The Brief: Developing energy project developers, Africa’s creative economy, India’s smallholder farmers, Haiti’s solar scale-up, betting big on electric mobility ImpactAlpha
“nigeria startups when:7d” – Google News
When a system outage happens, chaos can ensue as the team tries to figure out what’s happening and how to fix it. StackPulse, a new startup that wants to help developers manage these crisis situations more efficiently, emerged from stealth today with a $ 28 million investment.
The round actually breaks down to a previously unannounced $ 8 million seed investment and a new $ 20 million Series A. GGV led the A round, while Bessemer Venture Partners led the seed and also participated in the A. Glenn Solomon at GGV and Amit Karp at Bessemer will join the StackPulse board.
Nobody is immune to these outages. We’ve seen incidents from companies as varied as Amazon and Slack in recent months. The biggest companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon employ site reliability engineers and build customized platforms to help remediate these kinds of situations. StackPulse hopes to put this kind of capability within reach of companies, whose only defense is the on-call developers.
Company co-founder and CEO Ofer Smadari says that in the midst of a crisis with signals coming at you from Slack and PagerDuty and other sources, it’s hard to figure out what’s happening. StackPulse is designed to help sort out the details to get you back to equilibrium as quickly as possible.
First off, it helps identify the severity of the incident. Is it a false alarm or something that requires your team’s immediate attention or something that can be put off for a later maintenance cycle. If there is something going wrong that needs to be fixed right now, StackPulse can not only identify the source of the problem, but also help fix it automatically, Smadari explained.
After the incident has been resolved, it can also help with a post mortem to figure out what exactly went wrong by pulling in all of the alert communications and incident data into the platform.
As the company emerges from stealth, it has some early customers and 35 employees based in Portland, Oregon and Tel Aviv. Smadari says that he hopes to have 100 employees by the end of this year. As he builds the organization, he is thinking about how to build a diverse team for a diverse customer base. He believes that people with diverse backgrounds build a better product. He adds that diversity is a top level goal for the company, which already has an HR leader in place to help.
Glenn Solomon from GGV, who will be joining the company board, saw a strong founding team solving a big problem for companies and wanted to invest. “When they described the vision for the product they wanted to build, it made sense to us,” he said.
Customers are impatient with down time and Solomon sees developers on the front line trying to solve these issues. “Performance is more important than ever. When there is downtime, it’s damaging to companies,” he said. He believes StackPulse can help.
Goama (also known as Go Games) lets developers quickly integrate social games into their apps. Some of Goama’s clients have used it for promotional campaigns, while others rely on the platform, which introduces new games every week, to add a full-fledged gaming function to their app.
The startup, which recently took part in SOSV’s accelerator program, presented last week during CES at the Taiwan Tech Arena pavilion. The event is over, but Goama’s virtual booth is still up.
Some of Goama’s clients are “super apps,” or apps that offer several services and want to include games, too. To better serve super apps, Goama recently introduced a tournament model in addition to its subscription model for users.
The startup says that integrating Goama’s platform can help apps grow brand awareness when people share their results or invite other players tournaments. It also increases user engagement, with players typically spending more than 16 minutes per session playing games. So far, the platform has a combined total of 2.5 million unique users.
The company currently focuses on Asia and Latin America, where mobile penetration is growing quickly, and works with more than 15 partners, including GCash and Rappi, to enable digital payments and communications. Its gaming platform’s user interface can be customized to match host apps and rewards can include points and other prizes that can be spent inside the app. Some companies that have used Goama include food delivery app FoodPanda, Snickers and money transfer app WavePay.
Openbase founder Lior Grossman started his company the way that many founders do — to solve a problem he was having. In this case, it was finding the right open source components to build his software. He decided to build something to solve the problem, and Openbase was born.
Today, the company announced a $ 3.65 million seed round led by Zeev Ventures with participation from Y Combinator and 20 individual tech industry investors. Openbase was a member of the YC 2020 cohort.
Grossman says that being part of YC helped him meet investors, especially on Demo Day when hundreds of investors listened in. “I would say that being part of YC definitely gave us a higher profile, and exposed us to some investors that I didn’t know before. It definitely opened doors for us,” he said.
As developers build modern software, they often use open source components to help build the application, and Openbase helps them find the best one for their purposes. “Openbase basically helps developers choose from among millions of open source packages,” Grossman told me.
Grossman found that his idea began resonating with developers shortly after he launched in 2019. In fact, he reports that he went from zero to half a million users in the first year without any marketing beyond word of mouth. That’s when he decided to apply to Y Combinator and got into the Summer 2020 class.
The database is free for developers and that has helped build the user base so quickly. Eventually he hopes to monetize by allowing certain companies to promote their packages on the system. He says that these will be clearly marked and that the plan is to have only one promoted package per category. What’s more, they will retain all their user reviews and other associated data, regardless of whether it’s being promoted or not.
Grossman started the company on his own, but has added 5 employees with plans to hire more people this year to keep growing the startup. As an immigrant founder, he is sensitive to diversity and sees building a diverse company as a key goal. “I built this company as an immigrant myself […] and I want to build an inclusive culture with people from different backgrounds because I think that will produce the best environment to foster innovation,” he explained.
So far the company has been fully remote, but the plan is to open an office post-pandemic. He says he sees a highly flexible approach to work though with people spending some days in the office and some at home. “I think for our culture this hybrid approach will work. Whenever we expand further I obviously imagine having more offices and not only our office in San Francisco.”
The end of the year is looming and with it one of your most important tasks as a manager. Summarizing the performance of 10, 20 or 50 developers over the past 12 months, offering personalized advice and having the facts to back it up — is no small task.
We believe that the only unbiased, accurate and insightful way to understand how your developers are working, progressing and — last but definitely not least — how they’re feeling, is with data. Data can provide more objective insights into employee activity than could ever be gathered by a human.
It’s still very hard for many managers to fully understand that all employees work at different paces and levels.
Consider this: Over two-thirds of employees say they would put more effort into their work if they felt more appreciated, and 90% want a manager who’s fair to all employees.
Let’s be honest. It’s hard to judge all of your employees fairly if you’re (1) unable to work physically side-by-side with them, meaning you’ll inevitably have more contact with the some over others (e.g., those you’re more friendly with); and (2) you’re relying on manual trackers to keep on top of everyone’s work, which can get lost and take a lot of effort to process and analyze; (3) you expect engineers to self-report their progress, which is far from objective.
It’s also unlikely, especially with the quieter ones, that on top of all that you’ll have identified areas for them to expand their talents by upskilling or reskilling. But it’s that kind of personal attention that will make employees feel appreciated and able to progress professionally with you. Absent that, they’re likely to take the next best job opportunity that shows up.
So here’s a run down of why you need data to set up a fair annual review process; if not this year, then you can kick-start it for 2021.
1. Use data to set next year’s goals
The best way to track your developers’ progress automatically is by using Git Analytics tools, which track the performance of individuals by aggregating historical Git data and then feeding that information back to managers in minute detail.
This data will clearly show you if one of your engineers is over capacity or underworked and the types of projects they excel in. If you’re assessing an engineering manager and the team members they’re responsible for have been taking longer to push their code to the shared repository, causing a backlog of tasks, it may mean that they’re not delegating tasks properly. An appropriate goal here would be to track and divide their team’s responsibilities more efficiently, which can be tracked using the same metrics, or cross-training members of other teams to assist with their tasks.
Another example is that of an engineer who is dipping their toe into multiple projects. Indicators of where they’ve performed best include churn (we’ll get to that later), coworkers repeatedly asking that same employee to assist them in new tasks and of course positive feedback for senior staff, which can easily be integrated into Git analytics tools. These are clear signs that next year, your engineer could be maximizing their talents in these alternative areas, and you could diversify their tasks accordingly.
Once you know what targets to set, you can use analytics tools to create automatic targets for each engineer. That means that after you’ve set it up, it will be updated regularly on the engineer’s progress using indicators directly from the code repository. It won’t need time-consuming input from either you or your employee, allowing you both to focus on more important tasks. As a manager you’ll receive full reports once the deadline of the task is reached and get notified whenever metrics start dropping or the goal has been met.
This is important — you’ll be able to keep on top of those goals yourself, without having to delegate that responsibility or depend on self-reporting by the engineer. It will keep employee monitoring honest and transparent.
2. Three Git metrics can help you understand true performance quality
The easiest way for managers to “conclude” how an engineer has performed is by looking at superficial output: the number of completed pull requests submitted per week, the number of commits per day, etc. Especially for nontechnical managers, this is a grave but common error. When something is done, it doesn’t mean it’s been done well or that it is even productive or usable.
Instead, look at these data points to determine the actual quality of your engineer’s work:
- Churn is your number-one red flag, telling you how many times someone has modified their code in the first 21 days after it has been checked in. The more churn, the less of an engineer’s code is actually productive, with good longevity. Churn is a natural and healthy part of the software development process, but we’ve identified that any churn level above the normal 15%-30% indicates that an engineer is struggling with assignments.
Pioneered by WeChat almost four years ago, mini-apps are now common in China and India, and gaining traction in other markets, too. Mini-apps, or lightweight apps designed for integration into host apps, allow smartphone users to access several services through one app, saving them data and storage space. They also give host apps more ways to make revenue. But most mini-app ecosystems are currently tied to a specific app or company. Appboxo, a Singapore-based startup, wants to make mini-apps more accessible by allowing any developer to turn their app into a “super app.”
Appboxo announced today it has closed $ 1.1 million in seed funding, led by FF APAC Scout, a Founders Fund vehicle; 500 Startups’ Southeast Asia-focused 500 Durians fund; Plug and Play Ventures; and Antler. The new funding will be used on product development and to add more mini-apps to Appboxo’s ecosystem.
The startup currently works with about 10 host apps, including Booking.com, Klook and Zalora, and has about 80 mini-apps on its platform. Examples of how host apps have used mini-apps include travel apps that added hotel, restaurant and activities bookings; and mobile wallets that integrated insurance-buying and e-commerce services.
Appboxo was founded in 2019 by chief executive officer Kaniyet Rayev and chief technology officer Nursultan Keneshbekov while participating in Antler’s Singapore incubator program. Rayev told TechCrunch that the two initially wanted to build an all-in-one travel app, with different travel-related services integrated into one platform.
“But when we actually started developing it, we realized there is no easy way to plug in third-party services,” Rayev said. They began thinking of ways for developers to create and offer mini-apps as a plug-and-play solution.
The mini-app economy is currently siloed, with apps or companies like WeChat, ByteDance, Meituan, Paytm, PhonePe, Grab and Go-jek either developing mini-apps for their own use, or running mini-app marketplaces for their users. But last year, the W3C Chinese Web Interest Group started looking at ways to standardize mini-apps. The group, including people from Alibaba, Baidu, Huawei, Intel, Xiaomi and China Mobile, published the first working draft of its white paper in September 2019 about how mini-apps can be created to work across platforms.
“It was a really perfect time for us to read that paper, because it was around the time we started our platform,” said Rayev.
Adding mini-apps can increase engagement because users open apps more frequently if they can access different services through it. It also gives app developers more ways to generate revenue through affiliate partnerships, commissions or transactions fees.
But many native app developers simply don’t have the resources to develop their own mini-apps, so Appboxo simplifies the process with an SDK that allows them to integrate any of its platform’s mini-apps. A second barrier for many app developers is working out business and development partnership deals with mini-apps, so Appboxo helps guide them through the process, too.
Since Appboxo is based in Singapore, a lot of its current users are in Southeast Asia, and it also plans to target India, too. While mini-apps are less common in Europe and the United States, where most smartphone owners still use apps with one core offering, Rayev said that is starting to change. For example, Uber announced it was merging its ride-hailing and food delivery service, Uber Eats, into one app, last year, while Snap introduced Minis a few months ago.
Appboxo already has partners in Europe, and “the whole super app concept is coming to the Western world,” Rayev added. “Hopefully we can find some new partners in the rest of the world as well.”
With Slack being acquired by Salesforce for $ 28 billion, the world of collaborative tools for teams is on fire right now. Notion is super hot and last year Frame.io raised $ 50 million and Microsoft has Fluid. Now, after some months in private beta, JetBrains — which also makes development environments (IDE) for various programming languages — has publicly launched Space, an all-in-one collaboration platform for creative teams.
In beta since last year, JetBrains says it had more than 35,000 requests from companies to join the beta.
Space combines general collaboration tools: chats, team and project management, meeting scheduling and documents with workflows for specific verticals. It covers the software development cycle and the startup will be adding domain-specific tools for other roles and departments in the future.
Maxim Shafirov, JetBrains CEO, said: “JetBrains started as a company of developers but now 40% of our team represent different creative roles: designers, marketing, copywriters and others. We’ve built Space so we could still work together as one team and we believe other companies will benefit from it as well.”
Space provides free tier and subscription options, starting at $ 8 per active user per month for wider team collaboration. Space is available in the cloud but also will have an on-premise version in the near future.
It includes chats, meetings, calendars, issues, mobile apps, launched documents, issue boards, automation CI/CD, personal to-do lists and added turn-based code reviews.
In the future, Space will have syncing with Google Calendar and Outlook, as well as integrations with other popular tools. In terms of extensibility, the team has introduced HTTP API, webhooks, Space Client SDK, custom fields and automations, and will be adding private and Marketplace applications soon, along with other extensibility features.
So you are a CTO and you are developing high-quality software for your company’s product or service? Besides technical know-how, tools and budget, you will also need a developer. Probably even a whole team. But how to secure all necessary resources for the development project? What are your options and what will it cost you? These are questions Roemie Hillenaar, CEO of Creative Fabrica was asking himself when he wanted to expand an online application for his online marketplace. Marek Gajda, CTO of The Software House, shares his insights.
The cost of developing software
Before we talk about money, it’s good to look at the key element that enables you to move the software development project to the next level. Let’s face it, you can’t do everything on your own. In this technical world the most important assets are still people and their work. And it is likely they will also be the biggest part of your budget, says Marek Gajda. He is CTO and co-founder at software development company The Software House. Gajda identifies three different options to get the required developers to do the job: using in-house developers, hiring freelancers or pairing with a software development company. So out of these three options, which one could work for you and what spendings it will require?
Growing the team of in-house developers
Hiring more developers or bringing new competences to your team, like a designer or a QA specialist, is not as simple as just posting a job offer, picking your favourite candidate and setting him or her to work. The talent war in this sector is reaching new levels. On top, your team has already structured the process, the way they cooperate. Preparing them for the change will land on your desk and requires time.
“In many business scenarios this is certainly the best option and worth the effort. It will give you full quality control over their work, you see them every day, and in case of an emergency, you can call a face-to-face meeting”, says Gajda. “However, imagine the cost and struggle when you need dozens of devs with different specialities.” Which brings him to the second option: freelance outsourcing.
Freelancers are perfect for MVP
Freelancers are the most flexible, quick and affordable option. “They are perfect for short-term and ASAP projects”, says Gajda. “I would recommend using the help of freelancers for example for MVP development. The downside is there’s little control over the quality of work and you can’t really expect one freelancer to take the best care of all the tasks like frontend, backend, QA, mobile, UX/UI design, DevOps, etcetera.” If you have software that will need long-term support, with various experts’ advisory and structured system of cooperation, Gajda suggests a third option: partner up with a software house.
Working with a software house
Teaming up with a good software house (you can verify this on Clutch for example) will give you a complete team at your service. Experienced developers are represented by a project manager and overseen by CTOs. Quality control and development processes are built-in, the latest technologies are the standard. Besides writing the code, services such as analysis, consultations, brainstorming new ideas, testing, fixing and maintenance are all part of the package.
Using a software house is certainly not the cheapest option, says Gajda. “Depending on the software house’s reputation and effectiveness, it might be a pretty penny. It will definitely cost more than freelancers, but probably less than building the team in-house. You just need to find a perfect match and the most cost-optimal option for your project”, says Gajda. “In order to do that, you might start outsourcing outside your country. When outsourcing abroad, let’s say to Central and Eastern Europe which is a pretty hot outsourcing destination now, it can be cheaper.”
Software development at Creative Fabrica
Not worrying about a technical part of the long-term project is one of the reasons Roemie Hillenaar teamed up with The Software House for the development of his online application. Hillenaar is CEO of the Dutch company Creative Fabrica. The online platform is considered the ‘Netflix for crafters’, allowing creatives to download and use a wide range of graphics to use in their arts and crafts. “Our customers are the people that sell their wares on Etsy”, explains Hillenaar. “There are currently over 5,000 digital designers on our platform creating work for them to use.”
Creative Fabrica, which raised 500,000 euros in funding from Peak Capital in 2019, is currently conquering the USA where 60 billion dollars a year is being spent in the crafting market. To leverage more than a million users, Creative Fabrica is looking to add a social layer on their website. Hillenaar: “We’re building something where you can share your craft projects, build a following and interact with users and content.”
‘This is self-managing’
Building a social network for millions of crafters is not an easy task, Hillenaar realised. “We did a lot of developing in-house, both in our office in Amsterdam and remote. But we simply needed more developers. It’s hard to find good people in Amsterdam.” Hillenaar found the solution at Gajda’s The Software House.
“We’ve been working with them for about four months now, and it’s been a very positive experience”, says Hillenaar. “They’re not afraid to dive into something themselves or show initiative. Our CTO keeps a close eye on the project, but also gets a lot of support from The Software House. At first, we were looking for some extra hands to just do the coding for us. But that would mean we need to manage those hands ourselves as well. This is self-managing, which saves us a lot of overhead.”
Team Creative Fabrica, with CEO Roemie Hillenaar in the back.
‘Extension of our own team’
So what about the costs? How much do you need to shell out if you want, for instance, have a social layer on your wildly popular crafting platform? Hillenaar can’t divulge any numbers. “We’re very product-focused. We never thought ‘oh we need about 12 sprints, so that will take so much time.’ We see this as an extension of our own team, instead of a separate project team. The good thing is that The Software House is very clear about its tariffs.”
For now, Hillenaar sees the project as a continuing effort and he plans to keep The Software House by his side for that. “Once the social layer is finished, we’ll have maintenance left. But we’re also opportunistic. We like to build and test a lot and launch new stuff. We will hire some in-house developers but will probably also scale up our external team.”
Scaling up or down: part of the deal
For Gajda, it is also hard to predict the exact costs of maintenance of an application. “There are many scenarios and each will require a different approach and investment during the implementation and maintenance of a software product or service. That’s why it’s convenient to have the possibility of scaling up and down on-demand, whenever you need, in all areas of software development.”
So whether you need to add a specific specialist for just a quick improvement, suddenly receive a new deadline from your stakeholders or – the other way around – suddenly go through hard times and need to cut your development budget; when you partner with a software house, you can scale up or down even within days. And whenever you are ready to work on your application again, your software development partner will be ready to scale up again to provide you with the pace of development you need.
Do you have more questions about the topic or you would like to consult with Marek Gajda – The Software House CTO? Click here and book a free, one-hour consultation.
BuildBuddy, whose software helps developers compile and test code quickly using a blend of open-source technology and proprietary tools, announced a funding round today worth $ 3.15 million.
The company was part of the Winter 2020 Y Combinator batch, which saw its traditional demo day in March turned into an all-virtual affair. The startups from the cohort then had to raise capital as the public markets crashed around them and fear overtook the startup investing world.
BuildBuddy’s funding round makes it clear that choppy market conditions and a move away from in-person demos did not fully dampen investor interest in YC’s March batch of startups, though it’s far too soon to tell if the group will perform as well as others, given how long it takes for startup winners to mature into exits.
Let’s talk code
BuildBuddy has foundations in how Google builds software. To get under the skin of what it does, I got ahold of co-founder Siggi Simonarson, who worked at the Mountain View-based search giant for a little over a half decade.
During that time he became accustomed to building software in the Google style, namely using its internal tool called Blaze to compile his code. It’s core to how developers at Google work, Simonarson told TechCrunch. “You write some code,” he added, “you run Blaze build; you write some code, you run Blaze test.”
What sets Blaze apart from other developer tools is that “opposed to your traditional language-specific build tools,” Simonarson said, it’s code agnostic, so you can use it to “build across [any] programming language.”
Google open-sourced the core of Blaze, which was named Bazel, an anagram of the original name.
So what does BuildBuddy do? In product terms, it’s building the pieces of Blaze that Google engineers have access to inside the company, for other developers using Bazel in their own work. In business terms, BuildBuddy wants to offer its service to individual developers for free, and charge companies that use its product.
Simonarson and his co-founder Tyler Williams started small, building a “results UI” tool that they shared with a Bazel user group. The members of that group picked up the tool, rapidly bringing it inside a number of sizable companies.
This origin story underlines something that BuildBuddy has that early-stage startups often lack, namely demonstrable enterprise market appetite. Lots of big companies use Bazel to help create software, and BuildBuddy found its way into a few of them early in its life.
Simply building a useful tool for a popular open-source project is no guarantee of success, however. Happily for BuildBuddy, early users helped it set direction for its product development, meaning that over the summer the startup added the features that its current users most wanted.
Simonarson explained that after BuildBuddy was initially used by external developers, they demanded additional tools, like authentication. In the words of the co-founder, the response from the startup was “great!” The same went for a request for dashboarding, and other features.
Even better for the YC graduate, some of the features requested were the sort that it intends to charge for. That brings us back to money and the round itself.
BuildBuddy closed its round in May. But like with most venture capital tales, it’s not a simple story.
According to Simonarson, his startup started raising the round during one of those awful early-COVID days when the stock market dropped by double-digit percentage points in a single trading session.
BuildBuddy’s goal was to raise $ 1.5 million. Simonarson was worried at the time, telling TechCrunch that it was his first time fundraising, and that he wasn’t sure if his startup was going to “raise anything at all” in that climate.
But the nascent company secured its first $ 100,000 check. And then a $ 300,000 check, over time managing to fill out its round.
So what happened that got the company from $ 1.5 million to just over $ 3 million? The investor that put in $ 300,000 wanted to put in another $ 2 million. The company talked them down to $ 1.5 million at a higher cap (BuildBuddy raised its round using a SAFE), and the deal was done at those terms.
The startup initially didn’t want to raise the extra cash, but Simonarson told TechCrunch that at the time it was not clear where the fundraising environment was heading; BuildBuddy raised back when startup layoffs were a leading story, and a return to high-cadence VC rounds was months away.
So BuildBuddy wound up securing $ 3.15 million to support a current headcount of four. It intends to hire, naturally, lower its comically long runway and keep building out its Bazel-focused service.
Picking a few names from the investor spreadsheet that BuildBuddy sent over — points for completeness to the startup — Y Combinator, Addition, Scribble and Village Global, among others put capital into the round.
Dev tools are hot at the moment. Given that, as soon as BuildBuddy’s ARR starts to get moving, I expect we’ll hear from them again.