This post was written with the wise support of Expert in Residence, David Mytton, founder of console.dev, and Eldad Fux, founder of Appwrite.
There are countless job roles that are slowly seen as becoming obsolete: the travel agent, the telemarketer, even referees. One role that is only developing, is, ironically, the developer. The ‘Rockstars of SaaS,’ some may say. And with that, come endless opportunities for dev tool plays. In our EiR Emeritus David Mytton’s post, ‘Focusing on Developers,’ David nods to Marc Andreessen’s declaration over a decade ago that ‘software is eating the world.’ In this day and age, we are witnessing that developer roles exist to create, build, and leverage that software across all industries and to then monetise through various streams as well. In fact, Tyler Jewell, MD at Dell Technologies Capital, assumes that developer-led products account for $40B in global annual revenue, in his ‘Developer Led Landscape’ post, and that’s forecasted to only keep growing. In 2020, the global IT industry accounted for $5.2 trillion, of which $624B is software. A strong dev tool improves a developer’s experience across an entire workflow and bridges the developer experience gap that Stephen O’Grady coins in his post:
“Developers are forced to borrow time from writing code and redirecting it towards managing the issues associated with highly complex, multi-factor developer tool chains held together in places by duct tape and baling wire. This, then, is the developer experience gap,” he explains. “The same market that offers developers any infrastructure primitive they could possibly want is simultaneously telling them that piecing them together is a developer’s problem.”
At Seedcamp, we’re continuously looking for founders who are both pioneering and building upon the dev tool ecosystem and improving the developer experience. It is important to note that within this ecosystem, there are large levels of complexity as there are many ways to categorise the landscape with considerable overlap. For this blog post, we have decided to adopt a wide framework to assess the dev tool ecosystem:
1. Dev tools that enable creation, development and deployment.
2. Dev tools that enable enhanced integrations through APIs as a product.
3. Dev tools that enable maintenance, hosting and securing.
On top of this framework, we also want to address two trends that have blossomed from the strong evolution of dev tools: open source and no-code. Companies aren’t only building for specific developer needs, but they’re also differentiating themselves in how and for whom they are building. We are excited by some of our portfolio companies that fall under the above three categories but are also building their businesses through open source or no-code solutions.
If you’re building something ambitious in the developer space, please do get in touch and apply for funding here — we’d love to hear from you!
Dev tools that enable creation, development and deployment
We’re living in a time where companies and their business models are boosting accessibility to product – whether it’s a fintech opening up avenues for retail clients to invest, or a consumer health platform making it easier for patients to access doctor care, dev tools are also democratising the elements of building, developing and deploying software. Within this framework’s first bucket, we want to highlight two portfolio companies that are improving the building stack to enable easier cross-functionality and collaboration.
Liveblocks makes tools to help companies create world-class real‑time collaborative products and experiences for their customers. Their vision stands in the belief that the next generation of SaaS products are all going to be collaborative in real-time, and their goal is to help product-building teams make that transition more easily. “Before, engineers would have to spend months (even years in some cases) away from their core product to build and maintain a custom multiplayer infrastructure,” Steven, CEO of Liveblocks notes. “With Liveblocks, product teams can make their product multiplayer in a matter of days, allowing them to attract, engage, and retain users.”
GDevelop is another exciting portfolio company that has a particular focus on the gaming vertical and helps anyone build and deploy games. Through the emergence and success of Roblox, game development infrastructure is becoming more accessible than ever before. GDevelop is creating the infrastructure that enables creators (including not only traditional developers, but also hobbyists, educators and even children) to build games quickly and easily, and then publish them. On the open-source side of things, Florian, Founder of GDevelop says that “It’s important to have a robust foundation that is open to everyone for contributions, and having this open-source product is a key pillar of GDevelop. This allows for our technology to improve continuously and to have the community part of the development – it’s a big win for everyone involved.”
Dev tools that enable enhanced integrations through APIs as a product
At the most basic level, APIs are interfaces or methods, for two pieces of software to communicate. However, the very term ‘communication’ falls short if we want to dig a little deeper into the developer-focused companies that we look for in the European ecosystem. We see successful API-packaged businesses as enablers of enhanced integrations for devops teams. These APIs add value to an existing service through their real-time capabilities by accelerating business activities, increasing revenue streams and minimising shipping and deployment times.
Blobr is tackling APIs by empowering companies to customise, share and monetise their own APIs. Many companies we interact with day-to-day now offer an API as a product for their services and share data with partners and customers. However, product teams rely on developers to customise their APIs and in turn, this can result in long time to market, high costs, and slow adoption. Blobr gives superpowers to product and business teams with a branded API portal so that they can share and monetise their own APIs instantly, thus making developers’ lives easier by allowing them to buy and consume APIs.
MeiliSearch is the challenger to the incumbents of existing search engine APIs. It allows for developers to quickly build a top-notch search bar into their app and is all fully oriented around using open source as its force. MeiliSearch is the prime example of a dev tool that is built by developers for developers, as they’re always speaking to developers to consistently improve their features and become game-changers in the enterprise search industry. MeiliSearch can be integrated into any common programming environment quickly so that it doubles the value of the respective service for both developers on the back-end and for users on the front-end. There are more than 20 integrations for MeiliSearch into different stacks today, and the ecosystem is overgrowing.
Dev tools that enable hosting, maintenance and securing
Some developer-focused companies enable maintenance, hosting and securing of data within their platforms. We see these companies as offering room for evolution in both the sysops and devops sphere. Some are made by developers, for developers, and others are made by developers for non-developers. At the core, what these two approaches have in common is that both make someone’s workflow easier.
Cerbos is a software company that is on a mission to make user permissions and authorisation simple to implement and manage. “Today, developers typically have to build this capability from scratch and it’s a really hard problem to solve. We make this a non-issue for them,” Emre Baran, Founder and one of our very own Experts in Residence at Seedcamp states. “Our users can be up and running in minutes and turn their attention back to their core product and business.” Cerbos’ authorisation solution is open source, language-agnostic, and scales from prototype to global scale.
Baserow is an awesome open source no-code database and Airtable alternative through which businesses and individuals alike can host their own database without prior technical experience. The tools give operators the powers of a developer without needing to leave a browser. Databases range from content marketing, education, events, hobbies, health, to even book writing.
Trend Report: Let’s not forget Open Source and No-Code!
When we caught up with Eldad, Founder of Appwrite, we asked what he thought the future of developer tools was. One thing was for certain, “Every dev tool company will have to be an open source company. Trying to succeed as a non-open source is possible, but it’s going to become harder and harder.” Eldad is building Appwrite, which is a self-hosted solution that provides developers with a set of easy-to-integrate REST APIs to manage their core backend needs, and to accelerate their application development through a flexible plug-and-play solution. Appwrite is also one of the fastest-growing open source projects on GitHub with over 10,000 stars, more than 30,000 developers joining the Appwrite community in just four months, and more than 250 code contributors around the globe. Eldad’s approach to building and scaling shows us yet another time how important founder-community fit and credibility of the community is for open-source ecosystem development.
We are now fully in the open source renaissance of securing data through hosted solutions, and the major exits that have happened over the last few years (Elastic, Mulesoft, Red Hat, MongoDB, GitHub, GitLab) certainly prove it. The open source market is set to become a $50B industry by 2026. We see open source technology acting as a tool, or an ancillary pathway that the above aforementioned categories and companies can be built upon and then (hopefully) commercialised successfully by breaking away from traditional sales processes. In a previous Open Source Deep Dive, our investment team members Carlos, Sia, and Kyran (now the Founder and CEO of Outverse) discussed the advantages that businesses have building open source solutions. Those include: 1) breaking the reliance on major vendors such as Oracle and Microsoft, 2) helping companies retain more control of what they’re building 3) helping cut costs, and 4) helping expedite sales from a bottom-up developer approach. The bar for evaluating open source opportunities is certainly high. Investors can see the traction and feedback immediately, and use the number of downloads, activity, or stars on GitHub as a proxy for popularity, for instance. For these reasons, we think the velocity of innovation stemming from the open-source model will be incredibly interesting to watch, as both an investor, operator, and general user of products (we hope you can sense our excitement!).
On the no-code side of things, in just the first three quarters of 2021, no-code/low-code companies have raised $2.3B, which doubles the amount in 2020 ($1.1B), demonstrating the increasing appetite from investors. No-code companies can appeal to a wide range of builders, including ones with little to no technical skills. Companies like Bubble, which recently raised a $100M Series A, are on a mission to democratise software development which in turn alleviates the complexity in building startups. We are also extremely excited around the digital transformation trend happening within no-code/low-code and are always on the lookout for founders who are building no-code solutions to continue the evolution of the product development landscape.
Whilst speaking to Eldad and David about this blog post, both touched upon the fact that it can be tricky to navigate the landscape when building for developers. If the product isn’t good, the developer will leave — developers know when they’re being tricked. “Developers are tuned into quality,” David states, “They can either build the product themselves or try to find it for free.”
”Developers have a really good sense of smell towards marketing,” Eldad says. “This leads to the point of how important it is to have developers’ trust from the get go, as they will assess a product with suspicion.” If these dev tools however are supporting developers and non developers alike to work more productively, create more seamless workflows, and allow for more effortless integration, then these companies can most certainly lead to larger revenues, more venture capital, and higher valuations.
If you’re working on something interesting in the developer-led space, apply here or email us at email@example.com. Additionally, if you’re looking for opportunities to work in this exciting space, feel free to check out our portfolio job board here.
The Seedcamp Dev Tools Portfolio
*Important to note that due to these broad frameworks, there can be some overlap between the categories
Seedcamp’s Developer Footprint (so far…)
Liveblocks – Creating performant and reliable collaborative experiences
Utopia – Online platform for designing, coding and shipping applications
Gdevelop – Accessible, fast, no-code 2D game creation for everyone
Specify – The all-in-one tool to create, scale and maintain design systems
Appwrite – An open-source end-to-end backend server
Stamplay – API-based development platform, empowering web developers to build and launch full-featured web apps in record time.
Orchest – End-to-end, open source machine learning platform
Blobr – An API portal to manage and monitor usage
Meilisearch – Next generation search API
Primer – Supercharging payments through a unified API
Amiqa – Autonomous web testing
Cerbos – Authorization as a Service platform
Baserow – Open source no-code database
Server Density – Server Monitoring Built For Security And Scale
Codacy – Automating code reviews and monitors code quality over time.