Amid clusters of tech layoffs and a growing, increasingly remote engineering workforce, one company seeks to help tens of thousands of software development teams work smarter, not harder by gathering metadata based on Slack, Git, Jira and other apps — proxies for how many projects an engineer is working on and for how long they’re doing so.
Uplevel, an engineering insights company, announced $20 million in Series A funding on Wednesday. Cota Capital led the funding round, with additional investment from Northwest, Madrona, Voyager and former Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen, among others. The company is valued at “much more” than $45 million, according to CEO Joe Levy, and is bringing on Nimrod Vered as new CTO. Combined with Uplevel’s $14 million in seed funding, the latest round brings Uplevel’s funding to $34 million.
“At our company, we are big believers that more hours does not mean more output,” Levy says. “Are we really giving people time off? Are they getting time to focus? Give the devs time and focus space, and you’ll see great things in return.”
Uplevel aids in finding that focus space by measuring and aggregating what Levy describes as “operational metrics” and “people health.” The company is unique in its ability to balance both metrics, says Adit Singh, partner at Cota Capital.
“Operational metrics” clocks the time engineers spend producing a project or deploying code. “People health” data reveals how often developers are pausing “deep work” to answer Slack messages or switch from branch to branch in GitHub, for example. Frequently switching between tasks can make it difficult to complete any individual task and increases the risk of developer burnout, Levy points out.
Uplevel shares this data with developers, managers and directors, along with recommendations about what’s working and what might be improved. In response to privacy concerns, Uplevel claims it does not have access to sensitive data such as raw Slack communications, for example, but instead relies on time spent in the app and how many messages are sent in channels. Approximately half of Uplevel’s process is automated, while the other half relies on human-driven insight from within the company.
Two years after Uplevel’s announced its $7.5 million initial seed round, which coincided with the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the percentage of engineers working fully remotely has increased from 19% to 86%, according to a 2021 report from Terminal. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the United States will add devops jobs at a 22% growth rate from 2020-30, a figure far higher than the 8% average.
As such, Uplevel’s ability to develop, manage and enable a large and “highly distributed team” doing critical work that requires a lot of collaboration was especially attractive, says Bobby Yazdani, founder and partner at Cota Capital.
Although the company is not yet profitable, it doubled its revenue in 2021 and doubled its number of customers in Q4 of 2021. Uplevel’s customer base consists of tech companies such as Qualtrics, Nutanix and Twilio.
One such customer is joining Uplevel’s leadership team. Vered, who served as chief of engineering at Zipwhip, which was acquired by Twilio, is stepping into a role as Uplevel’s CTO.
“So we hired our customer,” Levy says. “He grew our product from inside and out and wanted to come work on it, so there’s no better story than that.”
Uplevel will be doing much more hiring than that, though. It currently has 36 employees and, with the new funding, aims to grow its headcount to 50 by the end of 2022. Much of the new hiring will be focused on go-to-market teams, including customer success, sales and marketing, Levy says.
The remaining funding is set to help scale the company to serve even more big-company customers and, according to Yazdani, be able to compete in the marketplace. As competitors, Singh named engineering management platforms Jellyfish, Linearb and Sleuth — which have received Series C, B and A funding rounds, respectively.
Still, Yazdani says Uplevel is “completely differentiated” because of its focus on holistic, non-judgmental people metrics like deep work and context switching.
Rather than functioning as a productivity whip for managers, “Uplevel creates transparency, and systems that create transparency are different from systems that create judgment,” Yazdani claims.
Uplevel’s metrics, with the goal of helping developers and their managers in discussions to prevent overwork and increase focus time, will hopefully help lengthen the two-plus-year average job stint in the tech industry, Singh says.
“If you start work every day happy, performing well and in a good culture you will stay there longer,” says Singh. “That’s the crux of why Uplevel exists.”