Unleash raises a $14M series A to make feature management available open source
When we started the Unleash project back in December 2014, the desire was to create a tooling that allowed for decoupling release to production from release to customer. This was a real daily pain the team Ivar Østhus (co-founder and CTO of Unleash) was part of. At the time being, the team found themselves delaying releases due to unfinished code, QA not fully completed, or other concerns that delayed the new code to get into production. This delayed valuable learning that is only possible to get from running the code in production, with real data, from real users. The team was also highly technology agnostic – the team had full freedom using the tooling that solved the problem the best. To support this technology agnostic philosophy, great flexibility was a top decision criteria when choosing developer tools. At the time, no feature management tooling supported these criteria. As good engineers do when in need of tooling to fit their needs – if it doesn’t exist, you go ahead and build it. Unleash open source was born.
We consider software developers to be artists as much as engineers. The true joy of software development lies in the fact that you are allowed to solve new challenges every day. You are allowed, expected even, to tackle unknown problems on a daily basis. Solving these issues requires multiple tools, as well as creativity to find new solutions. Software developers are seeking the freedom to create, experiment and learn – not tedious processes often connected with software releases today. We all understand that these processes are there to limit the risk of wrong-doing, at the same time we know these processes often slow developers down and delay time-to-market.
DevTools are a critical part of true developer efficiency and open source is the only thing that makes sense for dev tools. Being the largest open source feature management tool in the market today – we are excited to announce that we have raised $14M in our Series A led by Spark Capital. This round allows us to strengthen Unleash as the tool-of-choice for any developer looking to adopt feature management.
Software developers are looking for tooling that supports their needs, but also their curiosity and eagerness to learn and develop their knowledge – for this reason, Open source devtools is the only thing that makes sense. Let us dive into some more details why.
Open source DevTools are by definition more flexible than their closed source alternatives. Having access to the source code allows the developers to adapt or adjust the behavior of the open source devtool to fit their needs. For open source projects, there is no need to file a feature request to the big closed source vendor, and then hope for them to deliver your needed feature at some point in the future. If you need it, you are welcome to build it. We get super excited when we get feedback from our community saying “We’ve used this to extend the functionality of Unleash to take advantage of some customer user properties.” (Open source user responding to Unleash Net-promoter-score survey). Further; as open source software is used by the community, it is developed to interoperate with any other tools in the tool-chain and in any environment. Flexibility is a feature that open source devtools deliver by nature. For Unleash, this means that “API first” design was the design principle of choice when designing Unleash to the best for the community. It was not clear upfront on what platform Unleash would run, nor what other tools it would integrate with. For this reason, it was considered a critical success criteria to provide strong APIs. This would allow Unleash to fit into any team and into any developer tool stack, making it easy to adopt by other developers. This design philosophy is still at the heart of the Unleash development, and truly benefits the community today. I think it is stated well by one of our customers:
“Unleash is the most flexible feature management tool we’ve found in the market today, with a flexible deployment model that fits our needs well” says Sitarama Maruvada, Cloud Platform Engineering Lead – Lenovo Cloud development. “Unleash really allows us to focus on delivering customer value while releasing with confidence across the globe.”
We also strongly believe that feature management brings a lot of value to more applications than the traditional web-based applications. Traditional web-based applications are focused around the end-user,. Most of the feature management platforms in the market are focused towards this design principle. The impact is that the segmentation capabilities are designed around the attributes part of the end-user object. At Unleash, we believe that any change in the software should benefit from the flexibility made available by a feature management tool. As we see it, any improvement in the source code should be considered a “feature”, regardless if it is an end-user feature, application specific feature or infrastructure improvement feature.
For this reason, Unleash was designed to support segmentation capabilities on both the end-user context, as well as for the application context. This capability allows the developers to create activation strategies on any attribute in the application. A typical example would be TenantID, or data-center-id where the application is executed. At first glance, these opportunities may not seem very important – but in a refactor exercise, such application attributes may be exactly what the developer needs to gradually roll out a new release containing significant refactored source code.
Open source devtools are by definition more transparent than its closed source competitors. Developers may inspect the source code, its internal behavior and design in order to build trust in the product. There is nowhere to hide for the Unleash development team – anyone is welcome to inspect, review and suggest improvements to the design and source code of Unleash. This supports sharing knowledge and best practices. It also allows for a second pair of eyes reviewing the ongoing implementation of Unleash. We consider strong documentation as well as well-written source code is a critical part in delivering a best-in-class Developer experience. At Unleash, we consider our developer documentation to be a separate product. Through the open source project, it is also possible for the developers to follow the progress of the project. Are the reported issues being fixed and what is the lead time? This allows our users to have their own, clear opinion on what to expect if they choose to rely on Unleash in their daily work. Community members are invited into the process of providing feedback to planned new features. This allows the community to act as a well-informed product manager, closer to the end-user than the closed source vendor may possibly be.
Unleash is also the most privacy-focused feature management platform. The Unleash protocol is designed such that the activation strategy is evaluated locally in the Unleash SDK. This ensures that no end-user PII data leaves the Unleash SDKs and gets back to the Unleash server. By allowing anyone to inspect the source code, we establish trust between our team, our community and our users. As we all know, the importance of data privacy has increased over the past few years. Not only within regulated industries. Nowadays GDPR, CCPA and similar regulations are introduced across the world, making data privacy a major topic for any industry. This makes the software design and the enterprise software stack a concern for the legal team as well as the developer team.
Together with our employees, the Unleash community, our customers and our investors, we have been able to achieve a lot since the project was started. With the latest funding – we are able to take Unleash to the next level. We plan to triple our organization over the next few months, significantly increase the investment in the product and further improve the Unleash developer experience. This is great news to our community, which can expect to see an even higher level of activity and more deliveries coming for Unleash. We will also continue to expand our go-to-market team bringing Unleash to an even larger audience.
If you are passionate about DevOps and developer tooling, make sure to request a demo of Unleash today! If you believe in our mission and want to join us disrupting the feature management category through open source, we invite you to join our team. Find our job openings at www.getunleash.io/careers