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Multiplayer, a developer tool designed to enhance distributed software development, has raised $3 million in funding.
Despite the name, the startup doesn’t have much to do with gaming. Multiplayer helps modern startups with remote workers handle their backend software services. It’s made by developers for developers.
New York-based Multiplayer aims to provide a collaborative and visual tool for managing complex and multi-layered system architectures that support a company’s operations. Traditionally, development teams have utilized outdated or makeshift solutions, such as physical whiteboards or inadequate diagramming tools, to collaborate on backend software design. Multiplayer offers a purpose-built software solution that enables teams to visualize their system architecture comprehensively and in granular detail.
Bowery Capital led the round, with participation from Okapi Venture Capital, Mitch Wainer (cofounder of DigitalOcean), and Edith Harbaugh (founder of LaunchDarkly).
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“We raised $3 million in funding during a really tough market and so we’re pretty proud of that,” said CEO Steph Johnson, in an interview with VentureBeat. “My background is at MongoDB and Digital Ocean and a lot of developer tools. I spent time watching developers communicate and collaborate. I saw the trouble they have communicating when it comes to distributed software and working on that together. So after promoting a lot of other people’s great ideas, I decided it was time to promote one of my own, and thus teamed up with Tom to start Multiplayer.”
The idea was to create a better way to visualize and communicate architectural design decisions when working on distributed software. Surprisingly, in a world with so many dev tools, nobody really focused on this, Steph Johnson said.
Thomas Johnson, CTO of Multiplayer, has over 20 years of development experience at companies like Citrix.
“It’s so shocking to me that developers don’t have these tools, because it seems so natural,” Tom Johnson said. “As a backend developer for years, it’s like a cave in the back of the back office. We don’t get a lot of love. So I’m trying to finally get the love. I’m trying to show the love to my people. This is an idea whose time has come. With distributed software being the norm today and teams being more spread out than ever, the gap in the market for a tool like Multiplayer has become very clear. Developers no longer need to bypass design reviews because they are ‘too much trouble.’ Multiplayer gives them an easy, organized way to share ideas and information before final implementation.”
Tom Johnson said it helps teams with system architecture, application programming interface, and data schemas.
“It’s for teams of any size that are working on distributed software and are sick and tired of all the meetings and headaches they have to deal with to work on backend software,” he said. “We’ve created this beautiful, collaborate application that allows teams to come together.”
The team has 10 people who are fully remote.
How it works
Say you have an application that needs to support tweets. It might start with an idea or the requirements, and then some front-end design. Then the backend developer starts coding. They can create a microservice and will need to communicate that to the front-end developer. then they need to test it and deploy it.
“It takes a whole village of people to get a simple feature from idea to production,” Tom Johnson said. “We provide a safe spec space to do that. If people just jump into code without the tooling, that’s terrible. You may find out you built the wrong thing way too late in the process. You have to have the safe spec space.”
Tom Johnson said about 50% to 75% of code that he has to write is pretty boilerplate code that he hates to write, and so this code is offloaded to AI. That allows him and other developers more time to do what’s really interesting. It has analytics built in so you can ask it, “Why are you running slow today?” And it can respond to natural language questions like that with real answers.
Key features of Multiplayer
- AI Assist: Generates comprehensive components required for distributed software development, including system architectures, APIs, service implementations, Infrastructure as Code (IaC), and documentation.
- Visualizes System Architecture: Provides a holistic view of the system architecture while allowing for detailed examination of specific features and real-time changes.
- Design Intent Communication: Consolidates multiple document types (e.g., platform diagrams, APIs, sketches, rich-text docs, source code) to effectively communicate design intent for a particular feature.
- Formal Design Reviews: Facilitates design reviews and enables feedback from all stakeholders (team leads, developers, QA, CTOs, DevOps, etc.) before moving forward with implementation.
- Real-Time Collaboration: Supports real-time collaboration among distributed teams, similar to tools like Figma, but specifically designed for backend development.
- Version Control and Branching: Enables version control and branching to manage code changes effectively.
- Centralized System Dashboard: Ensures system architecture is documented in a shared, company-owned space where it can be maintained and the platform’s evolution can be tracked.
Mitch Wainer, cofounder of DigitalOcean, said in a statement, “Companies all over the world are developing distributed software. These systems are becoming more complex and harder to change without breaking things. There’s a dire need for a dev tool that helps teams visualize and collaborate when making changes to their backend software. Multiplayer makes design reviews and feature development easier and more collaborative, targeting a massively underserved market in the dev tool space.”
Multiplayer plans to launch a public beta of its platform in the fall. The Johnsons, who are married, founded the company earlier this year. They chose the name Multiplayer because of the collaborative approach, as it can also be used across enterprises and industry segments.
And in spite of the name, again, Multiplayer isn’t so focused on gaming where there are companies doing parts of this tech.
“The gaming industry leads with technology, and we are bringing that to the rest of the tech industry,” said Tom Johnson. “Being able to collaborate with a kind of multiplayer interface where you can see each other working on the same document. It almost feels like a game. We are bringing some of those features to regular businesses. Technology that was locked in the gaming world, we’re bringing to every company out there.”
In fact, the Johnsons don’t see much competition in their space, except writing on the back of a napkin or a whiteboard.
As for being married and working together, Steph Johnson said, “We get asked about that. And as a former head of comms for public companies, my relationship with my CEOs is always much more dramatic and fraught than a typical marriage. So I prepared for anything. We also have remarkably complementary skills. I am all go to market all the time. I’m HR, sales and marketing. Thomas this the tech guy and neither of us wants to do what the other one has on their to do list. So we’re very fortunate that way.”
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