The need for professional development for developers in places other than their work is necessary, yet in practice, there are no tools designed for this purpose – you will most likely need to open a book, website, or YouTube video to sit down and learn new expertise or become more professional in your field. So, a new Israeli startup wants to help you develop– while playing.
Can't stand Slack? Get the snack
Wilco developed a game to help developers enhance their skills and capabilities, which includes various quests where you can expand your talents in various areas ranging from documentation, debugging, communication skills, data analysis and more. Within the platform, you work for a company called Anythink, and the various problems you will have to solve – and on the way to improving your skills in the areas you choose that are important to you – you will receive messages through Snack: Wilco's version of the enterprise messaging app acquired last year by Salesforce.
"We meet the developer in all sorts of different places: on the site, in chat, in GitHub, in their development environment and all other tools around. The product gives a holistic experience at different points during the journey, so we developed an engine that knows how to connect to a variety of points. And understand where the developer is, whether on the right path or whether he or she is stuck and needs help, "explains the CTO and one of its founders Shem Magnezi, in a conversation with Geektime.
Wilco's platform, Magnezi explains, simulates work on a true codebase that is supposedly evolving over time, built on an infrastructure that knows how to "play" with the developer and developer repository and accelerate it forward or roll it backwards, depending on where they are and what quests have been solved so far.
He adds that the company's focus is on skills that go beyond writing code; they try to focus on the software development experience, and issues that are often agnostic to the technology you choose and more related to building proper software development habits – such as identifying bottlenecks or writing a test before fixing a bug.
Are you not afraid of being able to scale the challenges?
"Going forward about scalability, we knew we wanted to have more than two or three quests, and we did not want them to be very simple yet on the other hand did not want to work on each quest for a month. Yes, we had to model our quests so that they were flexible for all kinds of use-cases and knew how to easily connect to more and more different tools. In addition, we developed an internal editor so that our product managers can play with the experience without going through the development team. We develop once-in-a-lifetime quests that are relevant to all the languages and environments we support.”
The company's CEO and co-founder, On Freund, tells us that at the moment the product is aimed primarily at individuals and teams. As of today, it is also open to the general public, but in the meantime is order-based so they can control the number of people who enter and make sure everything works well. In addition, Wilco is coming out of the shadows with several collaborations with companies including New Relic, jFrog and Applitools.
The company that recruited on Twitter
If you happen to be #FeedTech people on Twitter, you've probably heard of Wilco one way or another – without the company revealing what their product is at all. The company recruited a significant portion of its employees in part following recommendations via Twitter, and although it felt like a well-timed recruitment campaign, Freund tells us this was not the case.
"It was much less planned than you might think. Shem and Alon are very dominant on Twitter, and they shared a lot of what we were going through right from the start which started to buzz. Along the way we were joined by other people with popular profiles like Etty, Noa, and Dennis [other #FeedTech personnel] – and suddenly we found ourselves subjects of a meme on an almost daily basis. The whole process was all very organic, "says Freund. He said they did not contact any employee directly on Twitter – but the fact that their name rolled between tweets only helped them.
Announcing $7 million raised
Wilco was founded by Freund, Magnezi and Alon Carmel (CPO). The three met while working at WeWork, and Freund was even interviewed by Geektime in the past when he ran WeWork Labs – a program that gave startups a place to work alongside support. Today (Monday, June 20th) the company announced a $7 million round of Seed funding. The round was led by the Hetz Fund and with participation from Vertex Ventures, Flybridge Capital Partners, and Farhan Taver – a senior executive at Shopify.