Why I'm investing in FP Complete.

Posted by Simon Peyton-Jones - 18 December, 2012

I have become a personal investor in FP Complete. Why have I done that?

In the Haskell community our current model is based on open-source volunteers. Together we have achieved some pretty remarkable things.  I’m biased about GHC, of course, but Cabal and the extraordinary flowering of libraries on Hackage are even more impressive. People make new tools and libraries all the time, the Haskell Platform has been a huge step forward, and the community has a strong culture of mutual support.   That is so great.  I love you all.

And yet there is stuff that isn't getting done, and is standing in the way of adoption.  Curated libraries, IDEs, integrated tool support, and plain training, are all important.  They are not researchy, so university academics aren't interested.  They are a lot of work, so volunteers without much spare time can’t take it on.  This is one of the reasons that Haskell can be more talked about than used, and it limits the goodness that Haskell can give to the world.

To fill this gap we need someone who wants to build a business by making Haskell great in the commercial sphere.   Making money is what makes it sustainable, and holds out the hope of scaling to much more ambitious goals.

Best of all would be a business that itself plays an active role in the Haskell ecosystem, giving back as well as building on the foundations we have laid, by sharing ideas, vision, and code.  That’s what I think FP Complete will be.  Other companies, like Galois and Well Typed, use Haskell a lot, and also give a lot back to the community; but FP Complete is the first to focus on Haskell itself, and its tools and libraries.

Of course, FP Complete thereby faces the challenge of making a business out of a language ecosystem, something known to be difficult!  Here I am encouraged by the fact that Aaron and Bartosz are not, like many of us, primarily techno-geeks whose primary motivation is the technology itself (just read the Haskell Weekly News if you have any doubt what I mean).  They are excited by Haskell all right, but they want to build a business, and they have experience of doing just that.  And I’m very encouraged by the fact that Michael Snoyman (a giant of the Haskell community) has joined them, along with several others.

On a personal note, I won’t have any management or consultancy role in FP Complete.  My job is to be a researcher at Microsoft Research, who give me amazing freedom.  In practice my research is largely focused on Haskell and GHC -- but research is the #1 goal.  I constantly have to balance my research goals (pushing onwards) with my desire to make GHC into a fantastic product (fast, reliable, usable...) for people to use.  So another reason I am excited about FP Complete is that it will help to “thicken up” the ecosystem of people who maintain and develop GHC.

Welcome to the Haskell community, FP Complete!  The future is bright.  Let’s have fun together.


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