Investing in Liveblocks
two things I love: APIs & Collaborative Tooling
Last week Liveblocks officially announced their seed round led by Boldstart. You can read my official post on the Boldstart blog. Here, I wanted to be able to share a bit more on why I’m personally so excited about this team and product.
As a child I loved Microsoft Office (I know, I was weird).
In 2008 I found Etherpad. Etherpad felt like "this is how documents always should have been." My classmates and I could really work on something together. Everyone could have their hands on the keyboard at once. It wasn't just about the technology, it was about the experience. Google Wave came out around the same time, and had a lot of the same tech as Etherpad, but it never felt the same.
Since then, the original Etherpad experience has slowly become the default for documents. Google docs quickly incorporated it, and eventually Microsoft did too. Tools like Notion, Coda, and Pitch have taken it a step further. Now it's hard to imagine not being able to collaborate in real time on a document.
The same experiences are slowly happening in other tools. It's happened with design in Figma, Figjam, and Miro. I've seen it with code - presence was the first service we built in Dark for Dark, Codelingo, in the terminal with Warp. It's happening in physical design with tools like OnShape (CAD) and Arcol (architecture). It's only going to happen more as we continue the shift towards remote work.
It’s still far too hard to build these experiences. That was one of the first chats Steven, Guillaume, and I had. They'd tried to build the multiplayer infra for their own products, and I had as well. Things that seem simple, like undo-redo, end up being very hard to implement. That complexity holds us back from having a seamless multiplayer experience in all of our tooling. You can see lots of examples of what should be easy by default here.
Since Liveblocks launched we've been able to see more of these tools pop up because they can add multiplayer in just a few lines - like tldraw, Clover, Sprout, and Motionbox.
I also believe that Steven and Guillaume are uniquely suited to build this infrastructure. When I worked on consumer technology, I noticed that a lot of the UI innovation tended to come from dating apps (think: those long onboarding surveys, swiping). In enterprise software, I think a lot of our UI innovation tends to come from design tools. Much like developers, designers tend to be thoughtful about how they build and deeply invested in their tooling. Designers who opt to work on design tooling even moreso.
An easy example of this is all the work that Steven put into designing the new Liveblocks landing pages:
This is my favorite one:
That's probably what's most exciting for me: Liveblocks sits at the intersection of two types of companies I love. First, Liveblocks itself is an elegant tool that enables developers to build the experiences they want. Second, the bulk of those experiences power other users to be able to do their work (~productivity tools).
Rather than making tools that enable Google Wave experiences, Steven and Guillaume can use their experience to shape an API that enables ones that feel natural and drive us forward.
With this round I've also joined the board, and I'm excited to see everything that's still to come - both for Liveblocks, and for all of the tooling I can't imagine yet.
If you're the sort of person who reads my newsletter, you might also care about these themes. If this is exciting for you, the Liveblocks team is still growing and I'd be happy to connect you if there's a good fit.