Tuple on how pair programming can make people feel less lonely

Tuple is a remote pair programming app built for teams of developers who struggle with collaboration on generic screen sharing tools. Its emphasis on low latency remote control and 4K+ screen quality lets developers work as if they’re sitting next to each other. Tuple has been helping companies like Shopify (and Stripe!) ship faster, feel more connected, and collaborate more effectively for the past 5 years.

We spoke with Ben Orenstein, co-founder and CEO of Tuple, about creating a tool for pair programming and caring deeply about the needs of remote developers.

Products used

North America

What inspired you to step away from your full-time role as a programmer and create Tuple?

When asking my friends what they were using to do remote pair programming, no one had a great answer. The market provided many generic tools you could use for screen sharing or talking to someone remotely, but no one was building a purpose-built tool for pair programming. I figured that if we were intentional about focusing on that niche and used our backgrounds as programmers, we could make something other developers would prefer to use.

Can you tell us where the name Tuple comes from?

It’s kind of a pun. First, it’s the tuple in mathematics: a structure that combines a set of data into one unit. It also sounds like “two people”. A former coworker of mine suggested this name after approximately five seconds of thought. My cofounders and I spent two months trying to come up with something we liked better and failed. Thus, “Tuple” it was.

You’ve often used Twitter as a source for gathering ideas and collecting feedback for Tuple. How has this supported the company’s growth?

We get a surprising amount of mileage out of asking our users to talk about Tuple on Twitter. After someone has rated several Tuple calls highly, we ask them to share the app on Twitter, and many do!

How does Tuple stand out among competitors in today’s hybrid workplace?

We stand out by focusing on things programmers care about: low CPU usage, bandwidth efficiency, and crystal clear 4K+ screen sharing.

We also care deeply about minimizing latency to reduce the delay when controlling a machine remotely. When you’re typing in an editor on someone else's machine, we want to reduce that latency to milliseconds. A generic screen-sharing tool doesn't care as much about that detail, but we live and die by it.

How did the pandemic affect Tuple?

As you might guess, we saw our demand explode overnight. Our largest customer sent everyone home and instructed them to use Tuple. Suddenly, teams with dozens of users expanded to hundreds or thousands and we had to scale quickly. It was a tough time for everyone, but it felt good to know that we were helping folks maintain some of that in-person feeling.

What are the challenges you’ve noticed in today’s remote work environment? How does Tuple play a role in alleviating them?

When you’re pairing in person, it’s a very different experience compared to a typical meeting that isn’t very accurately reflected in the screen sharing tools that are available. Tuple is all about not making you feel like you’re in just another meeting with full-screen webcams and tons of UI chrome. You get a true-to-size, crystal-clear representation of your pair’s screen that makes you forget you’re on a call over the internet. Webcams are optional and kept intentionally limited in size when they’re turned on. We think these intentional touches really resonate and make remote work more pleasant for developers.

How do you plan to continue improving the user experience?

The biggest request our customers have had is about using Tuple with more people. We initially envisioned pair programming sessions among two or three programmers, but lots of large teams need the capability to pull in more stakeholders. We just recently increased this limit to six after more than a year of work, and are excited to get our users’ feedback and thoughts on what we should build next.

How does Tuple use Stripe and how do you see this relationship evolving?

We’ve used Stripe Billing since day one. We used to manually send invoices after getting verbal commitments, and would then provision the customer’s team by hand.

Since then, we’ve built out a self-serve setup, aggressively adopting Stripe Checkout to optimize our conversion rates, the customer portal to help our customers self-manage their subscriptions, and Stripe Capital to assist with our marketing efforts. I don't think we will ever go back and write bespoke billing code. We're firmly within the Stripe ecosystem and only have plans to stay there.

Where do you think Stripe and Tuple are uniquely aligned in terms of our values?

There's a Stripe operating principle about “really, really, really caring”, and that strongly resonates with us.

We exist because we really care about being a great pair programming tool. There are lots of ways to share a screen, and if we don't care about making the user experience better in ways that our customers care about, we can't exist. Really caring is what’s gotten us here, and will be the key to staying successful in the future.

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