Equity is the new cash: Late Labs adds projects to crowdsourced coding community

By Erin Griffith , written on October 17, 2012

From The News Desk

Fire up the "bubble" sirens, guys. Hot startup equity is now basically a substitute for cash, and it's being used as legal tender for anything from creative and design work to Tweeting and social media promotion. Now, thanks to a group that launched earlier this year called Late Labs, you can code your way into some equity, too.

The company has the goal of turning the pet projects of coders into legit businesses. Many developers have little side projects they're building in their free time. But not everyone is lucky enough to work at Google and watch those "20 percent" projects turn into something real. "Passion projects are rarely ever going to be successful, because they lack all the stuff they need to become a company," Late Labs founder Justin Johnson says. Late Labs aims to close that gap.

The site crowdsources coders to dedicate their free time to building fun side projects. Projects that get the most support and traction will incorporate and spin out of the program. They'll be awarded with a business development and support staff, sourced by Late Labs. A self-described "hustler," Johnson's background doing sales and marketing at startups and in the publishing industry will help him find talent for successful projects, he says. His co-founder Nathan Ross has a vast network in the agency world, thanks to his background as an art director at a number of creative agencies.

Anyone who contributes gets some equity. Each project gets a developer evangelist, who is responsible for picking developers out of the community, overseeing the architecture of the application, and and reviewing the code for quality.

Since launching last month, more than 3,500 developers have registered on the site. One of the most popular projects is a Chrome extension for photo editing called Buggle Us. Late Labs invited 1,000 developers to apply to work on the project. 200 applied; Late Labs interviewed 12 and eventually picked two people to work on it. Other popular projects include Peachfiz, a music discovery app; Joiyn, an all-encompassing social media app; and Mix App, a "mobile bartender" app. Other projects have gotten almost no requests, Johnson says. "Seeing where people click through and what people contact us about has been a great way to get some early indicators for interest," he says.

The company has unleashed a host of new projects: Satisfactor, an employee management tool for employers; Top Trios, an entertainment app for discovering the "top three" of everything around you according to your friends; and Not My Block, an app that somehow helps users avoid the "wrong part of town." This week the company will post Anylomo, a "platform as service for micro photo sharing communities," whatever that means, and Green Thumb, an app to find plants that'll grow where you live and get automated reminders on how to make them thrive. Sortof like Bitponics for brown thumbed plant-illiterates like myself.

Many of the projects are silly, but that's sort of the point. No one wants to build enterprise software in their spare time.