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Feature management has emerged as a crucial component of the continuous integration / continuous deployment (CI/CD) software development workflow, enabling developers to pilot new features incrementally with a small user-base. This might involve A/B testing variations of a new feature, or simply switching a proposed new feature on and off to garner feedback on what works and what doesn’t.
Ultimately, feature management is all about helping companies ship code faster while minimizing the chances of upsetting too many end-users. Other notable players in the feature management space include LaunchDarkly, which hit a $3 billion valuation back in August following a $200 million investment, and Split, which recent raised a $50 million tranche.
Unleash, for its part, was born out of a Norwegian tech company called Finn.no back in 2014, and was released under an open source license the following year. A commercial version of Unleash rolled out in 2019, with cofounders Ivar Østhus (CTO) and Egil Østhus (CEO), who are brothers, deciding to leave their full-time jobs in 2020 to focus all their efforts on Unleash.
With Unleash, companies can configure their rollout strategies using what are known as feature “flags” or “toggles,” so that only a specific group of users — say, 1% — will see a new feature in their app. This can be stipulated according to geographic region, for example, or a particular operating system.
In its short life so far, Unleash has managed to attract a handful of notable customers, including Lenovo and U.S. manufacturing giant Generac.
The open source factor
Similar to other open source platforms out there, one of the core selling points for Unleash is that it offers greater flexibility in terms of how it can be integrated with companies’ broader tech stack. It also allows them to retain full control of their data by self-hosting — this is particularly important in terms of addressing the growing array of data privacy regulations such as GDPR or CCPA.
On top of the core open source product, companies can elect to pay for additional support and services, which includes options for enterprise-grade features and a fully managed hosted offering.
Prior to now, Unleash had raised a $2.5 million seed round of funding, and with another $14 million in the bank, the company is well-financed to capitalize on a growth which has seen downloads surge by 548% to over 12 million since 2019. More specifically, (Egil) Østhus said that the fresh cash injection will help scale its open source offering in the U.S. and Europe — which, in turn, should help drive adoption of its commercial products.
“Unleash was created to bring freedom back to developers so they can focus on creating, testing and deploying software,” Østhus said in a statement. “Today’s engineers are constantly bogged down with unnecessary processes, keeping them from doing what they love most — experimenting with and creating software to better their products.”
The company’s series A round was led by Spark Capital, with participation from Frontline Ventures, Firstminute Capital, Alliance Venture, and Arkwright X.
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