Tyk’s founder and CEO, Martin, knows what it takes to turn a side project into a fulltime endeavour. Afterall, Tyk began as Martin’s side project. He needed a fully featured API gateway that simply wasn’t available at the time, so he made one.
Now, it’s Tyk’s turn to take an interest in other people’s side projects. It’s our way of passing things forward. And so every year the Tyk Side Project Fund seeks to reward those who have committed their free time to pursuing their innovative ideas.
This year, we’re delighted that Ankit Dhama’s project Devsheet was one of those that impressed and inspired us most. Here’s Ankit to reveal all…
Tyk: Please can you describe your side project?
Ankit: I created Devsheet to solve a number of issues that I was facing as a developer. I was working as a full stack developer, so I was working on a lot of technologies, such as Python and ASP.NET, and switching to mobile app development technologies. It was very hard to remember all the syntax all the time!
When you’re working on Python, for example, there’s a different syntax for loops than for other developer languages. So I would end up Googling things and then going to a particular site for each technology, and that was consuming a lot of time.
I had the idea of creating a website that could help developers to save their code snippets, from small snippets to big collections of code. Users can then collect the data as a call. We’ve created a Chrome extension and made the data easily searchable. So developers can search it directly from their browser in real time with the Devsheet Chrome extension.
I created a simple website at first. I got good a response when I launched it, so that made me think it was worth working on the idea more.
From there, I’ve continued to develop the project. Now, if you’re a developer and you’re stuck, you can ask questions on Devsheet, and we’re adding articles as well, to build up a daily learning resource.
The main goal is to create a huge collection of code snippets and make these available in real time to all the developers in the world. We’re also implementing machine learning, so if you want to create a form with certain validations (for example), Devsheet can generate the whole thing without code. So non-technical people can access it and Devsheet will find the right code for them to implement what they need.
Tyk: Is this a solo side project or is there a team working on it?
Ankit: I worked with a number of interns, plus a lot of programmers who have worked in a partnership capacity to create code snippets. I’ve also hired tech content writers, who will create continuously.
Programmatically, it’s almost all me. But in terms of the content, developers around the world are contributing their code snippets and writing articles to answer questions. So the site is slowly building into a big community of developers. There have been a lot of people involved and I’m always in search of programmers who can join us.
Apart from this, Sourabh Sir has helped me a lot when I got into any difficulty. Shama Ahlawat also played an important role by suggesting features and generating the content, as well as getting feedback.
Tyk: What challenges have you faced while work on Devsheet as a side project?
Ankit: Technically, there were a lot of challenges, but I’m good at tech, so I was not fazed by those! I’ve created a whole architecture, so there will always be some technical difficulties with taking on something like that. Today, for example, my challenge is to make the search functionality faster.
The marketing side presents me with quite a few difficulties too – I’m not a marketer! Marketing the product and showcasing it in the perfect way, creating the perfect video… that’s tough. I know, as a programmer, what Devsheet can do. And I’ve added a live chat feature on it so that other developers can talk to me about it. But the real challenge is to work on the marketing and reach out to people to explain why and how they should use Devsheet.
Tyk: How have you balanced the time between your side project and your fulltime occupation?
Ankit: I’m trying to balance everything right now. I would love to work on Devsheet fulltime eventually, but we’ve not got enough funding yet that we can set up an office. So, right now, it’s a case of working on Devsheet when I have the time. If there’s a bug or something to be solved in terms of functionality then it means late nights!
We are getting traffic from Google now, so that’s a good step. But I’m not going to fill the site with ads to generate revenue as that would be detrimental to the user experience. I want it to be a true resource for developers, without loads of ads.
Tyk: What are the values that drive you personally?
Ankit: I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Back in college, I was already creating a load of products with my friends Abadhesh Jadaun and Gaurav Sharma and knew that I wanted to create something worthwhile – something that could solve a big problem.
I’ve worked on my own projects and my own start-ups. There have been some ups and downs but throughout those I’ve held onto that goal of making something of value, which can be helpful to people.
As well as Devsheet, I’ve worked with a few other people to create an entertainment portal: Joyadda. We’ve created a mobile app for Joyadda too. But Devsheet is my favourite project right now; I’m investing a lot of time in it.
I’ve been working on Devsheet for two years now and investing in it from my own pocket, from marketing activities to server costs. I’m happy that it’s not generating revenue right now but in future we will focus more on doing so. Either way, I’ll be working on Devsheet continuously, as I know it’s appreciated by programmers around the world. It’s a very helpful resource and that feeling of helping others keeps me motivated.
Tyk: How did you validate the concept of Devsheet?
Ankit: I was working in a big organisation, with a lot of developers. I talked to them about the fact that they were working with so many different technologies and how they would feel if I created a tool like Devsheet. They felt it would be very helpful.
I created a simple tool to start with – a small search function and a couple of buttons on the website. Then I distributed it to the programmers and my friends… everyone working with different technologies!
The response was very positive – that Devsheet was very cool and would help them with their work. So I felt that it was worth exploring more, after a big community of programmers had validated it. The fact that they felt it was very useful inspired me to do further work on it.
Tyk: Do you want to keep that community approach at the core of the project, as it grows bigger?
Ankit: Yes – the idea is that the programmers can continue to add to Devsheet. And then obviously if they want to find something they can search for it easily.
Tyk: Is Devsheet available in any languages other than English?
Ankit: The site is purely in English at the moment, but we’re actually getting a lot of traction in Japan at the moment too. So it’s not just for English speakers – it’s for people creating code snippets in any language. People can ask questions in any language on the site. There isn’t a language section on the website at present, but I’m trying to internationalise it as much as possible so that people can use it in their local language.
Tyk: How do you plan to use the Tyk funding?
Ankit: A lot of users are signing up every day and using Devsheet, which means the server cost is rising. So the Tyk funding will be used to cover some of that cost, first of all. Then it’s going to help developer the real time search requests – we’ll need to invest in a huge server for that.
There’s also the marketing side of things – I need to invest there too. I need to create a video that explains Devsheet, so I’m looking to hire a marketing person who can help me with that and provide the marketing expertise I need. Someone I can learn from.
Tyk: What tips would you give to someone just starting their own side project?
Ankit: First of all, don’t think of it as a side project that will suddenly become your future in a month or two. Instead, just focus on the fact that you’ve thought of something helpful and commit to making it happen. Just create it quickly and go out and get feedback on it.
Feedback is really important – you need to listen to what people think of your project. And if people think it’s helpful, you can build on that.
Focus on solving a problem and creating something that is easy to use and that helps people. It’s a lovely feeling, when you see that your product is helping people. That’s a very different kind of satisfaction.
And if your side project fails to go quite as planned, don’t see it as a failure. If you have a people supporting you and contributing to the project’s success, remember that server costs are pretty minimal, so keep creating and keep building. If you love it, just do it!
If you don’t love your side project and are only doing it for the money, perhaps it’s not the best project for you. We have jobs in order to earn money to pay the bills – side projects are for doing something that you love. Don’t always think about the money first; focus on creating.
Tyk: Where is Devsheet going to be in five years’ time?
Ankit: In five years’ time, I’ll have implemented plenty of ideas. I hope by then that we will be a big community of programmers, with people adding snippets and getting help from Devsheet all the time, so that their lives are made easier by using this product.
I’m not thinking about getting huge funding or generating enormous revenue, but I’m sure that there will be a huge community of users who rely on Devsheet as their preferred method to search for any kind of code. I want to be the best for developers – if there is code, there is Devsheet!
Tyk: What else should the world know about Devsheet?
Ankit: Devsheet isn’t just a code snippet search engine – it’s more than that. You will see in the future that our vision is evolving. Right now, our focus is on collecting the code snippets that we need, but there is a huge vision behind that. This is just the first of many steps.
We will keep creating until Devsheet is a huge resource. Even if you’re not a developer, you will be able to use Devsheet to create products – that’s our long-term vision. It will be for both technical and non-technical people. Everyone will be able to use Devsheet to create products that require code, but without needing to know the code.