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Architexa aims to make it easier for software developers to decipher complex code

Posted by Scott Kirsner  June 29, 2010 10:46 AM

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In 2005, Vineet Sinha was a PhD student in MIT's computer science department, presenting some of his work at a prestigious academic conference in San Diego. The project, Relo, proposed that one way to increase programmers' efficiency was to help them understand vast swaths of already-existing software code more quickly; understanding the code that exists, Sinha explains, requires an enormous investment of time, but if programmers don't do it, their new contributions tend to create problems. Relo created diagrams that showed how various chunks of code were connected to each other a sort of automatically-generated Rand McNally road atlas of complex software.

After that 2005 presentation, several people in the audience asked Sinha how they could buy a copy of Relo. It wasn't yet a packaged product that he was prepared to support, but after he earned his doctorate in 2007, Sinha began to focus on turning it into one. The company he started, Architexa, is preparing for its commercial debut this month; already, several hundred non-paying customers have been testing it. Sinha says the company has three full-time employees and several interns. Initially, it supports only the Java programming language, but he hopes to eventually expand into C++, and perhaps Ruby and PHP.

Sinha acknowledges that Cambridge-based Architexa will compete with some of the tools sold by IBM's Rational Software division, but he says that his start-up is focused on developing a wider range of features that will help programmers explore and understand knotty code bases.

Sinha says the company plans to price its product somewhere between $150 and $450 annually. He intends to "switch on" payment for the current free trial users of the product this month. Later, he may seek angel funding for the company, which would primarily go to staff salaries and a concerted sales and marketing effort.

But in advance of that, to help generate buzz, Sinha plans to launch a site that will offer Architexa's roadmaps for popular open source programs.

Here's a video overview of Architexa, produced by the company:

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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