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Repl.it: Empowering the Globe to Code

SpaceX’s Starlink will extend internet across the globe via a satellite. The Chromebook will affordably deliver CPU to the hands of millions. Repl.it will provide the platform for someone to build.

Anybody with this basic tech stack could access an active community and set of resources to learn to program from anywhere in the world. All they need is a browser. No downloads.

Now, imagine if that user developed a useful app / bot, and instantly, they were able to deploy it, creating a monthly income.

This is the power of Repl.it. Any person in the world with a basic internet connection can access resources to learn to program (50+ languages) within a browser. Within that same tool, users can build, host, and deploy.

Repl.it is creating the next potential programming creator economy by connecting and empowering a global community of avid innovators and collaborators.

Summary

Repl.it’s name comes from the common programming term called a Read-Eval-Print Loop. In its most basic form, a REPL is an interactive environment where a programmer can provide inputs, the environment executes them, and the results are outputted back to the user. This loop allows for quick and safe experimentation and testing.

An integrated development environment (IDE) would be the closest comparison, but it would be a mistake to label Repl.it as an IDE. Founder Amjad Masad is very clear: Repl.it is not a tool for building large-scale software. In an email exchange, Masad said “we see it as a fundamentally new computing platform.”

Repl.it is, however, resonating as a tool for learning to code and building a community. As Masad explains, if you consider IDEs and REPLs as opposite ends of the spectrum, then Repl.it would be opposite to JetBrains, AWS Cloud 9, and others. Put lightly, if your IDE is a car, Repl.it is the motorcycle.

Exhibit 1: IDE’s vs. REPLs

Within Repl.it, you have the ability to experiment, learn, build, host, and deploy. While Repl.it is exceptional at the first three, the last two make it incredibly powerful. With basic levels of CPU, anyone in the world can leverage the community to innovate, and then they can host and deploy their app / bot to the public. Repl.it IS a new computing platform.

That characterization is clearly working. On October 10th, 2020, Paul Graham (YCombinator legend) tweeted a prediction: future youth will be able write quick apps and turn it into a business.

Exhibit 2: @PaulG October 20th, 2020 tweet

Then on December 2nd, 2020, Graham tweeted out a graph of Repl.it registered users. Repl.it has already exploded in an exponential way to 5M global users. While I was aware of Repl.it’s amazing platform, this tweet made something click: “Imagine how many users Replit’s users will have.” That captures the potential explosiveness of this platform.

Exhibit 3: @PaulG December 2nd, 2020 tweet

Repl.it is growing exponentially, and while it is not mutually exclusive from an IDE, there is a world where it eats into a big chunk of the market. Masad mentions this in leapfrogging the IDE (Exhibit 4)

It turns out this was the wrong question to ask. A better one would be: “if someone had already learned to code on an online REPL and it serves their needs then why would they want to invest in a local setup?” Because they started with Repl.it, they need a compelling reason to install an IDE locally and possibly have to invest in buying a more expensive device (say from a Chromebook to a Mac).

-Founder Amjad Masad in Leapfrogging the IDE

Repl.it is capturing learning programmers, but as Repl.it becomes increasingly powerful, many users are wondering why they would leave!

Investment Score

Investment score estimation

Overall, I rank Repl.it very high. The only two outstanding questions in my book are:

  1. Will one of the large competitors (e.g., Amazon, Google) attempt to directly compete with Repl.it?
  2. How will the long-term business model shape up?

Across the board, the product, team, etc. are rock solid, but these two questions remain to be answered to make Repl.it a real homerun!

Conclusion

I truly believe Repl.it will be huge. I think they have many properties of Slack. Repl.it is building a trendy platform. In the same way Salesforce and Slack built a platform for people to innovate with apps, I believe Repl.it is building the same platform for programmers. Learning, community, and the lower price point will be the entry point, but long-term, Repl.it will expand capabilities upstream (e.g., to larger scale software building), and they will scale with their explosive young user base, providing them huge opportunities to monetize in the apps & bots market, as well as within enterprise.

Appendix: Battlecard Backups

Problem statement

Understanding the nuance in IDE vs. REPL is critical to understanding the problem Repl.it is solving. Currently, there are many solid IDE options within three categories:

  1. Language or OS specific local environments (e.g., XCode, Android Studio)
  2. Local IDE’s (e.g., Microsoft Visual Studio, JetBrains)
  3. Cloud-based IDE’s (e.g., Amazon Cloud 9, JSFiddle)

Language-specific IDE’s can be limiting. Local IDE’s require significant downloads to begin. Cloud-based IDE’s lack the community component Repl.it has. None of the current IDE’s offer a frictionless setup to join an in-browser community of learning programmers like Repl.it.

What is the market opportunity?

There are many big players in the IDE market (e.g., Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google), but within the direct REPL market, Repl.it is the clear market leader.

Growth drivers:

  1. Increasing number of developers — According to daxx.com the number of software developers will roughly double from 2018 (23.9M) to 2030 (45M). That is a ~6.5% overall target audience growth rate. For Repl.it, however, their education packages, as well as accessibility, likely means their potential target audience is much, much larger than strictly “software developers.”
  2. Remote / off-prem working trends — Repl.it’s multiplayer, in-browser environment makes it a great resource for remote teams to collaborate in their programming. As Masad mentions, Repl.it is not mutually exclusive from a development team’s IDE. Remote teams need an iterative, team tool like Repl.it more than ever.
  3. The growth of apps & bots — With more complex tools & environments, businesses continue to look for ways to improve automation; App ecosystems like iOS, Salesforce, and others continue to build platforms that provide opportunity for one-off app / bot creation

Challenges:

  1. No code tools — The rise of no-code tools could provide a slight headwind. The need to code could diminish long-term with programs like GPT-3. Short-term, tools like Zapier could provide one-click replacements to app / bot creation. Neither are existential threats to Repl.it, but the significant growth of no code could take a chunk from Repl.it’s potential user base
  2. Threat of a big player — Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google all offer IDE’s. Repl.it and IDE’s are not mutually exclusive, but Repl.it’s success could poorly affect the large players. I would be surprised if they never try to compete.

How big is this market?

This market is massive. Repl.it plays in a challenging space, so for TAM, let’s look at:

Note: Repl.it offers the ability to operationalize and host apps immediately. This potentially uncaps their TAM significantly

IDE comp’s:

  • Market.us estimates ~$3.7B and growing at a 21% CAGR  ~$4.5B in 2020
  • Microsoft Visual Studio is market leader growing at <25% (Source: 10-K; Assumption since aggregate is ~27% with Azure +50%)
  • Professional basic package of Microsoft Visual Studio is $1,200 for initial license and $800 annually (Source: Website and Customer Support calls)
  • ~24M developers globally in 2018  ~28M in 2020 (Source: Daxx.com)

Using Microsoft as a comp suggests the top-end of the IDE in TAM would be ~22–34B in 2020 with a CAGR of ~15–20%. Market.us estimates the current total IDE market is a fraction of the TAM suggested by the bottom-up analysis would suggest.

Non-IDE Market

Developers:

  • ~24M developers globally in 2018  ~28M in 2020 (Source: Daxx.com)
  • ~$5–7 per month for Hacker plan (Source: Repl.it website)

Education:

  • 56.6M students in elementary and secondary school (Source: Educationdata.org)
  • Average class size of 25 students per class (Source: NCES)

The bottom-up analysis shows a much lower TAM of ~$1.8–2.4B. This is, however, highly sensitive on pricing. Assuming an extremely low price for Hacker and Education plans, it is very reasonable to assume the bottom-up analysis undercuts the actual size of market 2–3X at a minimum.

Conclusion: Even with price increases, the IDE market is an order of magnitude larger than the education and personal market. The Total addressable market of the two combined is $25B+. Market reports suggest the actual market is a fraction (~15–20%) of what the bottom-up analysis would suggest. To achieve scale, Repl.it will need to find their niche within larger wallets (e.g., enterprise), which they are currently approaching with their business package (coming soon).

Note: This sizing does not including the packaging, hosting, and deployment of small apps. This is truly where their addressable TAM could be uncapped and explosive.

Originally published at https://jeffburke.substack.com.

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Jeff Burke

Jeff Burke

I write about emerging startups and growth marketing | Management consultant | Former professional athlete | Boston College Alum |

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