’Wikipedia’ for programming skills uses Finland as a gateway to Europe
The unique feature of Hexlet, a platform for programming exercises, is that its assignments are done in a real-world programming environment which is accessible through a web browser.
Online programming lessons aren’t a novelty, but the Russian-Kazakhstan born Hexlet has brought a unique real-world element to it. Now the company is using Finland as a springboard to international markets.
Hexlet is an open platform for teaching programming which offers short two hour lessons for all developers, from beginners to the highly skilled. All lessons are comprised of two parts: theory and practical assignments – and it is the latter where the company claims to offer something truly unique.
While many services simulate real-world programming environments, in the Hexlet platform assignments are done in an actual real programming environment built to match those programmers use for work.
This means that a lesson can include interaction with databases, complex frameworks and applications, multiple servers and other sophisticated tools. Despite this no downloads or installations are needed, as the Hexlet platform is cloud-based and runs through a web browser.
“We haven’t found any other programming teaching tool with the same kind of functionalities,” says Hexlet CEO Rakhim Davletkaliyev, who founded the company with CTO Kirill Mokevnin in early 2014.
“Hexlet is a bit more difficult than the likes of Codecademy, where you have a nice interface and a guy pointing to the place where you have to type a certain word. But in the real world you don’t have anyone pointing the answers to you, you have to figure them out yourself. That’s why our lessons are more realistic.“
This approach has helped the platform, which was first published in Russian last June, attract 44,000 registered users and take the first steps towards internationalisation. In January Hexlet launched the browser version of its platform (now also available in English) and was officially established in Helsinki, Finland.
All about real-world requirements
Currently most of the available lessons are the handiwork of the Hexlet team, but the platform offers tools for anyone to publish their lessons which the company will vet. Each lesson is required to focus on a specific skill so a developer can use it to learn something new without going through a time-consuming course.
“Unlike with long courses, you will not only learn a topic but also use it in practice within two hours,”Davletkaliyev says.
“Coding is a big trend now and some courses make programming seem almost too easy. Then people have difficulties using what they have learnt in the real world. In our platform you learn in a real-world programming environment,” says Hexlet CEO, Rakhim Davletkaliyev. (Photo: Hexlet)
The business model is simple. All theory lessons are available for free, but accessing the practical assignment sections requires paying a monthly subscription fee. In addition Hexlet is looking to expand the platform to meet the training needs of business customers.
“Companies, especially when developers are switching projects all the time, could use our platform and content to teach developers the skills needed in their different projects. They could also use it to teach their clients and partners,” explains Davletkaliyev.
“In the future Hexlet could be a kind of marketing and meeting place for companies and programmers. Companies showcase their expertise to potential clients by publishing lessons and programmers use the platform to demonstrate their skills to recruiters.”
Furthermore these ‘think big’ services are already under way. Hexlet has started negotiations with several Finnish companies and hopes to begin discussions in other Nordic countries in the near future.
While Hexlet is officially based in Helsinki, its four-member team is split between Russia and Kazakhstan. The company aims to employ a few people in Finland and gradually grow its operations.
“We see Finland as a gateway to Europe,” says Davletkaliyev. “We’ll continue to target Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus, where most of our users are at the moment, but Finland will be our headquarters as we start to expand first to the Nordics and then central Europe and Northern America.”
The Finnish surprise
But it wasn’t only location that attracted Hexlet to Finland. The main factor was the support and funding the company received from Helsinki Ventures, an accelerator and early stage investor.
“I spent a month in Helsinki as part of a customer development programme organised by Helsinki Ventures,” explains Davletkaliyev.
“The startup scene in Finland wasn’t what I expected. The surprising thing for me was the number of startups and organisations that help startups, including the government, and the amount of large companies that are really open to meeting startups and guiding them.”
Hexlet says it has been a positive experience taking its first steps toward wider markets and helped the company hone a clear and ambitious goal for the future:
“We would like to see Hexlet as the Wikipedia for programming skills,” Davletkaliyev concludes. “If a programmer needs to learn about a specific skill, the first thing that should pop into their mind is ‘I’ll check Hexlet’.”
This HBH statement on cookies and related technologies applies to the use of such technologies when you visit this website.
What are cookies and why we use them?
Cookies are small text files stored on your device by websites you visit.
Cookies alone cannot be used to identify you, but they may be linked directly or indirectly to you when combined with other information. In these cases, cookies may be treated as personal data. We make no effort to identify you personally from cookies.
Cookies can either be session cookies (they last only until you close your browser) or persistent (they remain on your computer or device until you delete them). Session cookies are usually used to remember relevant settings of your browsing session. Persistent cookies may typically be used for targeted advertising and gaining insight on how you use our website. We use both session and persistent cookies. Our persistent cookies are set to expire no later than two years after last refresh.
Collect statistical information on the use of our website. This helps us measure the effect of our marketing efforts and guides us in providing you with a better service. Depending on your browser settings, some of this information may also be shared with third-party service providers (e.g. Google Analytics).
Provide relevant content. Cookies allow us to tailor site's content to better match your needs and interests.
Please note that if you disable cookies, some website functionality may be limited.
Essential website cookies
These cookies are strictly necessary to provide you with services available through our website and to use some of its features.
Because these cookies are strictly necessary to deliver the website, you cannot refuse them without impacting how our site functions. You can block or delete them by changing your browser settings and force blocking all cookies on this website.
Google Analytics cookies
These cookies collect information that is used either in aggregate form to help us understand how our website is being used or how effective our marketing campaigns are, or to help us customize our website and application for you in order to enhance your experience.
If you do not want that we track your visits to our site you can disable tracking in your browser here:
Other external services
We also use different external services like Google Maps and external video providers. Since these providers may collect personal data like your IP address we allow you to block them here. Please be aware that this might heavily reduce the functionality and appearance of our site. Changes will take effect once you reload the page.