ZenHub, the GitHub-centric project management service for development teams, today announced that it has raised a $4.7 million seed funding round from Canada’s BDC Capital and Ripple Ventures. This marks the first fundraise for the Vancouver, Canada-based startup after the team bootstrapped the service, which first launched back in 2014. Additional angel investors in this round include Adam Gross (former CEO of Heroku), Jiaona Zhang (VP Product at Webflow) and Oji Udezue (VP Product at Calendly).
In addition to announcing this funding round, the team also today launched its newest automation feature, which makes it easier for teams to plan the development sprints, something that is core to the Agile development process but often takes a lot of time and energy — something teams are better off spending on the actual development process.
“This is a really exciting kind of pivot point for us as a business and gives us a lot of ammunition, I think, to really go after our vision and mission a little bit more aggressively than we have even in the past,” ZenHub co-founder and CEO Aaron Upright told me. The team, he explained, used the beginning of the pandemic to spend a lot of time with customers to better understand how they were reacting to what was happening. In the process, customers repeatedly noted that development resources were getting increasingly expensive and that teams were being stretched even farther and under a lot of pressure.
ZenHub’s answer to this was to look into how it could automate more of the processes that constitute the most complex parts of Agile. Earlier this year, the company launched its first efforts in this area, with new tools for improving developer handoffs in GitHub and now, with the help of this new funding, it is putting the next pieces in place by helping teams automate their sprint planning.
“We thought about automation as an answer to [the problems development teams were facing] and that we could take an approach to automation and to help guide teams through some of the most complex and time-consuming parts of the Agile process,” Upright said. “We raised money so that we can really accelerate toward that vision. As a self-funded company, we could have gone down that path, albeit a little bit slower. But the opportunity that we saw in the market — really brought about by the pandemic, and teams working more remotely and this pressure to produce — we wanted to provide a solution much, much faster.”
The spring planning feature itself is actually pretty straightforward and allows project managers to allocate a certain number of story points (a core Agile metric to estimate the complexity of a given action item) to each sprint. ZenHub’s tool can then use that to automatically generate a list of the most highly prioritized items for the next sprint. Optionally, teams can also decide to roll over items that they didn’t finish during a given sprint into the next one.
With that, ZenHub Sprints can automate a lot of the standard sprint meetings and lets teams focus on thinking about the overall process. Of course, teams can always overrule the automated systems.
“There’s nothing more that developers hate than sitting around the table for eight hours, planning sprints, when really they all just want to be working on stuff,” Upright said.
With this new feature, sprints become a core feature of the ZenHub experience. Typically, project managers worked around this by assigning milestones in GitHub, but having a dedicated tool and these new automation features will make this quite a bit easier.
Coming soon, ZenHub will also build a new feature that will automate some parts of the software estimation process, too, by launching a new tool that will help teams more easily allocate story points to routing action items so that their discussions can focus on the more contentious ones.