Sync and swim: Why we invested in Swimm

If it’s not documented, it doesn’t exist. A truth every developer knows, but doesn’t want to hear.

Writing documentation for code is a pain, and the traditional solutions don’t make it much easier. Tools that auto-generate an API reference from the codebase are quick and convenient, but fail to explain what the code does. Meanwhile, dedicated documentation management systems are usually maintained by a separate team of technical writers, increasing the likelihood of the docs drifting away from the codebase.

Without good documentation, new developers can’t be onboarded effectively, dev teams can’t keep in sync and end users can’t integrate with the code. And this only gets worse at scale; the larger a company gets, the more fragmented the knowledge of the codebase becomes — and a lot of that knowledge can walk out of the door when a developer leaves.

These are the pain points Swimm aims to solve — giving any developer the ability to quickly understand code they’re not familiar with and start participating meaningfully, all while keeping the codebase aligned and staying in sync with the rest of the team.

Swimm’s software allows developers to create documentation, walkthroughs and learning ‘playlists’ directly in the code repository, and any code samples in the docs are automatically updated — or flagged for manual review for major changes — every time new code is shipped. And because the documentation lives within the repo, developers have the tutorials exactly where they need them; they can quickly get to grips with a new project and spot any gaps in the documentation.

In other words, it makes writing new documentation easier and keeps the docs closely coupled to the code as developers work on it — shifting from docs for code, to docs as code. Developers have all the learning materials they need within the codebase so they can focus on their own code, rather than spending time deciphering someone else’s. It’s a tool for clearer thought, cleaner code and more productive dev teams.

It’s what the Swimm team calls ‘Continuous Documentation’. Dev teams continuously integrate, continuously test and monitor, and continuously deploy — so why stop when it comes to documentation?

The founding team is no stranger to this world. Oren Toledano (CEO), Omer Rosenbaum (CTO), Gilad Navot (Chief Product Officer) and Tom Ahi Dror (Chief Business Officer) bring a wealth of expertise to the table — from leading elite technical teams in the Israeli Defence Forces’ 8200 Intelligence Unit to designing air force simulators. And they started building Swimm after establishing the Israel Tech Challenge, a coding bootcamp inspired by the training programme used by Unit 8200. In running it, they learned first hand of developers’ frustration with trying to keep teams in sync with existing documentation tools.

The team’s immediate focus is helping to speed up developer onboarding, and with a waiting list of 400-odd companies for their public beta, it’s a solution sorely needed. Most of Swimm’s current customers (including another of our portfolio companies, Granulate) are well-backed startups looking to hire, and train up, a lot of developers as quickly as possible. Swimm allows these companies to create the training they need to get these new developers up to speed and be part of the team in no time.

But Swimm has a bigger vision, with an eye to a remote, open source future. The world’s gone digital and Web 3.0 is in the hands of distributed, asynchronous dev teams. Every single developer, whether an individual contributor to an open-source project or part of a global dev team for a big tech company, will need tools like Swimm to stay in sync and keep the codebase coherent — all while getting on and building.

Bottom-up developer tools defining the future of work are not just exciting to us at Dawn, but form the cornerstone of an investment thesis of ours: that automation will spread across an already remote world, plumbed in by the individuals building at the coalface. And we knew we were on to something when every developer we spoke to had the same pain point — and were similarly excited about the Swimm team and what they were doing to solve it.

So we’re delighted to partner with Oren, Omer, Gilad, Tom and the rest of the team as they raise their Series A, and get ready to open up Swimm’s public beta and realise a far broader vision. This is a huge, growing market — Atlassian with a $98.8bn market cap, and the likes of Notion at its heels — and Swimm is ready to push it even further. Where these existing tools focus on static documentation outside the codebase, Swimm is letting developers create living documentation where they need it, speeding up development and making dev teams leaner and more efficient. We couldn’t be more excited to join Swimm on their journey to transform the future of work, empowering developers in a distributed, remote-first world.

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Investor at @DawnCapital | Previously @SalesforceVentures @Foundersfactory and @Pioneers.io