With $18M in new funding, EngFlow wants to speed up your builds

Back in 2015, Google launched an open-source port of its internal automation tool for building and testing code. Dubbed Bazel (because the internal tool was called Blaze), the service uses a Python dialect to help developers write their rules and macros. Today, the tooling is used by companies ranging from Adobe to Databricks, Dropbox, LinkedIn and Redfin, so when the lead developer of Bazel at Google, Ulf Adams, and the lead of enterprise customer onboarding for Bazel at Google and co-creator of BazelCon, Helen Altshuler, raise new funding for their Bazel-centric startup EngFlow, it’s probably worth paying attention to.

As the team announced today, EngFlow has raised an $18 million Series A round from Tiger Global, Firstminute Capital and Andreessen Horowitz, which also led the company’s $3.7 million seed round. Cockroach Labs CEO Spencer Kimball, Github co-founder Tom Preston-Werner and Snowflake CFO Mike Scarpelli, as well as Envoy creator Matt Klein and GitHub engineering VP Rachel Potvin also participated in this round.

Image Credits: Bazel

EngFlow describes itself as a “build acceleration company” that helps its enterprise customers more efficiently build and test their source code, with support for Bazel, Chromium and the Android Platform.

“When we are talking about Bazel use at Google, an important factor is that Google has integrated Bazel with a lot of developer services,” Adams said. “So it’s not just the build tool, but you have remote execution, you have a user interface, you have coverage runners for analyzing coverage data from the tests, you have integration with deployment, all of that stuff. We’ve been talking to Bazel users for four years and they are looking for these things. Sometimes we say that Google is a snowflake, Google is special, but we often see that other companies want to want to do similar things. And so we thought there was an opportunity there.”

Altshuler also stressed that increasingly, enterprises are creating platform engineering teams that aim to bring a more opinionated approach to CI/CD to their teams. “That is usually the audience for Bazel to try it to make it work for their specific company — and then launch it to the engineers. These platform engineering teams are our primary customers, but behind every platform engineering team, there are hundreds, thousands, maybe tens of thousands of engineers that are impacted by Bazel as a result and hopefully don’t have to be Bazel experts and know all of the internals — it should just work for them,” she noted.

Image Credits: Bazel

The team noted that a lot of new customers are migrating from Gradle or CMake to the service, so it’s maybe no surprise that EngFlow also recently hired Jay Conrod, the developer of the open-source Gazelle tool for migrating to Bazel (and also a former Googler).

It’s worth stressing that while Bazel is a main focus here, the platform also supports Chromium and Android platform builds. Brave, with its Chromium-based browser, is a customer, for example. For Brave, EngFlow’s distributed build system brought build times down from two hours to fifteen minutes. But still, Bazel is the main focus here and the team today also launched its Bazel Invocation Analyzer, a new open-source tool that allows developers to get deeper insights into their Bazel profiles and optimize their builds.

“Build is one of the most critical aspects of building software. And traditionally it’s been a massive time and cost sink for companies to get right,” said Martin Casado, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz. “EngFlow is the leading company changing all of this. Coming from deep roots in Bazel and build, they’ve put together a solution which for the first time we’ve ever seen, is able to tackle the most complex code bases and large infrastructure environments and offer dramatic savings in development time and costs. These aren’t mere words, EngFlow has extraordinary customer traction across a number of verticals, far more than we normally see at this stage. We’re delighted to be investors and doubling down as EngFlow continues their path as the leading build company.”

Given the popularity of taking Google open-source tools and bringing them to the enterprise (hello, Kubernetes), it’s maybe no surprise that EngFlow isn’t the only startup in this space. YC-backed BuildBuddy, for example, also offers a Bazel-centric build system. Meanwhile, well-funded Gradle Enterprise offers support for Gradle, Maven and Bazel as part of its enterprise build tool.

With $18M in new funding, EngFlow wants to speed up your builds by Frederic Lardinois originally published on TechCrunch

EngFlow raises $3.7M seed to speed up compiling of large code projects

Over the years, applications have gotten bigger and bigger. Even a small company could be dealing with large libraries of open source code, making it time-consuming to pull the various pieces of a project together, package them up and compile them into a single program. This often creates a bottleneck for developers.

EngFlow, an early stage startup coming out of the Alchemist Accelerator this month, wants to help fix that by distributing the compiling part over as many machines as needed in the cloud, pushing out compiled projects faster. In fact, they claim to take a process that used to take hours and distill it down to minutes or even seconds, depending on the size of the build.

Today the company announced a $3.7 million seed investment led by Andreessen Horowitz with participation from First Minute Capital, Alchemist Accelerator and various angels.

The company founders, CEO Helen Altshuler and CTO Ulf Adams met several years ago while both were working at Google where they were experiencing the build bottleneck directly. They found that as software became increasingly complex, it was taking longer and longer to compile — and this was in spite of computers becoming ever faster.

“What we’re doing is we’re basically breaking up the build process into smaller steps, and then we’re distributing those steps across multiple machines so instead of running it on your laptop, we can run it in a data center [in the cloud]. So if it’s not moving quickly enough for you, you can just add a couple more machines and make it faster,” Adams explained.

While he was at Google building the company’s developer infrastructure, Adams also built some software called Bazel to deal with the compiling bottleneck that the company would later contribute to open source. Altshuler managed Bazel adoption at Google, so the two of them have been working closely for some time before launching EngFlow at the beginning of 2020.

As EngFlow develops, Altshuler says that they want to help developers who don’t necessarily want to download Bazel and figure out how to distribute the workloads themselves. But even though they see Bazel as a key build system, they don’t want to confine themselves to that.

“We provide the SaaS services, a distributed compute and build acceleration service. Some of our customers even refer to our product as a build accelerator. It works with Bazel, but we are not exclusive to Bazel, which is interesting, [given that we are] the team that built Bazel,” she said. They also work currently with Android and Chromium and are looking to support other build systems in the future.

In terms of diversity, Altshuler says that she doesn’t necessarily define her identity as being a woman in tech. “It’s an interesting thing because I didn’t know I was a woman in technology until 10 years into my career when I was invited to speak on a women in technology panel. I thought we were all people here,” she said.

That said, she says that so far her company has grown diverse organically, first by virtue of the diverse background of the two founders, and she believes that it just builds on itself. “It just sort of happened because of the fact that our network is wide. It also means, yes, more naturally people, not just women, but more women will reach out to me, then perhaps other other managers, [which has allowed us to] be more balanced without being deliberate,” she said.

Their startup idea is gaining traction with several paying customers already including Snap, Brave and Mighty Technologies. By taking the approach that they are going to be more than the commercial version of Bazel, they believe they can be a much larger company. The startup expects to remain remote as it grows. As a matter of fact, the two founders have not met in person since launching last year.