Demand for software is growing twice as fast as the supply of software developers. As every business strives to become a software business, the demand will grow even more rapidly. However, there are only so many developers that the world can produce every year, leading to a continuous need for an increase in developer productivity. Front-end developers are no exception to this, and in many ways, the need there is even more pronounced than in other areas.
Front-end development automation isn’t a niche; it’s a sprawling, horizontal market. According to Stack Overflow, approximately 75% of all software developers work in front-end development, representing around 20M developers globally. Projections suggest this number will soar to approximately 33.5M by 2030.
Front-end developers play an important role in crafting user experience. With increased competition, rising user expectations and more complex applications, front-end development has become increasingly more complex in recent years. At the same time, developers continue to devote a significant portion of their work, ranging from 25% to 75%, to procedural coding tasks like styling (CSS), structuring (HTML), and the application of framework-specific boilerplate.
Now, imagine a world where front-end developers can focus exclusively on the core business logic of an application while automated tools handle the rest. This is the vision of Kombai that is seeking to revolutionise front-end development by reducing 60-70% of a developer’s workload. Their strategy involves automating the more repetitive aspects of front-end development, leaving developers with more time to concentrate on essential coding tasks.
Modern front-end coding process consists of two main parts – building the visual appearance that matches a given design and building functionalities (aka “writing UI code”) and interactions around the visual appearance-related code. To write UI code, developers rely on their experience, skills, and intuition to make numerous inferences, both explicit and implicit. Kombai’s proprietary ensemble model is able to “look at” complex, real-world designs, derive these inferences as a developer would, and generate high-quality code using that “understanding”. The model doesn’t require users to manually pre-process the designs. Further, Kombai is highly steerable – it can be nudged to generate the exact code a developer wants by “prompt engineering” the designs.
During our diligence, we discovered a large number of tools for automating front-end development. However, most of these fall woefully short of expectations. They are simply not production ready. Most tools today fail to interpret the designs intelligently and generate code that is not intuitive for developers to understand and maintain. It is a hard problem, and this is precisely what we like about it.
A crucial distinction lies in the company’s mission – they aim to “augment” developers, and make frontend development enjoyable for them, rather than replace them. Unlike no-code tools such as WordPress, Bubble, Retool, Builder, and Wix, which cater to non-developers creating lightweight and standardised apps, their innovation targets feature-rich and highly interactive applications. We believe that as the complexity and demand for front-end development increases, intelligent automation will become a necessity rather than a luxury.
In Dipanjan and Abhijit, we discovered a team with a unique combination of technical prowess and product acumen necessary to address the issue through a fundamentally fresh perspective. Right from the outset, it was evident to us that this team possessed a rare combination of individual excellence and functional harmony. In a relatively short period of time, they have been able to build a new model, not just a thin product layer on top of existing models, that can solve a globally-unsolved problem. We are delighted by the remarkable progress the team has made and the encouraging feedback they have got from developers during their private research preview phase. We, at Stellaris, are excited to seize the opportunity to partner with the founders as well as with Foundation Capital, our co-investors in this company, on this promising journey.
Kombai is launching their public research preview today (23rd August, 2023). Do check them out at Kombai.com/launch.