January Capital
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January Capital

Our Investment in Locofy.ai

Locofy.ai founders: Sohaib Muhammad (CTO) and Honey Mittal (CEO)

We are pleased to announce our investment in Locofy.ai’s US$3.0 million Pre-Seed round alongside Accel Partners, Golden Gate Ventures, Bold Capital as well as strategic angels and advisors, including the founders of Ola, Holistic, Hasura, Wego, and GajiGesa. Based in Singapore, Locofy.ai is a low-code tool that accelerates front-end software engineering by automatically translating UI designs to code. We are excited to partner with Honey Mittal and Sohaib Muhammed in their journey to build the most compelling Developer Acceleration as a Service tools available to engineers.

A global problem: the “supply/demand” mismatch for engineering talent

Over the past decade, there has been a creeping issue emerging within the technology ecosystem globally that threatens to slow down the rate of innovation: the increasing deficit between (a) supply of computer science graduates, and (b) the demand for technical talent from technology companies. With the COVID-19 pandemic only accelerating the adoption of digital commerce and software, the availability of technical engineering talent has never been tighter. According to Gartner, 64% of technology executives saw the skill shortage as the most significant adoption barrier to emerging technologies in 2021, compared to just 4% in 2020.

While this is not a new problem per se, historical solutions such as talent offshoring are no longer really viable (with burgeoning local technology ecosystems in markets such as India, Sri Lanka and Vietnam). By 2030, there will be a global shortage of more than 85 million tech workers, and employers are being forced to rethink strategies to ensure they can access the technical talent they need.

In prior investment notes, such as startup oi, we have written about the clear emerging opportunity for startups to better service the talent acquisition component of this problem statement. The reality though is that firms need to explore in parallel how to maximize the efficiency of their existing engineering headcount.

Traditional low/no-code app development tends to be more “disruptive” than “additive” for engineering teams

While no-code empowers a new category of application builders, commonly referred to as “citizen developers”, low code platforms on the other hand have a larger focus towards accelerating development cycles of engineering teams by applying visual development with some coding involved, enabling them to be more extensible and customizable than typical no-code application development platforms.

While there has been an explosion of low/no-code platforms focusing on app development over the past few years, the reality is that very few platforms were built with engineering workflows in mind. These platforms tend to be restrictive in the following ways:

A tendency to to be “closed loop” with limited interoperability

Most traditional low/no-code platforms are closed loop environments and do not work with other developer tools and processes (e.g. version control and CI/CD), resulting in vendor lock-in.

Low/no-code tools are a “black box” for source code manipulation

Traditional tools over-rotate on visual development and the platform does its magic without offering developers the access to the underlying source code, which causes issues if there is an issue with the app and developers have to perform debugging.

There are natural limitations on the scalability of existing platforms

Traditional low/no-code platforms are often seen as a great testing environment (i.e., going from “0 to 1”), but given their rigid nature, once an idea is validated, users are often required to start over from scratch with a traditional engineering process.

For these reasons, traditional solutions tend to not really be “fit for purpose” in professional engineering teams and some have considered it to be more disruptive than additive. Our thesis here is that engineering and product teams require platform agnostic “low-code” solutions that complement their existing software development workflows and help drive efficiencies through workflow improvement and automation.

Locofy.ai: Re-engineering the low-code development process

In modern technology organizations, product managers, designers and developers work together closely to scale new technology products within organizations. Over time, (i) iterative product design, and (ii) effective engineering throughput have emerged as core tenets of successful startups, meaning that effective collaboration between design and development teams has become mission critical.

While the emergence of designer-focused tools (i.e., studios such Figma have created significant efficiencies), the current “design-to-code” process is still far from perfect. Designers and engineers often struggle with unclear processes around how to process feedback, and even after there is alignment internally, thousands of lines of code need to be written to bring the front-end of any application to life.

Locofy.ai is focused on building a highly interoperable, low-code platform that helps supercharge the efficiency of modern software teams — a category of software that the team identifies as Developer Acceleration as a Service (DAAAS).

Locofy.ai’s platform greatly reduces the menial work of engineers without adding complexity or requiring new languages to be learnt (the platform automates 50% or more of the current workflow, starting with front-end code automation). Importantly, Locofy.ai adapts to existing tools and workflows, seamlessly allowing teams to convert their “designs to code” far more efficiently (often standing up a fully interactive and responsive live prototype that runs on code, without writing a single line of code).

Locofy.ai works with the tools and frameworks that designers and developers are familiar with, like Figma and React. Over time, it will look to expand to more design tools and front-end programming frameworks.

A deeply talented founding team with deep experience in the region’s ecosystem

As an early-stage firm that invests from the Pre-Seed rounds, we place considerable weightage on the “market fit” of any founder we partner with and invest into. In the case of Locofy.ai, we are quietly confident that there would not be many other founders who have experienced more “problem statement pain” than Honey and Sohaib have in their careers.

Having worked together for more than a decade, Honey and Sohaib have more than 25 years of relevant experience as a team. They have been part of technical senior leadership at some of the region’s fastest-growing technology companies, including Kredivo, Wego and Homage. At these companies, they have “lived and breathed” the issues they are now looking to solve, and have built up an extraordinary network that they are now leveraging to gain feedback and iterate in an accelerated fashion.

As the Locofy.ai team has grown, we have seen this network also allow them to recruit exceptional talent to join the journey. Locofy.ai’s mission is an important one, and this has resonated deeply with early hires.

Progress and future ahead

After spending most of CY2021 in stealth building the first iteration of the platform, Locofy.ai launched its beta product on December 25, 2021. Since then, usage has grown exponentially — in the past two months alone, early users have generated millions of lines of code across hundreds of projects. This growth was achieved without any deliberate strategies and zero dollars spent to date on marketing — we feel this is a testament to the product-obsessed nature of Locofy.ai’s team and the mission-critical nature of the problem they are building.

If you are a designer or developer looking for a solution to foster collaboration and materially accelerate the “design-to-code” process, Locofy.ai is now in open beta for converting Figma to React code, and accepting early access registrations for React Native, Flutter, Vue, HTML-CSS, and Sketch/Adobe.

If you are an early-stage founder building developer tooling with global ambitions, we would love to speak to you — you can reach our team at contact@january.capital.

For more information about January Capital, please visit our website and sign up for our regular newsletter.

For more information about Locofy.ai and how its platform can supercharge your productivity, please visit their website.

DISCLAIMER

January Capital is a licensed fund manager in both Singapore (through Jan Cap Pte. Ltd.) and Australia (through January Capital Pty Ltd) (together, the “Managers”) licensed under the purview of the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission respectively.

The information contained in this article is being provided to you for informational purposes only and does not constitute in any circumstance an offer to sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy any interest in the funds managed by the Managers or any other companies mentioned herein. Additionally, the information in this article and any and all forward-looking statements are based upon assumptions that may not prove to be correct or accurate and the actual financial results/performance and opportunities (amongst others) may differ materially from these statements. As such, nothing contained in this article should be construed as or relied upon as financial, legal or taxation advice, or an encouragement to invest in our funds or any companies mentioned in this article. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

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