Engineering Spotlight: Crayon
Crayon is a market and competitive intelligence company that enables businesses to track, analyze, and act based on market movements. Recently, the company raised $6M in a Series A, led by Bedrock Capital.
We connected with John Osborne, Crayon's Co-Founder & CTO, to get an inside look at the company's engineering team. Osborne also went into lots of details about the company’s technology, the various projects, the team's culture and more!
Interested in joining Crayon’s engineering team? Click here to see the company’s job openings.
Quick Hit Details
Year Founded: 2014
Number of employees: 70
Number of engineers: 8
Industry: Market Intelligence SasS
Can you share a summary on what Crayon does?
Crayon’s market and competitive intelligence platform allow businesses to track, analyze, and act on everything happening outside their four walls. We believe that millions of businesses have yet to take advantage of all the intelligence data available today to drive actionable insights and opportunities.
What are some of the different technologies that the engineering team gets to work with and at what scale?
At Crayon, we build product using Python, Django, and React. All our systems are hosted on EC2, and we make ample use of the high-level AWS services such as RDS, SQS, S3, and DynamoDB. We use scikit-learn for building ML models, and we use spaCy for NLP. Because we track a large swath of the world’s most important companies, there is a significant scale to our systems.
What are some of the interesting projects that the engineering team is tackling?
At Crayon, we ingest and enrich massive amounts of text data from sources all over the web. Our engineering team builds algorithms to extract business insights from this raw data. For example, we identify events like product launches, acquisitions, executive turnover, and pricing changes. Challenges like this are a ton of fun to work on. It involves processing text, identifying trends and anomalies, and training models to classify important events. Solutions to these problems are non-obvious, and we test and prototype a variety of ideas during product discovery.
Does your engineering team have a chance to work on projects outside of their day-to-day responsibilities? For example - skunk work projects, open source projects?
At Crayon, skunkworks projects are incorporated into our day-to-day work. The product and engineering teams work very closely from the beginning of product discovery all the way through release and measurement. The data gathering, data enrichment, and data refinement challenges we’re solving are complex and can be approached in multiple ways. We look to engineers to conceive and prototype possible solutions. We believe that many of the most innovative product ideas are bottoms-up and originate within the engineering organization.
What is the culture like at Crayon for the engineering team?
At its core, Crayon is a product-driven startup that values the power of engineering to solve customer problems. We strive to create an environment that encourages engineering input and creativity. We are proactive—we don’t wait for things to happen, we cause them to happen. We value quality and craftsmanship. We are curious and enjoy tough challenges. We are open—communication flows easily within and across departments. We embrace process when appropriate and to the appropriate degree, but do not allow the process to become an end itself. We strive to grow the company, but also to grow individuals. We are inclusive. We believe that a diverse engineering organization is a better engineering organization.
What can a potential employee expect during the interview process?
Our interview process is straightforward and quick. As a first step, each candidate meets with one of us for a quick coffee or phone call. At this point, we’re just looking to see if there is a possible match between the candidate and our open positions. Next, we ask prospects to code a solution to a short take-home exercise. The exercise, which can be completed on the candidate’s personal computer using any language and dev environment, gives prospects a chance to show what they can really accomplish when given familiar surroundings. After completing the exercise, qualified folks are invited to interview with four to five engineers at the Crayon office. Potential employees also meet with at least one product manager. We believe that a strong, collaborative relationship between product and engineering is one of the most important components of job satisfaction for engineers. As a final step, we speak with references. The whole process can be completed in a couple of days.
Here are some of the competencies and qualities we look for during the onsite interview:
General problem-solving ability
Understanding of algorithms and data structures
Knowledge of systems design
Ability to communicate and collaborate
Are you involved in any local tech organizations or Meetups?
Yes, you can find Crayon engineers out and about the Boston tech scene. Crayon engineers presented this past year at Startup Boston and Women Who Code. Folks from our team might also be spotted at Boston Python, ReactJS Boston, Women in Data Science and the Boston AI Meetup.
Rapid Fire Q&A
What’s on tap?
It varies. We change our keg selection weekly. Each Thursday, we have a company meeting with catered food and drinks.
Star Wars or Star Trek?
iPhone or Android?
Coffee - hot or iced?
Favorite employee perk?
Catered food and drinks at our company meeting each Thursday afternoon.
What TV show describes the engineering team’s culture?
What music is playing in your office?
It varies a lot, but I heard Beastie Boys playing in our entryway recently. Also, NPR’s Marketplace did a segment last year featuring our CEO who listens to a recording of white noise produced by a fan!
View from your office:
Dor Baruch, Software Engineer
Dor is an amazingly talented engineer and recent graduate of Harvard’s Computer Science program. Before college, Dor spent several years as an intelligence officer in the Israel Defense Forces. At Crayon, Dor is focused on writing code to find trends and anomalies in large datasets.
Erica Manoppo, Software Engineer
Erica is a remarkable developer who is equally comfortable writing code for the frontend and the backend. She started her career doing data analysis and research in the non-profit sector. During three and a half years at City Year she learned SQL and R and enjoyed it so much she decided to make the leap into full-time software development. After attending Launch Academy in 2015, she spent a couple years at Testive before joining Crayon. Erica studied Mathematics and Economics at Michigan State and has lived in several countries including Australia and Indonesia.
Images courtesy of Crayon