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Replit, a browser-based integrated development environment (IDE) built for cross-platform collaborative coding, has raised $20 million in a series A round of funding led by A.Capital Ventures.

Replit, which counts users from big-name companies such as Google, Facebook, and Stripe, closed the funding round in early 2020 but for various business and pandemic-related reasons delayed the announcement until today. Replit said it has invested the capital in R&D, hiring, and platform feature launches, noting that its user base has surged by 122% to more than 6 million users while its employee base has doubled.

Google Docs for coding

Founded out of San Francisco in 2016, Replit touts itself as the “first fully online multiplayer computing environment,” one that enables anyone to begin coding with minimal preparation and no downloads. It’s a little like Google Docs, but for coding.

With support for more than 50 programming languages, Replit can be used to build apps and websites through a browser on any operating system or device (including mobile), with the added ability to share projects, create communal workspaces, and grant access to containers for executing code.

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Above: Replit: Live code editing

With a desktop-based IDE, developers typically have to use a text editor to code and then use a secondary code-hosting service such as GitHub and a server or cloud to run it on. Replit removes friction from the coding process by putting everything in the browser, with bundled features such as live chat for anyone working on the same codebase.

Above: Replit: Live chat

Replit also integrates directly with GitHub, allowing users to import, run and collaborate with repositories on the world’s biggest code-hosting platform.

Above: Replit: GitHub integration

A core target market for Replit is actually budding coders, with its free starter plan supporting multiplayer collaboration and 500MB of storage and memory. Replit CEO Amjad Masad actually cited “getting started with programming” as the primary problem the platform solves. “Instead of taking days, it takes a second,” he said. “It’s also a great equalizer. Regardless if a … kid or adult has a mobile phone or a MacBook Pro or something in between — they can all code equally.”

The story so far

Before founding Replit, Masad served in numerous engineering roles, including stints at Yahoo; Codecademy, where he was one of the founding engineers; and Facebook, where he spent three years building development tools for the company’s in-house engineering team. But the genesis for Replit predates all these endeavors, with Masad noting that he first came up with the idea more than a decade ago before spending two years building a minimal viable product and releasing it as open source. “We had the idea for Replit back in 2009, and the first open source implementation in 2011, which powered Udacity and Codecademy’s in-browser tutorials,” he said.

There has been a growing shift to cloud-based developer tools, with Microsoft-owned GitHub last year launching its own browser IDE called Codespaces. In October, Dutch startup CodeSandbox raised $12.7 million for a platform that enables developers to create a web app development sandbox in the browser, with collaboration playing a central role. Other notable players in the space include Codeanywhere and VC-backed Glitch, while Amazon’s AWS acquired collaborative coding company Cloud9 IDE back in 2016.

According to Masad, this gravitation towards browser-based developer environments can be attributed to several factors. “I think the push results from a combination of increase in cloud computing, browser technology maturity, and a greater awareness and pursuit of STEM education,” he said.

Aside from the array of online (browser) and offline (desktop) IDEs that Replit competes with, Masad said Replit competes for attention with less obvious products, such as Minecraft and Roblox. “Both are programmable and educational,” he said. “[But] from our point of view, we’re charting our own path being the first and the only interactive, browser-based and from-the-ground-up multiplayer programming environment.”

Replit had previously raised $6 million from backers that include Andreessen Horowitz, Reach Capital, Bloomberg Beta, Y Combinator (YC) cofounder Paul Graham, and YC itself (after Replit graduated from the famed accelerator program in 2018). For its series A round, Replit attracted return investments from all of these investors, in addition to Gmail creator Paul Buchheit.

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