A new startup has emerged from stealth mode armed with $7.5 million in seed funding to disrupt what it calls the “software engineer status quo,” by giving leaders tools to measure how productive and happy their stables of developers are.
Seattle startup Uplevel was founded by an organizational psychologist and a group of technology executives with shared Microsoft DNA. A hackathon entry in 2017 developed by Dave Matthews, then a senior product manager at Hulu, served as the impetus for the company. Matthews, who spent 10 years at Microsoft from 2001 to 2011, and psychologist and entrepreneur David Youssefnia brought the idea to startup studio Madrona Venture Labs to incubate it.
CEO Joe Levy, an ex-senior program marketing manager at Microsoft who went on to hold executive positions at Zettics and Rubica, joined later. So did Chief Development Officer Ravs Kaur, a veteran engineering leader who spent nearly six years at Tableau Software and a decade at Microsoft. They were intrigued by the company’s argument that engineering leaders needed better data to analyze their work environment.
“I’ve never been more sure of anything else in my life that there is a really big problem here,” Levy said. “The pain (engineering leaders) feel about keeping their folks productive and engaged and happy at work is palpable.”
Some high profile investors also took notice, with Norwest Venture Partners, Madrona Venture Group, and Voyager Capital participating in the company’s seed round.
Uplevel’s technology analyzes a variety of channels including messaging platforms like Slack, collaboration tools like Jira, code repositories like GitHub and calendars to analyze how engineers spend their time. The platform spits out insights analyzing whether engineers are stuck in too many meetings, assigned too many tasks at once or don’t have enough focus time.
Levy said other parts of an organization, such as sales and marketing, have plenty of tools to make data-driven arguments about team needs. Engineering teams, he said, are often forced to rely on gut feeling and surveys.
“They have really suffered from a lack of great tools to accurately predict and do their job well,” Levy said of engineering leaders.
So far, Uplevel has 10 companies comprising more than 4,000 engineers on its platform, including sales tax automation giant Avalara, digital marketing company RedVentures and cloud application software marker D2iQ. The company has 16 employees, and is hiring for several more roles.
Numerous tools exist to measure productivity in terms of lines of code written or number of tickets completed, Levy says. But he argues there isn’t a holistic solution that measures the full picture of engineers’ productivity and whether their environment fosters their best work.
“No one is putting it all together with a deep focus on this type of audience — meaning, what is a healthy habit for an engineer?” Levy said.