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Eric Schmidt-backed Augment, a GitHub Copilot rival, launches from stealth with $252 million




Eric Schmidt-backed Augment, a GitHub Copilot rival, launches from stealth with $252 million

AI is boosting coding – and developers are embracing it.

In a recent StackOverflow poll44% of software engineers say they are now using AI tools as part of their development processes and 26% plan to do so soon. Meanwhile, Gartner estimates that more than half of organizations are currently piloting or have already deployed AI-powered coding assistants, and that 75% of developers will use coding assistants in some form by 2028.

Ex-Microsoft software developer Igor Ostrovsky believes that soon there will be no more developers who notT use AI in their workflows.

“Software engineering remains a difficult and too often tedious and frustrating job, especially at scale,” he told JS. “AI can improve software quality and team productivity and help restore the fun of programming.”

So Ostrovsky decided to build the AI-powered coding platform he would like to use himself.

Today that platform is — Increases – emerged from stealth with $252 million in funding at a near-unicorn post-money valuation ($977 million). With investments from former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and venture capital firms including Index Ventures, Sutter Hill Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Innovation Endeavors and Meritech Capital, Augment aims to disrupt the nascent market for generative AI coding technologies.

“Most companies are dissatisfied with the programs they produce and consume; Too often, software is fragile, complex and expensive to maintain, leaving development teams stuck with long backlogs of feature requests, bug fixes, security patches, integration requests, migrations and upgrades,” said Ostrovsky. “Augment has both the best team and the best recipe to enable programmers and their organizations to deliver high-quality software faster.”

Ostrovsky worked at Microsoft for almost seven years before joining Pure Storage, a startup that develops flash data storage hardware and software products, as a founding engineer. While at Microsoft, Ostrovsky worked on components of Midori, a next-generation operating system that the company never released, but whose concepts have found their way into other Microsoft projects over the past decade.

In 2022, Ostrovsky and Guy Gur-Ari, previously an AI researcher at Google, teamed up to create Augment’s MVP. To fill the startup’s leadership positions, Ostrovsky and Gur-Ari brought in Scott Dietzen, ex-CEO of Pure Storage, and Dion Almaer, previously director of engineering at Google and VP of engineering at Shopify.

Augment remains a strangely quiet operation.

In our conversation, Ostrovsky wasn’t willing to say much about the user experience or even the generative AI models that power Augment’s features (whatever they may be) — other than to say that Augment uses sophisticated, “industry-leading” open models of a kind.

He did say how Augment plans to make money: standard software-as-a-service subscriptions. Pricing and other details will be revealed later this year, Ostrovsky added, closer to Augment’s planned GA release.

“Our funding provides many years of opportunity to continue building what we believe is the best team in enterprise AI,” he said. “We are accelerating product development and building out Augment’s product, engineering and go-to-market functions as the company gears up for rapid growth.”

Rapid growth may be Augment’s best chance to make waves in an increasingly cutthroat industry.

Almost every tech giant offers its own version of an AI coding assistant. Microsoft has GitHub Copilot, which is by far the most entrenched, with more than 1.3 million paying individual and 50,000 enterprise customers as of February. Amazon has CodeWhisperer from AWS. And Google has Gemini Code Assist, recently rebranded from Duet AI for Developers.

Elsewhere, there’s a flood of coding assistant startups: Magic, Tabnine, Codegen, Refact, TabbyML, Sweep, Laredo and Cognition (which Reportedly just raised $175 million) to name a few. Armor And JetBrains, which recently developed the Kotlin programming language issued their own. Sentry did that too (albeit with a more cybersecurity slant).

Can they all – plus Augment now – do business together harmoniously? It seems unlikely. The eye-watering computing costs alone make maintaining the AI ​​coding assistant business challenging. Overruns related to training and service models forced generative AI coding startup Kite to close in December 2022. Even Copilot is losing money – to the tune of ~$20 per month to ~$80 per month per user, according to to The Wall Street Journal.

Ostrovsky suggests that there is already momentum behind Augment – ​​he claims that “hA large number of software developers at “dozens” of companies, including payments startup Keeta (which Eric Schmidt also backs), are using Augment in early access. But will the rapture hold up? That is indeed the million dollar question.

I also wonder if Augment has taken any steps toward solving the technical setbacks that plague code-generating AI, especially in the area of ​​vulnerabilities.

An analysis of GitClear, the developer of the code analysis tool of the same name, found it that coding assistants lead to more faulty code being pushed into codebases, causing headaches for software maintainers. Security researchers have warned that generative encryption tools can strengthen existing bugs and exploits in projects. And Stanford researchers did just that found it that developers who accept code recommendations from AI assistants tend to produce less secure code.

Then there’s copyright to worry about.

Augment’s models are undoubtedly trained on publicly available data, as are all generative AI models – some of which may be copyrighted or under a restrictive license. Some sellers have claimed that Fair Use Doctrine protects them from copyright claims while implementing tools to limit potential infringements. But that doesn’t stop programmers submit class action lawsuits over what they claim are open licensing and IP violations.

About all this, Ostrovsky says: “Today’s AI coding assistants do not sufficiently understand the programmer’s intentions, do not improve software quality and facilitate team productivity, and they do not protect intellectual property well. Augment’s technical team has deep AI and systems expertise. We stand ready to bring innovations in AI coding support to developers and software teams.”

Augment, based in Palo Alto, currently has approximately 50 employees; Ostrovsky expects this number to double by the end of the year.