Software Development
Philadelphia

Shop Talk: West Philly’s OpenHatch is “a business card for geeks”

Update: corrected college names, edited Atlanta information. OpenHatch, like many companies, was one born of frustration. The company calls itself a “business card for geeks,” a service that allows open-source programmers to automatically import contributions from services like Google Code, Github and Sourceforge to create an automatic index of a programmer’s work. Currently, programmers have […]


Update: corrected college names, edited Atlanta information.
OpenHatch, like many companies, was one born of frustration.
The company calls itself a “business card for geeks,” a service that allows open-source programmers to automatically import contributions from services like Google Code, Github and Sourceforge to create an automatic index of a programmer’s work.
Currently, programmers have to manually keep track of their open-source projects. Which can be frustrating when it comes time to apply for a job or show off a portfolio.
While OpenHatch has only been public for a just under two months, the company has rolled out several key features to help programmers keep tabs on all of their work without having to spend time digging through code repositories.
Members get a profile page with a link and description to their work that is automatically populated. The site also has a map that lets programmers know what other people in their area work on the same project.
Just eight months in, the company’s ambitions to become the best marketplace for open-source talent is easy to explain. However, to tell the story about how the OpenHatch guys came to Philadelphia, you’d need a world map, a handful of pushpins and lots of patience.

Co-founders Raphael Krut-Landau, 22, and Asheesh Laroia, 24, tell stories about San Francisco (where Asheesh worked on Creative Commons) New Orleans (where Krut-Landau visited to volunteer), Harlem, Baltimore and Paris.
The duo hatched the idea while at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore after being frustrated by filling out online forms for programming jobs.
“You don’t have to spend hours filling out OpenHatch,” says Krut-Landau.
Soon, they applied to startup incubators all around the country, including the famous YCombinator incubator. Eventually, to their surprise, they were accepted to the inaugural class of Shotput Ventures in Atlanta, a program much like DreamIt Ventures in Philadelphia, where they received “enormous help” in starting the company.
“The form took about five minutes,” says Laroia who had to quit his job at Creative Commons in San Francisco to move to Atlanta.
“They had speakers come in and [Shotput Ventures founder David Cummings] would ask the reasons people should start a company in Atlanta. One speaker replied ‘There is no reason’,” says Krut-Landau.
After their stint in Atlanta the company debated whether they wanted to be based. The crew eventually decided on their current Cedar Park townhouse by 47th and Baltimore. They chose the neighborhood for two reasons: cheap rent, and Laroia was familiar with the area as he has friends who attended Swarthmore who lived nearby.
“For most people in Philadelphia it’s the ‘thar be dragons here’ part of town,” says Krut-Landau.
The two co-founders work out of the house with visits from their intern Parker Phinney. The living room of the home has been converted to a makeshift office. Computer cords are strewn everywhere and an original Macintosh computer sits on a nearby shelf. The guys even say the tables trace their origins to the offices Limewire, the P2P sharing software.
The service has only been public for a month and a half, and the company is reluctant to talk about a monetization strategy before establishing a user base. OpenHatch has a variety of loose monetization plans, most likely is a way of connecting programmers with companies who need professional help on open-source software, much like Red Hat supports Linux.
The company has also tossed around a jobs board with listings divided by programming language and platform.

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