A Q&A with Kevin Lacker, co-founder of Parse. The San Francisco–based company was founded this past summer.
SUB: Please describe Parse, and the value proposition you bring to mobile app development.
Lacker: Parse is a service that replaces backend servers for mobile developers. Without Parse, there are many mobile apps that require writing a server. For example, a list of high scores for a game, a way for users to follow each others’ activity, or seeing where other users are near you, all typically require a server and writing server-side code. With Parse, you can eliminate that part of your application, making it faster and easier to develop great apps.
SUB: Who is your target market?
Lacker: Our target market is everyone developing Internet-enabled mobile applications. Our vision is that if a mobile application requires a server component, it should be faster and easier to build it on Parse instead.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Lacker: Parse competes against the alternative of running your own server. If you’re building mobile apps and maintaining your own server on Amazon or Linode or Rackspace, you can save a lot of time and effort by using Parse instead.
SUB: What differentiates Parse from the competition?
Lacker: Parse is faster and easier than the other ways to develop mobile apps. We focus a lot of energy on the Parse iPhone guide and the Parse Android guide to make it as easy as possible to start developing mobile applications on Parse. We also pride ourselves on being responsive to developers—we answer every question or feature suggestion that people send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took to establishing it?
Lacker: The company got its start in Y Combinator, where Parse was part of the Summer 2011 group. Our first steps were reaching out to a large number of mobile developers and listening to them about what was too difficult about mobile development. Y Combinator was a great help with that community—we would recommend it to anyone thinking about starting a startup.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Parse? Was there an “aha” moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Lacker: The inspiration for Parse was that mobile development should be faster and easier. Once you get into details of what the product does, there are a lot of components to our technology that have been more gradual to develop. But the high-level goal has always been the same—make it faster and easier to develop mobile applications.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Lacker: We’re dedicated to hiring only the best engineers, which is always a challenge. We’ve been successful so far in attracting people who are excited about building something that can power the next generation of app development, but we’re going to have to invest a lot of effort to hire great engineers.
SUB: You recently closed a $5.5 million Series A funding round. How do you plan to use the funds?
Lacker: We’re mainly using the funds to hire people. We’re building a product for developers, so it’s really important to have an engineering-centric organization. Along those lines, we’re hiring mostly engineers.
SUB: Why was this a good time to raise outside funding?
Lacker: It was a good time to raise funding because we have thousands of developers excited about the platform and there are many new features we want to add, so we can really put more engineering talent to use.
SUB: Do you plan to raise additional outside funding in the near future?
Lacker: This funding should keep us going for a while, so we don’t need to raise additional outside funding in the near future.
SUB: What are your goals for Parse over the next year or so?
Lacker: We just want to keep doing what we have been doing—building a product that developers love, that helps them build mobile applications faster and easier. Feedback from developers has been great—we just need to keep on executing.
Parse – www.parse.com