder] crowdsourcing community to every client engagement. That’s very cool.”

Appirio established its European presence in 2011 and claims to have witnessed 100 percent year-on-year employee growth in the region.

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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