I’m a big fan of developer tools as a way to speed up the creation of software. It’s a pretty simple concept if you were to go back in time a decade, back to when Uber first launched, there were two technology paths the company could have taken. The first was to leverage developer tools (mapping, billing, notifications, communications) in order to get a product out the door as quickly as possible. The second option is to build absolutely every part of the application in-house.

The decisions is analogous to what we all face every day. Planning dinner? Well, you could buy your meat from a specialist butcher, your vegetables from a greengrocer and so on, or you could hand rear a cow, hand grow your own vegetables and supply every component yourself. All things being equal, the modular route is not only easier, but it leaves you to focus on what is key – time, temperature and seasoning (oh and enjoying a glass or two of Pinot Noir.)

So I’m a big fan of modular developer tools – companies like Twilio, Mailgun, Stripe and so many others have grown like weeds specifically because they answer a particular developer requirement, but they do so with laser focus. While Twilio certainly has competitors in its own space (a communication-centric set of developer tools) it’s a fair argument that Twilio can build communications functionality far better than the average developer can.

But while developer tools are certainly of benefit to developer productivity, it’s still a time sink finding, buying and managing all those different services. They’re all, by definition, separate offerings and so there is no central repository to manage them.

Or is there?

Step up Manifold, a new company launching from stealth today with a nice $15 million in investment. Manifold is working to, in its own words redefine the developer services ecosystem. They do that via a platform that allows developers to find, buy, and manage their favorite services – from email to logging – without being locked into a single cloud platform. Any tool (so long as it’s integrated into Manifold), any cloud, any type of stack.

Jevon MacDonald, CEO, and co-founder of Manifold posits why he built Manifold by saying:

The modern development stack is complex. Until now, there has been no easy way for developers to discover and manage the mix of services needed to create modern applications without resorting to the one-size-fits-all offerings of the monoclouds. This has stifled developer freedom and creativity, while also limiting the opportunity for innovative service providers looking to reinvent the way we build applications. Manifold has set out to change this, by providing a simple way for the best developers to connect with their favorite service providers.

Build it and they’ll (hopefully) come

Of course, much like Apple with the AppStore all those years ago, a good marketplace is only as good as the tools being sold within it. To this end Manifold has jump-started its platform via the support of a dozen or so different developer tools – Scout, Mailgun, LogDNA, and RedisGreen are all initial partners. Obviously, this is good for the developer tools as well, since they get a new route to market and some co-marketing opportunities. A representative from Mailgun had this to say:

Manifold provides a better way to find and manage the best services, leveling the discovery playing field for service providers. The Manifold platform was built for developers by developers who experienced, and were fed up with, the pain of the current developer services landscape.

MyPOV

Why would a developer tool list on Manifold? Quite simply, in order to steal an edge on their competitors. That’s good, but also creates a blocker for other companies to sign up – I’m not sure how happy Mailgun would be to see its arch-rival SendGrid also on Manifold. And therein lies the problem, unless Manifold can gain sufficient scale that it becomes the de-facto central repository for all things developer, it will struggle. And in order to become that de-facto place, it needs to have as many tools as possible on the platform. Catch 22 much?

The idea makes sense, but there are some big barriers, and some big companies with deep pockets, in Manifold’s way – we’ll have to watch this space to see how it goes.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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