Brad Van Vugt, developer and CEO behind Battlesnake shares some history, lessons learned, and the journey behind building a company around what started as a one-off event.
You can listen to both podcasts here:
Battlesnake started from unlikely beginnings.
In these interviews, Brad talks about how Battlesnake was initially created to be a one-off event to help find talent. The event was so successful, he decided to turn it into a company. Two years later, Battlesnake has become a competitive coding game played by experienced developers around the world and has partnered with some of the biggest developer brands in the industry. At the heart of Battlesnake is a large and growing dedicated coding community.
"Before it became a company, Battlesnake was once a year, one-weekend event. We'd all get together to see what we could do. And developers started to spend the whole year building battlesnakes thinking "Okay, I'm gonna win next year. And I'm going to start now. And I'm going to do it the way I want, using AWS and Redis, and C++, because I think that would be fun, and they'd get to work." - Brad Van Vugt
Why Battlesnake is so different from everything else out there.
"Gaining meaningful Experience as a Senior Developer is hard… side projects are lonely and often boring. Work is too restrictive and rarely allows for experimentation." Brad explains.
"Battlesnake is an avenue to build expertise however you want using whatever tech stack you want. Want to take a deep dive into AI? Databases? Concurrency? You can use Battlesnake to have fun while exploring these concepts. And there’s also a strong and vibrant community willing to help and celebrate the successes you come across.
There’s a clear problem to solve. And it’s exciting to get to see the visual feedback of your efforts."
The challenges of attracting and keeping an audience of experienced developers
Brad talks about one of the early mistakes he made—not creating spaces for the Battlesnake developer community. "We should have created a Discord sooner." Brad says in a few quotes from the interview.
"A community formed around Battlesnakes, before we even thought of trying to form a community."
"We're learning that multiple highly engaged channels are incredibly important. It's not enough to have a discord. It's not enough to have a GitHub discussion board, it's not enough to be on Twitch. It's all of those and more. They give you a direct line of communication to your audience and this opens up so many opportunities."
"Live Streaming is incredibly undervalued in the industry, just in general. And it's been one of our core advantages and growing and managing the community early on." - Brad Van Vugt
Where other offerings miss the mark.
In these interviews, Brad takes a deep dive into what it takes to grow and build a product that excites an experienced developer audience (one that historically many companies have struggled to capture). Battlesnake attributes its successes and "stickiness" in this area to the decision to prioritize and listen to the needs of its community. He points out some areas where he believes other offers tend to miss this mark.
Catch the rest of the story as Brad discusses what it takes to build and grow a company like Battlesnake below: