Oslo-based Unleash nabs $14M Series A to build open source feature management tool


Computer Programmer Writing Program Code On Computer In Office
Image Credits: AndreyPopov / Getty Images

As developers build new features into software, they have to be sure that the new functionality doesn’t break what’s already there. So they often will roll it out slowly and see what happens using a technique of placing feature flags in the code. This is a proven way of controlling the rollout, but it requires another level of management. That’s where Oslo-based Unleash comes in.

“Unleash is a feature management solution. It lets you define the rules of segmenting users so that you can have full control on how you enable a new functionality,” company co-founder and CTO Ivar Østhus explained. He said this approach enables a lot more experimentation while reducing the risk of putting something into the production code base that will cause a major issue for users.

In 2014, Østhus faced this problem of feature management at Finn, the company where he was working. So in his spare time, he started working on a solution. He released Unleash as open source on GitHub the following year and nurtured the project for the next several years as he continued working at his day job as an engineer.

He found that over time, companies began requesting enterprise features for the tool, and he saw an opening for a commercial venture. By 2019, Ivar and his brother Egil decided to start a company together to build a commercial layer on top of the open source product that Ivar had developed.

“​​By late 2018, I started to see a lot of momentum in the open source adoption and people were reaching out to ask about enterprise functionality. I even got an email from a company that asked if I could just host it for them so they don’t have to. So for me, this was an early signal obviously and this was also when I brought in Egil [to start the company],” he said.

The company launched its first commercial offering, a hosted version of Unleash, in spring 2019 and the operation began to take shape. The two men left their day jobs and committed to the company full time.

Egil, who became CEO, has a background in management and business, and the two brothers began talking to companies to see just how viable this idea could be as a commercial business. “I think we spent more or less 90% of our time talking to customers to better understand our competitors and also understanding the needs of our users,” Egil said.

Today, the company has gradually shifted away from pure open source to an open core model with enterprise functionality like single sign-on available for a fee to customers that need an additional layer of security.

Egil said that diversity is an important issue for him and his brother as they build the company, and one of their key KPIs. He sees this as a leadership challenge, and to hold them accountable, they report to the board on a monthly basis on how well they are doing from a candidate pipeline perspective.

“So what we decided to do that is really important is report on a monthly basis to the board of directors on the diversity of our candidate pipeline. So this is one of the metrics that we will report to them, and it means that whenever we are filling up the candidate pipeline, we need to report those numbers, and whether we are inside or outside of those diversity numbers,” he said.

The company has 120 paying customers with about 40% in the U.S. and Canada, another 40% in the EU and the remainder spread out across the world. They have 16 employees with plans to double that by the end of this year.

With a $14 million Series A announced today, the startup should have the capital to invest as the business begins to take off. Today’s investment was led by Spark Capital with participation from Frontline Ventures, firstminute capital, Alliance Venture and Arkwright X.

More TechCrunch

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo