Buddybuild founder is back with new code-assist platform Unblocked

Amplify Partners, Slack founder Stewart Butterfield among Unblocked's investors.

Vancouver-based Unblocked emerged from stealth last Tuesday with a coding workflow platform. The company also shared news of a January 2022 $8.3-million USD ($11.3-million CAD) seed round, led by US-based Amplify Partners and backed by Slack founding CEO Stewart Butterfield.

Unblocked’s founder and CEO, Dennis Pilarinos, announced the seed funding in a blog post on the startup’s website last Tuesday. Unblocked has roots in the company Pilarinos founded in 2015, Buddybuild, a developer support service that was acquired by Apple in 2018 and integrated into Xcode Cloud.

Drawing from his playbook with Buddybuild, Pilarinos’ rollout of Unblocked hits familiar beats: both aim to streamline coding, have lured some of the same investors, and debuted free-of-charge while drumming up initial funding. Pilarinos said 10 of the 11 members on Unblocked’s team were also some of the earliest employees at Buddybuild.

Following Buddybuild’s acquisition, Pilarinos worked as Apple’s director of development technologies until June 2020.

“When you ‘get the band back together,’ there’s these idiosyncrasies of how people work together,” Pilarinos said in an interview with BetaKit. “It’s given us the ability to work very quickly, because we’ve normalized what our roles are and how we work well together.”

The leader of Unblocked’s seed round, Amplify Partners, also invested in Buddybuild’s seed and Series A financing rounds in 2016. Other participants in Unblocked’s round include First Round Capital, which also participated in Buddybuild’s Series A financing round, and XYZ Capital.

“In the same way we got the core group together for product development, [we used the] same kind of investors that we used in the past,” Pilarinos said. “There’s a level of trust and understanding that makes it easier to work together.”

Butterfield, who departed Vancouver-founded Slack in January, also participated in Unblocked’s round as an angel investor, alongside former Mozilla CEO John Lilly and former Facebook (now Meta) vice president of product and engineering Mike Vernal.

Unblocked claims to use large language models (LLMs) that connect with platforms where teams discuss their code, including Slack and Github, among others, to learn how a team’s codebase works.

From there, a coder can consult Unblocked for insights on codebase formatting instead of asking a team member, which the startup says can save teams time. The platform will answer questions about the code while linking to relevant conversations on the team communication platforms.

“This is the best application of AI’s potential in enhancing developer proficiency, making developers themselves more effective — rather than typing for them,” Pilarinos said in a LinkedIn post announcing the launch.

Following Buddybuild’s acquisition, Pilarinos worked as Apple’s director of development technologies until June 2020, according to his LinkedIn, prior to becoming the founder and CEO of Unblocked in January 2022. Since then, Unblocked has been in closed testing, but opened up its beta to interested users last week, free of charge.

Unblocked says beta users will never be charged for the product, even when pricing is launched in the future.

Pilarinos said Unblocked will use the funding to grow its team, product development, and go-to-market activities.

Feature image courtesy Unblocked

Alex Riehl

Alex Riehl

Alex Riehl is a staff writer and newsletter curator at BetaKit with a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University. He's interested in tech, gaming, and sports. You can find out more about him at alexriehl.com or @RiehlAlex99 on Twitter.

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