Zed raises $10 million for a code editor built for collaboration

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Code editors are complex and demanding pieces of software, but from a business standpoint they are notoriously difficult to monetize. At the same time, they have not kept pace with recent trends such as working from home.

At least, that’s how Nathan Sobo sees it. “Coding is inherently social, but the tools available to talk about code limit the pace and scope of conversations, and this friction hinders our industry’s productivity,” he told AapkaDost in an email interview. “I believe the only way forward is to integrate collaboration into the authoring environment as a first class concern, much like the transition that has already taken place in design with Figma or in prose with Google Docs.”

Sobo may not be a household name. But he was a member of the Atom editor team at GitHub, working on the (now obsolete) Atom code editor. Now he’s launching Zed, a code editor focused on multiplayer experiences, performance, and a sleek, minimalist design.

Sobo teamed up with Antonio Scandurra and Max Brunsfeld – fellow Atom contributors – to co-launch Zed. Sobo describes Zed as the culmination of a “decade-long” quest to improve the way software is developed.

“In 2019, Antonio and I decided that to realize our vision of building the ultimate code editor and collaboration platform, we had to start over with a new technical foundation,” said Sobo. “We worked on Zed nights and weekends until spring 2021, when we raised a seed round and started Zed Industries, and we’ve been focused on building Zed ever since.”

Sobo claims that Zed’s main differentiators are performance, design, and multiplayer editing. It’s designed to keep distractions to a minimum and “fade into the background” to make it easier to focus on code, says Sobo. And it offers tools designed to make it easier to invite teammates into a workspace so they can navigate it together.

With Zed, when users join a teammate’s project, users can edit the code as if it were on their local machine. Users can call another Zed user from the built-in contact panel or jump to a teammate’s location to follow them around the code. They can also use Zed’s built-in screen sharing tool to follow someone outside the platform to review documentation or experiment with an app in development.


Zed’s code editing interface. Image creditors: Zed

“Ultimately, Zed is a software collaboration platform masquerading as a world-class code editor. Our goal is for Zed to become the standard platform for open source software development and the go-to tool for software teams,” added Sobo.

Even if Zed delivers as great an experience as Sobo claims, I wonder if it will be able to break into the crowded IDE market. According to the 2022 Stack Overflow developer survey, Visual Studio Code remains by far the most popular IDE, with 74.48% of respondents saying it is their platform of choice. The second most popular choice — IntelliJ — was a distant second, with 27.97% of the vote.

Zed isn’t the only IDE launcher around, either. For example, there’s Stackblitz, which recently raised $7.9 million to further develop its browser-based IDE.

But investors believe in the vision, it seems. Zed today closed a $10 million Series A led by Redpoint Ventures with participation from Root Ventures, Matchstick Ventures and V1.VC, as well as Angels including Figma’s Dylan Field and GitHub’s Tom Preston Werner. Valuing Zed at $40 million, the new money brings the startup’s total investment to about $12.5 million.

Redpoint’s Patrick Chase was particularly complimentary. In an email, he said: “Zed’s mission is to enable engineers to code their ideas as quickly as possible, or as they would say ‘code at the speed of thought’. This means a lightning fast editor, seamless team collaboration and much more in the future. No team is better equipped to solve this complex set of problems than the team behind Zed. The current version of Zed is the result of nearly two years of focused development, but nearly 16 years of obsession over building a better editor.”

Seven employees Zed plans to make money primarily through a service-oriented model. It’s currently in pre-revenue and launching in beta to begin with. But Sobo says that during the private alpha, the waiting list grew to as much as 12,000 people and there are about 800 active users coding with Zed (through the alpha) every week.

“The pandemic has helped us by accelerating the industry’s shift to remote development. With fewer opportunities to communicate face-to-face, software developers are experiencing the limitations of today’s collaboration technologies more acutely,” Sobo said. “Zed is built for a new way of working in which conversations around code are richer and interactions more human and connected. the progress of the software development itself.”

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