The co-founders of CodePen started their community for front-end web developers as a side project: They wanted a site that let them share their work with others, but still retain control of the code they wrote. Three years later, the site they built over a weekend has become a full-fledged business, offering free and paid features to its more than 260,000 users, garnering 3.3 million unique visitors monthly and hosting meetups around the country. BendTECH sat down with co-founder and Bendite Tim Sabat to learn more about CodePen, the community they’ve created and what the future may hold for this startup.

Startup: CodePen
Started: 2012
Located: Bend; Wisconsin; Florida
Founders: Tim Sabat; Chris Coyier; Alex Vasquez

What is CodePen? We describe it as a community for front-end web developers. It’s a portfolio site where people can edit and share their latest work as well as give and get feedback. That’s the free version. With CodePen Pro you can also collaborate in real time. For example, up to six developers can edit a document together simultaneously, whether in the same room or across the country. In addition, we have a feature for professors that allows a group of students to follow you in real time as you write and edit code. Other features like Live View allow you to edit a document and see it on multiple devices at the same time, which eases cross-device testing. The list goes on, but those are the high points.

CodePen co-founders: Chris, Alex and Tim.
CodePen co-founders: Chris, Alex and Tim.

What’s the primary purpose? We really want to give developers a place to show off their individual capabilities — and retain ownership of their work. It’s also a place for employers to look for potential hires and for developers to collaborate with each other and learn.

And the founders all met at a previous startup? Yes, we were the first few employees of a company in Florida called Wufoo, which helps companies build online forms. That company was bought by SurveyMonkey and then the three of us moved to California to work together there.

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How did the idea for CodePen come about? Our co-founder Chris (a well-known developer, writer and speaker) wanted a way to keep control of the code snippets that he posted to collaborative sites. Other sites have allowed developers to work together, but none of them had a feature that let you associate yourself with what you wrote. That’s what makes CodePen different is that it provides you with attribution for your work. It was popular from the start — we had 1,000 signups in the first day. Though it started as a side project, it’s now supporting the three of us.

How many people use CodePen now? We have 270,000 users (people who have made profiles on the site) total. We get 3.3 million unique visitors and 32 million page views monthly. We’ve got lots of interesting data points like this on our stats page.

What’s up next? We’re still focused on building the community. We host meetups in different cities. We’ve done more than 20 of them since November 2014 and they attract quite a crowd — over 2000 people have been to a CodePen meetup. Right now the three of us are running CodePen. But we’d like to hire some more people, and probably ultimately sell to a company that would have an interest in having access to a large developer community.

Are you fundraising? Yes. An investment would help us hire and grow even faster.

Kelly Kearsley

Kelly Kearsley, the co-founder of StartupBend.com, is passionate about startups, entrepreneurship and Bend. In addition to writing this blog, she creates content and manages content projects for global financial companies, tech firms and startups. She began her career as a newspaper journalist and later worked as a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in WSJ.com, Money Magazine, CNNMoney, MSNBC and Runner's World. See her work at kellykearsley.contently.com or kellykearsley.com.

You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].
Kelly Kearsley