A founder’s perspective on 4 years with Haskell

In 2012 I co-founded Better1, a startup building a new type of enterprise e-learning platform. Our goal was to make it faster and cheaper for large companies to develop, deliver, and analyse adaptive, cross-platform, multi-language, online courses.

From day one, we decided to use Haskell as our main language, and it remained the only language we used on the back-end as our team grew to 10 developers.

After a period of experimentation and development, Better grew from $0 to $500k+ in annual recurring revenue in the space of a few months, with companies including American Express and Swissport as customers. However, the distribution model proved challenging to grow beyond that and we eventually sold to GRC Solutions, an Australian compliance company.

Though interest in Haskell appears to be growing steadily, its use in production is still rare. Some have the mistaken impression it’s an academic language and nothing more. In this post I’ll give my perspective on what it’s like to use Haskell in a startup. Can you get stuff done? Does it hold up in practice? Can you hire developers? Should more companies use it?

The short answer to those questions is yes. It’s not a fit for all problems or for all teams, but it is worth serious consideration. For building server-side software, Haskell might be the closest thing to a secret weapon you’ll find today.2