Entrepreneurial developer Wayne Chang shares his journey from co-founder of Crashlytics to global head of developer experience at Twitter following a nine-figure acquisition.
Though Chang couldn’t reveal the exact price paid for Crashlytics when we met at the 2014 Web Summit in Dublin, he did confirm that it was Twitter’s largest acquisition.
Chang co-founded Crashlytics in February 2011 with Jeff Seibert. At this point, nearing his thirties, it was the fourth company the serial entrepreneur had founded.
You could say Crashlytics was an instant hit, raising US$1m by October and a further US$5m in April 2012 – or “buttloads”, as Chang puts it.
The product was built for developers to let them know what caused their apps to crash, down to the line of code.
“Before us, there really weren’t any great ways to do that, and so we thought, ‘We’ll try to solve this. We’ll do this in a way that no one’e ever done before, and we’ll see what happens.’ And it turns out we got lucky, developers loved it,” said Chang.
It wasn’t long before the young company was snapped up by Twitter and, in January 2013, Chang went from a co-founder with a team of up to 50, to one employee in a thousands. It was a dream come true, though it brought with it new privilege and new challenges.
Following Crashlytics, Twitter also acquired app monetisation service MoPub in the autumn of 2013. The result of this combination was revealed this year as Twitter Fabric, a software development kit that, essentially, makes development, reporting, authentication and monetisation of apps easier.
Chang was heavily involved in the creation of Twitter Fabric and, for him, developers will always be at the heart of his concerns. One feature he highlighted was the way in which Twitter Fabric uses Crashlytics data in a way that saves developers from information overload or “analysis paralysis”.
“We just cut to the chase of what it is they care about,” he said.
“That way, you don’t need an MBA or CS degree to go through all the different data points yourself.”
Building a data analytics service that’s more refined is trickier than one that simply spurts out endless data, but Chang wants to ensure his service provides answers, not insights.
Putting developers first
In its early days, Twitter was an open service inviting the involvement of third-party developers but, as it grew to become the social media behemoth it is today, that relationship was somewhat soured.
Now, with Chang as head of developer experience, this relationship looks set to recover. Twitter Fabric is its major peace offering, with features available for free in 216 countries and 28 languages.
“The attitude is different in the sense that we now are saying we want to put developers first. It’s not about what’s great for Twitter first, it’s more about, ‘Does this help developers build the app faster?’,” said Chang.
As a developer himself, Chang’s aim is to make life easier for people like him, but the effect also leads to a better experience for users. Take Digits, for example: a feature of Twitter Fabric which allows users to log-in to apps with their phone number.
Chang’s work could also encourage more like him to get started in development. He himself learned to code at age seven, and with the drag-and-drop tools he has created in Twitter Fabric, app development is more accessible than ever.
Of course, what’s easy on the user side means more work on the creators’ side – but, if it makes developers happy, Chang is willing to do the hard work for them.
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