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“Collaboration” has emerged as a key theme over the past year, with businesses forced to rapidly embrace remote work and figure out how to manage colleagues scattered over disparate locations. In the software development sphere, this provided a boost for tools such as Microsoft’s Visual Studio Live Share, while upstarts such as CodeSandbox and Replit raised sizable investments to further develop their various browser-based code collaboration platforms.

Despite the broad embrace of cloud-based integrated development environments (IDEs), the software collaboration process extends far beyond coding, which is where a new startup called CoScreen is hoping to carve out a niche.

Founded last April, CoScreen touts itself as a “deep collaboration” platform for engineering teams, encapsulating next-gen screen sharing, editing, and communication. The Menlo Park, California-based company officially launches today with $4.6 million in funding from institutional and angel investors, including Unusual Ventures, GitHub CTO Jason Warner, Google subsidiary Kaggle’s CEO Anthony Goldbloom, and former Mozilla CEO-turned VC John Lilly.

“We believe that collaborative IDEs will play an increasingly important role in developer toolchains,” CoScreen cofounder and CEO Till Pieper told VentureBeat. “But developers still need to be able to collaborate on more than just on code. They need to review front end specs together in Figma, run commands in Terminal, debug in various browsers, test their prototypes in mobile emulators. That’s where CoScreen comes in.”

How it works

CoScreen enables multiple team members to share and edit specific app windows simultaneously on a joint workspace, bypassing the need to share their entire screen with each other. This means confidential notifications that appear on one person’s screen won’t be displayed to others.

In effect, CoScreen meshes the real-time collaboration functionalities of Google Docs with the video and screen-sharing smarts of Zoom.

“To our knowledge, there is no other product that enables multiple team members to share applications at the same time and to control them at the same time,” Pieper said. “The recent hype around video chat is missing the point for what remote teams actually need and is over-indexing on talking about work and under-indexing on the need for a shared interactive context. Remote teams don’t require fancier ways to communicate with each other or to understand what everyone else is up to — they actually require a much better way to get things done together.”

With CoScreen, which is available as a desktop app for Windows or Mac, users click whatever app window they want to collaborate on and all colleagues on that session can view and edit each other’s shared windows, which are each marked and labeled with the owner’s name.

Above: CoScreen: Multi-user screen editing

For example, users can copy and paste text between shared windows. A built-in audio and video-chat feature also allows them to communicate in real time.

Above: CoScreen: Copy-pasting between users’ windows

The platform comes with Slack and Google Calendar integration so teams can easily jump into a CoScreen session, and the company is gearing up to release integrations with the broader developer tool ecosystem in the future, including IDEs such as Visual Studio Code.

Use cases

CoScreen could be used for any number of scenarios in software development, such as pair programming (an agile software development technique); debugging; or interviewing prospective hires and onboarding new hires. Although it’s clear CoScreen holds potential as a utility for other departments and disciplines, software development is the company’s sole focus for now.

“Developer teams are our initial core audience because they need to collaborate across a multitude of apps and often have personal preferences in what tooling to use,” said Pieper, who left a role as a Google product manager to found CoScreen. “There is no other tool that enables them to do that as interactively and flexibly as CoScreen.”

That said, there isn’t anything to stop teams from using CoScreen for any internal project that requires multiple team members to collaborate from different locations.

“Customers frequently approach us about using the platform for new employee onboarding, support, education, marketing, and other agile team activities like sprint and product planning,” Pieper added. “We’ve also been approached about other collaborative use cases like music production, video editing, and even financial planning and analytics.”

In its short life so far, CoScreen has managed to attract engineering teams from esteemed enterprises such as Slack, Okta, Salesforce, and SAP, though it might be something of a stretch to call these companies “customers,” given that CoScreen remains an entirely free product through at least May.

At some point, CoScreen will activate its Pro and Enterprise pricing plans, which will serve as the real testbed for how attractive the company’s proposition is. CoScreen’s three cofounders have fairly extensive enterprise experience, having worked at Google Cloud, SAP, and Nestlé, which should serve CoScreen well as it builds out its platform for bigger companies.

“We are seeing considerable interest from large enterprise customers in extending their usage, as well as organically growing usage within organizations,” Pieper noted. “We have selected several of those enterprises as design partners to further build out our roadmap.”

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