🐙 Backing Specify
Hi, it’s Alexandre from Eurazeo (ex. Idinvest). I’m investing in seed & series A consumer and consumer enablers startups all over Europe. Overlooked is a weekly newsletter about venture capital and underrated consumer trends. Today, I’m delighted to share that we’re leading Specify’s €4m seed round to solve the recurring handoff issue between designers and developers.
We’re thrilled to partner with Valentin, Pierre-Antoine, Louis and Antoine to lead Specify’s €4.0m seed round together with Seedcamp, Bpifrance and 360 Capital. We’ve spent months digging into the designer tools market and discovered that the handover between designers and developers was a massive pain point. We believe that Specify’s design data platform is the smoothest way to solve this pain point. It’s an API that collects, stores, update and distribute design tokens and assets across your organization and the tools you use.
Today, Specify is opening its product in self service and is launching on ProductHunt. If you think this is a good product, please upvote them on Product Hunt at the link below! You should definitely tell your designers and front end developers about it.
We started to dig into the designer tools market 2 years ago when we saw Figma’s design platform exponential growth. Figma, which core differentiators are being web-first and collaborative has now become a standard replacing both Adobe and Sketch. Figma has disrupted Sketch and Adobe the same way Google Docs disrupted Microsoft Word.
While digging, we understood that Figma’s strategy was to become the all in one platform for designers to manage their whole workflow from ideation to design and testing. Before Figma, designers had to combine many applications to complete a design. With Figma, you can do everything in the platform.
If Figma is becoming ubiquitous, a massive pain point remains unsolved which is the handover between designers and developers. Today, designers share their design file with developers with rough specifications and without necessarily knowing what is technically feasible. Developers do their best to implement the design and there are many back and forth between designers and developers.
Designers and developers are willing to collaborate but are facing key challenges:
Their tools are not connected (Figma for designers | Microsoft Visual Studio and Github for developers)
They don’t speak the same language
Design tools produce images that developers have to translate into code
It’s impossible to preserve a brand identity across all its products’ interfaces
To standardize design production, best-in-class organisations are now implementing a design system which is a library of design components (e.g. a button, a menu, a banner, a checkbox), design tokens (a colour, an icon, a typo, etc.) as well as guidelines to use them.
“Design tokens are names used to express design decisions in your organisation's design language. […] Design decisions can be a colour, a typeface, a border radius, an icon, a font size, a gradient or even an animation duration.” - Introduction to Design Tokens (Louis Chenais)
Design tokens allow product teams to better collaborate and ensure brand consistency across any platform. Most of the times, design tokens are stored in a design system but the work to exploit them is still done manually. Specify is bringing design system management to the next level with a single design API to collect, store and distribute design data:
Designers use Specify as a single source of truth for all their design tokens and assets. As a result, the communication friction with developers is reduced and designers can autonomously update design decisions without developers or without coding.
Developers leverage Specify's open source parsers or create their own parsers to automatically convert design tokens into customised code on all platforms (mobile, web, app etc.). As a result, they no longer have to update design tokens and assets manually and they maintain control over their development architecture because they're the ones who set-up the parsers.
We saw several approaches to solve this pain point and we feel that Specify's approach is the most interesting for several reasons: (i) it's not another tool to add to your product development stack but an API that will automatically read and write information across your existing tools, (ii) it generates code but the code is customised via parsers which is key to have adoption amongst developers and (iii) it's a product with tremendous value because it's the unique source of truth for design decisions.
Today, Specify has built integrations with Github, Microsoft Visual Studio and Figma. Its product has been used in beta by many organisations ranging from startups to large corporations. Specify will leverage the seed funding to expand its team to 20 people, to set-up a product led growth go to market motion and to double down on product development (esp. adding integrations that can be used both as source or destination to to build or use design tokens like storage apps and documentation tools).
If you want to talk about Specify to become a potential customer or to join the team, feel free to ping me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Thanks to Julia for the feedback! 🦒 Thanks for reading! See you next week for another issue! 👋