The economic downturn caused a slowdown in hiring in the tech industry, forcing CTOs, and the teams they manage, to do more with less. It’s particularly putting the microscope on developers when it comes to efficiency. Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently said productivity “isn’t where it needs to be,” while Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg raised performance targets to weed out employees he thinks “shouldn’t be.” [there].”
A good deal of developer time is spent on internal tools, including building management dashboards, reporting systems, and data pipelines. And this is where there is a significant opportunity to reduce repetitive manual programming work, according to Brad Menezes. He is the CEO of Superblocks, a recently launched platform that provides building blocks for building custom in-house applications, workflows, and scheduled jobs.
Data is a bit hard to come by, but, to Menezes’ point, internal tools seem to cost companies a lot of time and resources. Retool, a competitor to Superblocks, found in a recent survey that developers spend more than 30% of their time building apps in-house. Interestingly, respondents said the pandemic led to an increase in time spent on in-house tools, perhaps because employers had to quickly adjust their tech stacks to remote and hybrid work setups.
“As developers, my co-founder, Ran Ma, and I faced the pain of building in-house tools over and over again at every company we worked for, and realized that the fundamental build blocks they are largely the same,” Menezes told TechCrunch in an email interview. “Software is eating up all business processes, and custom in-house software has become incredibly expensive to build, arduous to maintain, and difficult to secure. we build super apples to free developers from spending time on time-consuming custom back-end tool infrastructure so they can fully focus on the user experience…unique to their business.”
Prior to co-founding Superblocks, Menezes was a senior product manager at Yelp and a senior director of product management at Datadog, as well as an angel investor in startups at Sequoia. Ma was a senior engineer at Morgan Stanley before co-founding Supportive, a help desk software-as-a-service startup, and joining Confluent as an engineering leader.
True to its mission to simplify development, Superblocks offers tools for building applications, workflows, and jobs connected to enterprise data sources. With a drag-and-drop interface, users can build apps like database admin dashboards and order management screens with business logic (e.g. “When a new support ticket is created, send it to Slack”), integrating data from databases, internal APIs. and in other places
Scheduled jobs in Superblocks run every minute, hour, day, week, or month to automate tasks like emailing reports, while apps built with the platform can be monitored with existing tools like Datadog and Grafana. Workflows can be programmed to trigger automations when customers perform actions in the app, such as tapping on an alert.
“CTOs are always looking for ways to allocate more engineering time to their differentiated customer-facing product, but are often forced to go back to in-house tools because it’s the only way to scale operations with business growth. As developer salaries rise and customer support costs rise to meet ever-increasing customer expectations, the cost of building, maintaining and protecting in-house applications is at an all-time high,” Menezes said. . “Superblocks is an accelerator for building in-house applications.”
Expenses are certainly a concern for companies with many in-house tools. According to basic Retool math, the cost of maintaining in-house apps can exceed $8.2 million a year for a company with 1,000+ employees. That’s because more than half of companies have at least one full-time employee dedicated to building and maintaining in-house tools, Retool data shows, and developer salaries are high.
But just because a company is looking for a faster and cheaper way doesn’t mean they will choose Superblocks. Rivals include Appsmith, Snapboard, and Airplane. Several have substantial risk backing; the aforementioned Retool raised $45 million at a $3.2 billion valuation in July.
Menezes says he thinks about the competitive landscape in three ways: build-it-yourself, legacy incumbents, and low-code startups. Legacy incumbents necessarily have large professional services teams to set up local software, while startups, he argues, focus heavily on business users rather than developers.
“Super apples [allows] much greater customization, performance, and integrations with business systems,” said Menezes. “In the current macro environment, with the tech industry facing a hiring slowdown in recent months, business has only picked up pace as organizations strive to increase developer efficiency, resulting in thousands of apps, workflows, and jobs growing more than 30% month over month.”
Superblocks, which offers both a fully managed service and a hybrid model with self-hosted, open-source packages, claims to have “hundreds” of clients, including Motive, Payhawk, Clearco, Papaya Global and Alchemy, which Menezes says they use most frequently. the platform to automate customer service operations. Investors were evidently buoyed by the financials, which Menezes declined to disclose: Superblocks today closed a $37 million funding round from Kleiner Perkins, Greenoaks, Spark and Meritech, as well as Airtable co-founders and founders Twilio, Okta, Confluent, Firebase, Instacart, Fivetran, Box, Yelp, and DocuSign.
“Recent market volatility has caused a slowdown in hiring in the tech industry, forcing CTOs to accomplish more with less. This has sparked a new focus on developer efficiency, which is driving huge demand for superblocks, especially in operationally intensive companies,” continued Menezes. “This… fundraising allows us to invest in products to meet the immense customer demand we are seeing. We will invest deeply in our core products, launch new ones, and continue to invest in our world-class engineering support that excites our customers.”