Makelog looks to revitalize software release notes with $3M seed

·3 min read

When Makelog founder and CEO JJ Nguyen was working in product management and customer success positions at companies like Segment, Scale AI and Warby Parker, she saw a constant stream of product updates. Yet communication between engineering and product teams couldn’t always keep up with the rapid changes of a modern development team.

She spent a lot of time trying to get the engineering team to tell her what was changing, so as a product lead, she could communicate the changes with other parts of the company, as well as to customers who needed to be aware of the changes too, of course.

The problem was so acute, she decided to start a company to help solve it, and today she is announcing the launch of Makelog, which she characterizes as a "release communications platform." The company also announced a $3 million seed investment.

“So I started Makelog to help fast-shipping software teams essentially match their rate of release communication with their shipping velocity, which we call continuous communication. But we've always had that sort of overarching mission of helping technical and business teams grow in the same direction and converge on a common language,” Nguyen told me.

Prior to having a product like Makelog, she found that communication was more ad hoc, where she was constantly asking engineers about upcoming changes, a task that wasn't always easy because they were focused on making those changes. It took a kind of information horse trading to get what she needed.

“For me to get context into everything that was shipping so that I could do my job well and be this product expert, I often had to go bug the engineers and we would do this kind of trade, this swapping of context, where I learned ultimately how to talk about the product more knowledgeably, and they learned what customers loved about the things that they were building,” she said.

The product, as the name suggests, is a log that the different constituents inside and outside the company can filter to get the information that matters to them. The engineering team including management can use the log to track the progress of developers on completing elements of the product roadmap. Internal teams can see what’s coming and customers can understand what’s changed.

She said she wanted to entirely transform the traditional change log and make it more useful for everyone involved. Too much information is as bad as too little. “We’re trying to take a giant hammer to traditional release notes, where we're encouraging folks to communicate at this minimum marketable unit level, making it really easy for them to route individual updates to the right folks at the right time,” she said.

That involves integrating deeply with source tools, like GitHub and Jira. She says the goal is “to create a new workflow, where you can see what's shipped, you can triage what needs to get communicated and to whom and get these updates out really, really fast using the context you've already captured.”

Nguyen started the company at the end of 2020 and currently has six employees, her and five engineers, and she uses Makelog internally to have that two-way communications flow between her and the team. Early customers include Monte Carlo, Armory and PopSQL.

The company is introducing the product today publicly for the first time. The $3 million seed round, which closed at the end of last year, was led by Accel with participation from Basecamp Fund, Formulate Ventures, Bluewatch Ventures and several industry angels.

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