During the past week, I’ve been tapping out letters on a 1921 Underwood portable typewriter that my wife gave me as a present. Sitting in front of it and watching the letter hammers pound ink onto paper reminded me that computer programming is still a very new field. Not 50 years ago, prehistoric programmers punched FORTRAN code on punch cards in this way.
In the past 10 to 15 years has computer programming entered mainstream culture and the number of developers has soared, popularized by the dot com era and the increasing prevalence of computers and mobile phones.
With the increase in developer numbers, new opportunities have arisen to build sizable businesses serving programmers. Despite developers' reputation for miserly resourcefulness, a handful of companies have built substantial businesses serving programmers.
Rally and Atlassian promote agile software development techniques with workflow software. Rally filed its IPO documents earlier this year and Atlassian is sure to follow. Splunk, which generates enormous revenues from its log analysis platform, also went public. Of course, this is to say nothing of the multibillion-dollar business Amazon has built providing infrastructure to developers.
Moreover, the developer ecosystem has become strategic to cash-rich monoliths. Facebook acquired mobile app development platform Parse to attract and retain mobile application developers for Facebook’s benefit. Salesforce bought Heroku, a software development and deployment platform, to complement Force.com, Salesforce’s very successful application market place. In both of these instances, and in the cases of the mobile phone wars between Apple, Google and Microsoft, programmers are the essential component to building vibrant application ecosystems and lasting competitive advantage.
10 years ago, it would’ve been easy to write off the developer community has an isolated and small constituency. But not today. Github just announced 4M user accounts.
This boom in web developers and database engineers and user experience designers provides tremendous opportunity for startups to seize.