Our one click upgrade from dorm room to Docker – the Kitematic story.

Mar 12 2015

If you didn’t already know, Kitematic is the fastest and the easiest way to use Docker on your Mac  We are super excited to announce Kitematic is going to be part of Docker family.  We get to work alongside the team of developers that inspired us to start a company together.  Together we will continue our mission to build easy-to-use yet powerful open source developer products at Docker.

So why did we join Docker? The answer to that question can be found in the Kitematic story.

The Itch We Had to Scratch

It all began in our student apartment (ok – so it wasn’t a dorm room, but close enough).


After going through a number of different internships while studying engineering at the University of Waterloo, we collectively came away with a sense that there fundamentally needed to be better tools for developers and we wanted to create one. Modern web applications are inherently complex. Think of them like modern cities. They are living systems of many services, like transportation, roads and utilities that need to work together in harmony. The infrastructure to make this happen is either too cumbersome and distracting for the average developer or remained proprietary within companies. We wanted to change that.

So we made a prototype video of an online cloud development service that would synchronize code between a cloud environment and the desktop. To gauge interest, we posted the video on Hacker News. Within 24 hours, we had over 700 developers wanting to sign-up for the service. That was super exciting!

Being students, we didn’t have any budget to run such a service, so we searched for student grants. We found out both the University of Waterloo and the Government of Canada offered grants for students building technology startups. We decided to try our luck, and pitched both organizations about the idea. They believed in us, and were willing to hand us equity-free grants to get us started.

The result was Kite, which we began building in the summer of 2013, and launched a beta in October. Its purpose was to give new software developers an easy to use cloud environment to work on – that starts in one click. Within a week of launching, we had over 1,000 users trying it out and that momentum continued over the next four months with lots of positive feedback from our users. Things were going well until we realized that our costs per user were growing near linearly, and that the business model wasn’t going to be profitable even if we continued growth. We needed to make changes to our business model immediately.

With that realization, we quickly returned to the  “whiteboard” to see what changes we could make or to come up with a different plan. It was at that point we reflected on some of the core principles and tools that has inspired us and all thoughts pointed to Docker, which we had been using since v0.3 to run our service.  We had the idea to take Kite and apply it to Docker to build a product that makes Docker super easy to use. Then we could enable more developers to get started with Docker and ultimately creating scalable, micro-services applications. To validate this idea, we messaged many Docker users online, and set up meetings to learn about their Docker experience. Some users experienced hiccups in getting Docker setup before they could start using it. They wanted an installer to set up Docker, and a visual interface to manage it. And just like Docker did from dotCloud, we embarked on our own pivot.


The result was Kitematic. It automatically sets up everything you need to run Docker on your Mac and provides a GUI to easily run and manage Docker containers. Many developers out there already use GUIs and IDEs (e.g. Java or .NET).  We believe bringing a GUI experience to Docker will make it appeal to these developers and many others.  Since launching late 2014, we’ve received over 2,000 stars on our GitHub repository, and supportive comments from our users – YOU!

When we were approached by Docker to bring Kitematic into the project, we were thrilled.  Now that you know our journey, it makes total sense for us to try to make the Kitematic experience a core part of the Docker experience.  We want to make Docker accessible to many more developers.  By joining the Docker team, the Kitematic project also gains from the combined experience of the Docker engineering team, community and ecosystem.

Now, it’s time to say that we will be upping the game once more by joining what has powered us since the beginning – Docker. Together we’ll be making your experience with Docker simpler and even more powerful.

Best of all, Kitematic will remain open source, and we will continue to maintain it. If you’d like to help please check out our roadmap on GitHub, and see how you can contribute.

I’d like to say THANK YOU to all of our users and everyone who’s helped us along the way. We wouldn’t be here without you!

Thank you,

Mike, Jeff, Sean


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