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Reflex open source tool helps turn Python code into web apps


Python enjoys great popularity with developers, which is why the founders of Reflex chose it as the basis for their low-code web app development platform. The startup, formerly known as Pynecone, wants to straddle the line between making it easy to build an app, while giving enough flexibility to customize when needed.

Today, the company announced a $5 million seed investment.

Reflex CEO and co-founder Nikhil Rao says he and co-founder Alek Petuskey started with an open source tool as a way to attract developers to the solution. “We’re building a web framework to build web apps in pure Python. So there are two parts. One is an open source framework. And the idea is the user can build their entire apps front end and back end just using Python and without having to learn any new languages or frameworks,” he told TechCrunch.

The next step, and what they plan to use the seed money for, is to build a hosting service. “So once people have built their app, they can just type one command ‘Reflex deploy.’ We will set up all their configurations on our servers, and they get a URL back with their app live.”

Ultimately, the company just wants to make it easier for people with little or no web app development experience to build and launch an app quickly, while building something that can go into production.

“We’re trying to kind of eliminate that graduation risk. So you can get started easily, but you’re never gonna hit a type of website we can’t handle,” Rao said. In fact they built the company website with their own tool as a way to showcase that it can handle large, multipage, external-facing apps without any limitations.

The idea seems to be catching on with 5000 developers building 15,000 apps since they released the open source framework in December. They also have 61 external developers contributing to the open source project, which is helping speed up development for a young company with limited engineering resources, and helping drive interest. Finally, the company already has a Discord group with over 1400 members. All of this shows interest in the product and are signals to investors looking at a young company.

The plan is to parlay this interest in the open source piece and make money with the hosting part, which the founders hope to get into beta in the next couple of months.

The two founders met at college and have been roommates for a couple of years working day jobs at Apple and Ancestry.org before launching the company last year. They joined the Winter 2023 cohort at Y Combinator, where they built and refined the open source framework.

Today, they have a couple of full time employees and a couple of contractors, who they brought on because of their interest in contributing to the open source project. One is from Paris and one from Ghana.

When it comes to building a diverse team, the founders see open source as a path to getting there. “Open source has definitely brought that to our attention because you find all these people from different parts of the world with different backgrounds using your tool in a bunch of different ways and making issues and contributing to it, and I think we want to stick with that theme of having a kind of global diverse workforce too,” Petuskey said. He added that it’s important to them to build an accessible UX, and hearing from a variety of people around the world can help with that.

The $5 million seed was led by Lux Capital with participation from Abstract Ventures, Box Group, Y Combinator, Picus Capital, Outset Capital and prominent industry angels.



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