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Hatch, a consumer software firm founded by veterans of Valve and Picnik, has launched its no-code creative web development platform.
The Hatch platform is aimed at empowering tech-curious creators with one-click interactivity and animation. It removes the technical barriers of coding, allowing anyone to use a webpage as a limitless creative medium.
The company was started by Michael Harrington, cofounder of gaming giant Valve, and Darrin Massena, who cofounded Picnik in 2005 with Harrington.
“A webpage has the creative potential of a painter’s palette and the constructive power to solve a problem,” said Massena, cofounder of Hatch. “At Hatch, we are removing the technical barriers of coding, so anyone can use a webpage as a limitless creative medium. Anyone can build a new connected experience for themselves, their business, or their community.”
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Hatch provides simple tools and a dedicated web space for users to create unique websites, games, portfolios, digital art, interactive stories, and more, regardless of their technical expertise. Users can publish their creations publicly or keep them private for sharing with friends and family.
Additionally, users can choose to make their projects “remixable,” allowing other users to duplicate and modify the content, fostering a collaborative creator community.
Harrington said that it’s easy to tag your website creations as available for remixing. It’s easy to share how artwork is displayed or how to make something interactive. Someone else can take the template and then remix with their own work, he said.
“Anybody can share what they’ve done in a remixable form,” Massena said. “It’s not open source, but it’s more like a creative person’s open source, where you can pull in what other people have done and then take your riff on the idea or take parts of it.”
So far, the Hatch tools are available on the open web, not as an app on iOS or Android or other platforms. They figured most serious creation tools focus on the desktop web experience. But they will consider other platforms down the road. So far there is no ability to collaborate with anyone else, aside from remixing.
Hatch offers both free and paid versions of its publishing tools, which include drag-and-drop kits, one-click interactive effects, responsive physics, dynamic gravity, and more. Unlike many existing no-code platforms, Hatch does not rely on grids or boxes, enabling creators to freely drag, drop, trigger, and animate text or visual elements anywhere on their webpages.
Harrington said the company will offer a freemium experience where people can try it out for free and then eventually pay some kind of subscription fee, depending on the tools and services they use. If you want to have your own domain name, that might push a customer to the premium side.
Harrington and Massena previously had a successful exit with their photo editing startup Picnik, which grew to 60 million users before Google bought it in 2010. Further back, before Harrington left to Microsoft to start Valve, he and Massena worked together on Microsoft Bob, an ill-fated project to make computers more accessible. Massena stayed while Harrington left to start Valve with Gabe Newell.
“Not sure it was the best choice,” Massena said regarding staying at Microsoft longer.
In 2021, in the midst of the pandemic, Harrington and Massena reunited with a vision to democratize software creation.
Self-funded and supported by a growing bootstrapped team, they have dedicated their resources to building the infrastructure and functionality required to support a community of web creators at scale. There are 14 people working for Hatch.
“Hatch’s journey is a reflection of our long-term vision to democratize software for anyone to create interactive experiences on the web. We invite all creators to try the Hatch platform and see what they can make,” said Massena.
Hatch is an online makerspace that provides a publishing platform, design tools, and a community of creators who experiment with interactivity, animation, physics, and generative AI. Through its drag-and-drop kits, Hatch enables both casual and technical creators to build unique websites, portfolios, interactive stories, and creative experiments that cannot be replicated elsewhere online.
The idea is to let people express themselves when it comes to digital art, interactive stories, messaging, maps, and creative experiments, regardless of technical expertise.
Massena also previously cofounded SpiffCode, creators of Warfare Incorporated, while Harrington co-founded Valve Software, creator of Half-Life and Steam. The company is based in Seattle and has a mostly remote team.
A journey to creative software
Massena said their journey has been all about discovering software as a creative medium and making their way through the creative space in different companies.
“We’ve just been captivated by the idea that [we can bring how people make things with software] to a larger audience,” Massena said. “Can we enable creative people who to make software to do it without having to learn how to code?”
They saw a lot of no-code efforts under way in the enterprise space, but not so much in consumer creative spaces.
“The time is ripe for this platform,” Massena said.
Harrington said most no-code efforts are geared toward enterprises, whereas Hatch is focused on artists in the tech-curious creative crowd.
“This is really just the beginning of what we’re starting to bring in terms of interactivity and special animation skills,” Harrington said. “We see a gap where we can provide a tool that anybody can use, especially creative people.”
There are rivals like Canva and Wix, but those are often targeted at other audiences. Harrington thinks of the early days of HyperCards on the Apple platform and Flash, which enabled a whole wave of web games.
“A lot of the no code solutions out there right now are really complicated,” Massena said. “Maybe they started somewhere in a less complicated spot. But before you know it, you’re hooking up to a corporate database backend and you have to understand data normalization and stuff like that. And we’d like to avoid that. So, we’d like to keep it accessible all the way through. The goal for people should be to create something fun or useful for themselves.”
Massena said that, with Hatch — which is a play on hatching ideas — anybody can create a cool and fun website that is highly interactive. Tools like Canva can be useful, but they’re often for static web pages. They showed a page by an artist named Stephanie who is an illustrator. She built an elaborate page showing off all of her creations and invite people into her creative process.
Stephanie had a web presence but was more of an artist without programming training.
“That’s a great general characterization of the people that gravitate to our platform,” Massena said. “They have some skill or talent. They might be an artist or musician. But technically deep is not their thing, right? They’re willing to invest a lot of creative time and effort. But they don’t really want to learn a new language.”
Games in the future?
Massena said there is a lot of potential to use the tech for creating games. But he said the aim was to start with websites because that is a broader kind of software that doesn’t require technical investment. Games require knowledge of programming or scripting in some form.
“We’re trying to unlock the ability to create software for people who don’t have that programming, experience or educational experience,” Massena said.
Part of the trick is that the no-code environment has to be flexible enough to allow people to create a wide variety of web pages, with visual scripting and choreography of interactivity. The community can learn from each other and remix things as well. People can also say something is not available for remix.
You can make things quickly, but that’s not necessarily the main goal of Hatch. Templates can get people started, but they want to make the creative part more fun. So the templates can make cumbersome things easier so you can get to the creation more quickly, Harrington said.
“This is a democratization of software,” Harrington said. “We’re helping people, especially artists, create, things for their business as well as their desires and their passions. You can see how this keeps going. The one thing about no code is it helps the people who don’t know how to code at all, but it also helps developers accelerate the things that they can do. We see those two pieces coming together.”
Massena added, “We sometimes say the personal computing revolution is not finished. We’ve got personal computers right now. We’ve got phones in our pockets. The powerful computers we take everywhere, but personal software is not really a thing. We’re totally on the consuming end of things. Through the app stores and the Facebooks and the platforms, not enough people are able to create for themselves for their families and communities. And that is exactly what we’d like to open up.”
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