Canadian Startup Kite Aims to be the Dropbox for Developers

A new Waterloo-based startup wants to make it easier for web app developers to get to work.

Kite wants to save developers the hassle of setting up and running development environments on their personal computers—replacing that with an easy-to-use cloud-based solution.

“Everywhere you go, startups, hack-a-thons, or even big companies, you encounter this problem,” says the company’s co-founder Jeffery Morgan.

While Morgan says that mobile and desktop apps tend to be self-contained, “a web app is more complicated. Something like Facebook has a lot of processes.”

“Starting to create one is really difficult,” says Morgan. “People are running server software on their PCs and it takes hours to set-up.”

While the company is less than three weeks old and their product is still just a working prototype, they’re already getting attention.

Last week, Kite was named one of the finalists in the University of Waterloo’s VeloCity Venture Fund competition. The service also drew significant interest at the Montreal International Startup Festival and on the Hacker News website.

“People seemed to validate that this is a problem,” Morgan says.

“It’s been a wild ride,” says Morgan, who created the prototype with co-founders, Sean Li and Michael Chiang in two days.

According to Morgan, who has interned at Google and Twitter, “while setting up and configuring seems like a one-time thing,” there’s actually a lot more to it.

The average developer spends around one month out of every work-year just on setting up environments, Morgan says. He claims that this lost productivity costs North American businesses $7.8 billion a year.

But it’s not just a problem for big companies: Morgan says that the team’s experiences at the Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference Infect Toronto hack-a-thon, in early May, highlighted the “pain point,” in app development.

“We’re software engineers,” says Morgan. “But we don’t like to do the operations stuff.”

While Morgan and his team won the competition, with an app called Giftly, they’ve dropped that project to work on Kite.

Morgan says that Kite plans to start by targeting the “people who need this the most,” consultants, freelancers and developers who are working on side projects. He says he’d rather see developers adopt Kite on their own, rather than have it forced on them by managers.

“If we hit developers by building something they love and that saves them a lot of time,” says Morgan, “it will ripple out.”

Because the company is so new, Morgan says they’re still “working out exactly how much it’s going to cost.”

He says that Kite plans to use a subscription model, with users being able to add-on additional services for a fee. Morgan says he expects to launch Kite as a private beta within the next two months.

“This is a problem new developers have too,” says Morgan. “More and more people are starting to code, there should be an easier way to do that.”