“Get Unblocked”

Dennis Pilarinos·Oct 3, 2023

Today we're publicly launching Unblocked, a new developer tool that increases your productivity by providing helpful and accurate answers to questions about your codebase.

We're also announcing our funding: a $8.3M seed round led by Amplify Partners with First Round Capital and XYZ Capital participating alongside angel investors including Stewart Butterfield, John Lilly, and Mike Vernal.

But first, let's start with some context.

Despite decades of developer tools, development teams are still very inefficient

In 2016, we started buddybuild — a cloud-hosted, continuous integration platform for mobile apps, which was loved and used by tens of thousands of developers. Three years later, buddybuild was acquired by Apple and now lives on as Xcode Cloud.

Success story, right?

In many ways, yes… but our desire to improve developer workflows remained unsatisfied.

We felt frustrated by one specific inefficiency that teams face while developing software — the amount of time required to find and maintain a shared understanding of the codebase.

Consider how often you are interrupted by instant messages, video calls, “drive-bys,” and bouncing in and out of the IDE to hunt for relevant documents.

An exceptionally motivated and resourceful developer might find answers by digging through information scattered across:

  • conversations that happen on a pull request
  • details of an issue stored in a bug tracker
  • a technical / design document in a content management system
  • the messages of an obscure Slack channel
  • … and countless other systems where discussions happen.

In fact, Retool's 2022 State of Engineering Time survey found that 30% of developers say it can take more than half of a work day to figure out who owns a piece of code and get the context they need to work with it.

If you're anything like me, digging around trying to find an answer to one of my questions or waiting for a response from a coworker isn't something I have patience for.

I want to be unblocked as quickly as possible, and ideally I'd like my coworkers to unblock themselves. Questions and interruptions should only need to occur once all other resources have been exhausted.

General-purpose LLMs simply can't answer questions specific to your application

In the last 6-8 months, there has been significant progress in how AI is being used to improve developer productivity.

One of the biggest limitations of most of the existing developer productivity tools is that they are trained to answer general questions for generic problems — they know nothing about your codebase.

Most of these tools are “handy” but only occasionally “helpful.” In fact, recent studies have reported that code suggestions proposed by these tools are accepted ~30% of the time. That means, 70% of the time, these suggestions aren't useful.

Empowering teams with their own information

Unblocked provides helpful and accurate answers to any question about your codebase.

Our goal is to help you get the information you need so you can maximize the time you spend writing code.

Unblocked uses connections to the systems used to build your application and optimized LLMs to help you understand the nuances and specifics of your codebase — how it works, why it was written, and why it works the way it does.

You can ask Unblocked questions that are specific to your application like:

  • Where do we decide whether to store user history in cache?
  • How do I run our landing page locally?
  • Why do we store partial user sessions in the AuthZ service?

More data sources == better answers

Unblocked is able to provide accurate and helpful answers about your code because it introspects over all the content you connect it with.

Teams have code-related conversations as they build their application across many systems — a source code management platform (GitHub/Bitbucket/GitLab), bug trackers (Jira/Linear etc), and (very commonly) Slack. These conversations can range from very specific (like the feedback on a few lines of code submitted via pull request) to very abstract (like a discussion about how a component of your system architecture works).

Our early adopters have found Unblocked impressive when they connect a few data sources, and mind-blowing as they added more.

At launch we support connecting Unblocked to GitHub, Bitbucket, GitHub Issues, Jira, Linear, Slack, Confluence and Stack Overflow for Teams. In the coming weeks, we'll support GitLab and Notion too.

With Unblocked, answers are never more than a few clicks away. You can ask questions from the Unblocked macOS application, a plugin for your favourite IDE, and directly from Slack.

Asking a question in the Unblocked Mac App, Visual Studio Code, and in Slack.

Unblocked provides knowledge even when you don't know what to ask

Even if you're unaware of what question to ask, Unblocked surfaces relevant conversations at the right time and right place so you have the knowledge you need to do your job.

With Unblocked, you will feel like you were there on the days those discussions happened and when those decisions were made.

Because Unblocked understands the components that make up your system architecture, the files that make up the components, and the lines of code that make up those files, it surfaces relevant conversations for each.

For every level of abstraction, Unblocked provides you the information you need directly in your IDE no matter which system it came from.

With Unblocked, “Oh, I wish I had known that…” is something you'll never have to think or say again.

Left: The Unblocked Panel in Visual Studio Code displaying file-level discussions from GitHub and Slack. Right: Line-level historical Pull Request discussions as indicated by the message icon.

Video, but for development teams

As we built Unblocked, we recognized that it could also be used as a tool to help explain your codebase to your team.

We've all felt the pain of creating a video to describe a part of the codebase (as part of a pull request or as a walkthrough for a part of the system) only to have it vanish into the vast undiscoverable content of a wiki somewhere.

There was a missing connection between the video and the source code. Ideally, when I open a source code file in my IDE I can discover any video related to the file and its contents.

So, we built that.

When you create an Unblocked video, content you reference during a recording session (e.g. code files, Notion docs, web links, and more) is automatically captured along with a transcription of the video.

Videos are discoverable from the Unblocked IDE extension when you view related files, and the contents of the video become part of the knowledge base that Unblocked uses to answer questions.

Finally, I often just want to get to a specific part of the video that I'm most interested in (see above re: impatience!). Unblocked provides linkable time indexes for every video, so you can quickly get to the part of the walkthrough you care about the most.

Join us

As a company, we're a group of ambitious malcontents who are dissatisfied with the status-quo, intolerant of mediocrity, and constantly aware of the potential for improvement. We have a strong desire to help technology play a more meaningful role in developers' lives and will strive to improve your Unblocked experience day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month.

If you're ever disappointed or frustrated with Unblocked, I urge you to let us know — we'll make it right.

If any of this resonates with you, please reach out — we're always looking to work with like-minded people.

Dennis, Founder & CEO