Graphite’s founders came from Facebook, Airbnb, and Square, three companies where they had access to sophisticated code review tools. When they started Graphite, originally as a mobile development tools company, they missed the tools they had at larger companies and started building one to use internally.
They soon realized that the tool they built for them gave developers access to a set of capabilities previously only available to people working at larger, more sophisticated companies. Eventually, they decided to focus their startup exclusively on that tool, explained the company’s co-founding CEO, Merrill Lutsky.
“In fact, we created the first version of Graphite as an internal tool a little over a year ago. We all miss the code review workflows we had at some of our previous companies. So we built the first version of the Graphite command line tool and the dashboard just as a tool for us to use internally,” he explained.
They started sharing the tool they had been working on and were pleasantly surprised by the reaction. “The response to what became Graphite was so enthusiastic and compelling that we started to think maybe we should work on this.”
However, before moving away from their original idea, they established some parameters. If they could get 20 engineers to download Graphite before the end of August, they would complete the transition. They ended up with 40 enthusiastic users giving them feedback, and last September, they decided to go for the code review product.
What they created is an open source command line interface and dashboard to simplify code review. Typically, code review is a linear process. You build a part of the program, commit it, and wait for review. They wanted to change that to make it simultaneous, allowing you to continue your work, even while the original part is being revised, a process that is much more efficient.
“The idea with Graphite is that I make a change and then while I’m looking for someone to review it, I keep making changes on top of that, creating this to-do queue,” explained company co-founder Tomas Reimers. .
They are a small team today with six people, including the three founders, but they hope to get to 15-20 by the end of the year. Lutsky says he spends much of his time these days working to recruit engineers to join the company.
As they move to working with recruitment agencies to bring in candidates, they are focusing on bringing in a diverse pool of candidates early in the process. “As we start hiring faster, we’re actually talking to recruiting agencies about how to work with them and giving them instructions to make sure they’re reaching out to candidates from different backgrounds,” he said.
The new approach has resonated with the developers and today they have grown to over 2,500 users participating in the company’s Slack community, so it seems they made the right choice. Lutsky says investors who had put up seed capital for the idea, including lead investor Hunter Walk in Homebrew, were supportive of the change in direction.
Additionally, the company announced today that it has raised a $20 million Series A led by Andreessen Horowitz with Peter Levine leading the investment.