MindSumo: The X Prize of hiring

New challenge-based recruiting site will help you find smart kids to solve your vexing problems.

Somewhere out there is an unemployed college grad who can save your company. MindSumo

Looking to hire smart college kids? Here's a new tool that will help you find them: MindSumo.

It lets you create challenges, or contests, to help you solve problems you have at your company. You have to put up prize money, but in return, you get (hopefully) solutions to your problems, and (more hopefully) youth you can hire to work for you full time.

The prizes are not winner-takes-all; the challenge posters select the top solutions and the prize money is distributed among the best of them.

CEO Trent Hazy says that even for the entrants who don't win, the challenges provide experience that they can use on resumes. That's valuable, he says, for the many kids who graduate from college without work experience.

I've always held skepticism for the contest model, whether it's for recruiting challenges, building rockets, or finding contract workers. Contests ask real people to do real work for nothing but a chance to win a reward. The moralist part of my brain says it's not right to ask people to work for free.

But I am, economically speaking, flat out wrong. Challenge sites for contract work (like 99 Designs) yield good product, and there's no shortage of workers who submit to win. On a larger scale, the X Prize and the Orteig challenge before it gave us new aerospace technology; the DARPA Grand Challenge advanced autonomous vehicle research. And what are out-of-work college kids going to do, anyway? Flip burgers for next to nothing or bet their time on a much more lucrative and rewarding outcome?

MindSumo appears to be a finely-crafted site for running recruiting-centered challenges. It has tools for the challenge posters to run multiple campaigns, track the entries, and pay off the winners. People entering challenges, likewise, also get a dashboard to manage entries into multiple contests. MindSumo takes a cut of prize money that's awarded.

The site may be, in fact, too finely-focused. While the demos and current beta users are all focused on grand one-off challenges, one could see the site being used as a way to screen applicants' skills for rather standard or repeating tasks. I could see using MindSumo, when it opens, to find freelancers for CNET News, by assigning articles on it.

MindSumo does not help employers evaluate applicants' teamwork skills or their willingness to show up to same job day, after day, after day. But it does look like a decent tool to find smart people who are looking to prove themselves to get a gig.

MindSumo presented at the Stanford StartX demo event.

 

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