It’s a scenario all programmers are familiar with: you are coding alone, only to have something go awry and no one to ask for help. Codementor wants to prevent developers from going insane by providing an open marketplace where they can ask experts for one-on-one programming and design help.
Founder Weiting Liu says the goal of Codementor’s platform, which recently launched in beta and features code/screen sharing, video and text chat, is to replicate the reassuring feeling of having an experienced programmer beside you.
“We are working hard to bridge the gap between the experience of asking public questions on an Internet forum and having a real mentor sit right beside you,” says Liu. The site currently has 300 mentors based in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Liu says that urgent questions can be answered within two hours, while other queries will get a response within 24 hours. Codementor’s goal is to eventually have mentors available immediately for all types of requests.
Y Combinator alum Liu is a veteran founder of startups including stock investing community SocialPicks, which was acquired by Financial Content Services in 2009. He says Codementor is the tool he wished he had as an individual developer and business manager.
“Oftentimes, if developers are relatively inexperienced, they’d run into technical issues that none of us could solve,” says Liu. “As a business manager, you’re willing to pay thousands of dollars just to make those urgent show stoppers go away. If Codementor had existed before, we wouldn’t have had to pay thousands of dollars for certain issues.”
Codementor isn’t just meant for urgent issues. The platform also wants to help coders train with developers who are experts in certain programming languages, giving them in-depth mentoring and live help that’s missing from Web resources like Stack Overflow or Codecademy, and serving as a cheaper, more accessible alternative to offline developer bootcamps.
There are two ways to ask questions on Codementor. The first is to post your question directly on the site, which will match you with mentors. For example, if you need help with Ruby, Codementor will show you which Ruby experts are currently online. The second method, still in beta testing, will allow programmers to embed widgets on their blogs so followers can ask them questions directly from posts.
Developers are accepted into Codementor after a vetting process. The startup’s team looks at each potential mentor’s codebase on GitHub and also takes participation in Web communities such as Stack Overflow into consideration. Mentors set their own rates and are scored after each session by their mentees on a five-point system. Liu says Codementor, which offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee, will drop mentors with consistently low ratings in order to ensure quality.