Augment, an AI-Powered Coding Platform

AI is revolutionizing coding while developers are embracing its potential eagerly.

According to a recent survey on StackOverflow, the use of AI tools in software development has surged, with 44% of software engineers incorporating them into their workflows and another 26% planning to do so soon. Gartner estimates that over half of organizations are either testing or have already integrated AI-driven coding assistants into their systems. It’s projected that by 2028, 75% of developers will be utilizing coding assistants in some capacity.

Former Microsoft software developer Igor Ostrovsky predicts that AI will soon become indispensable for developers. In a statement, He said “Software engineering remains a difficult and all-too-often tedious and frustrating job, particularly at scale. AI can improve software quality, team productivity and help restore the joy of programming.”

Motivated by this vision, Ostrovsky co-founded Augment, an AI-powered coding platform designed to streamline the development process. Recently emerging from stealth mode, Augment secured an impressive $252 million in funding, valuing the company at nearly a billion dollars post-money. Backed by investors like former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and prominent venture capital firms, Augment aims to revolutionize the emerging market for generative AI coding technologies.

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

Ostrovsky, after spending nearly seven years at Microsoft before joining Pure Storage, a startup developing flash data storage hardware and software products, as a founding engineer. While working at Microsoft, He worked on components of a next-generation operating system named Midori, which never got released but its concepts were made used in other Microsoft projects over the last decade.

In 2022, Ostrovsky and Guy Gur-Ari, former AI research scientist at Google, teamed up to create Augment’s MVP. To fill the startup’s executive ranks, Ostrovsky and Gur-Ari brought on Scott Dietzen, former-CEO of Pure Storage, and Dion Almaer, Ex-Google engineering director and a VP of engineering at Shopify.

All in all, Augment remains a confidential endeavor.

Ostrovsky wasn’t willing to share much about the user experience or even the generative AI models driving Augment’s features other than that ‘Augment is using fine-tuned “industry-leading” open models of some sort.’

While specifics about Augment’s user experience and AI models remain undisclosed, Ostrovsky hinted at utilizing fine-tuned, industry-leading open models. The company plans to monetize

through standard software-as-a-service subscriptions, with pricing details expected later this year.

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

Perhaps Augment’s potential for significant growth is key to its success in a fiercely competitive industry landscape.

Major players like Microsoft with GitHub Copilot, boasting over 1.3 million individual and 50,000 enterprise customers as of February, Amazon with AWS’ CodeWhisperer, and Google with Gemini Code Assist (formerly Duet AI for Developers) dominate the scene. 

Meanwhile, a plethora of coding assistant startups like Magic, Tabnine, Codegen, Refact, TabbyML, Sweep, Laredo and Cognition which reportedly just raised $175 million, flood the market, each vying for attention.Harness and JetBrains, which developed the Kotlin programming language, recently released their own. So did Sentry (Although with more of a cybersecurity twist). 

Despite recent closures like Kite due to challenges with compute costs and model management, the market remains crowded and competitive.

Now the question is, Can they all do business cooperatively, with Augment also in the market? Highly unlikely. Dreadful compute costs alone make the AI coding assistant business a challenging one to maintain. Overruns related to training and serving models forced generative AI coding startup Kite to shut down in December 2022. According to The Wall Street Journal, Even Copilot loses money, to the tune of around $20 to $80 a month per user.

Ostrovsky suggests that Augment has gained momentum, citing usage among hundreds of developers across numerous companies, including Eric Schmidt-backed Keeta, are using Augment in early access. However, the sustainability of this uptake remains uncertain.

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Point worth pondering is, Has Augment made any steps toward solving the technical setbacks plaguing code-generating AI, specially around vulnerabilities.

An analysis carried out by GitClear, the developer of the code analytics tool bearing the same name, has found that coding assistants contribute to an uptick in erroneous code submissions, posing challenges for software maintainers. Furthermore, security experts caution that generative coding tools can aggravate existing bugs and vulnerabilities within projects. Research conducted at Stanford University indicates that developers who accept code recommendations from AI assistants often produce code with lower security standards.

Moreover, concerns persist regarding copyright issues.

 It is evident that Augment’s models were trained using publicly available data, a common practice among generative AI models. However, some of this data may be copyrighted or subject to restrictive licenses. While certain vendors argue that the fair use doctrine shields them from copyright claims, the risk of infringement remains. This has led to coders initiating class action lawsuits alleging violations of open licensing and intellectual property rights.

In response to all this, Ostrovsky says: “Current AI coding assistants don’t adequately understand the programmer’s intent, improve software quality nor facilitate team productivity, and they don’t properly protect intellectual property. Augment’s engineering team boasts deep AI and systems expertise. We’re poised to bring AI coding assistance innovations to developers and software teams.”

Augment, headquartered in Palo Alto, currently employs around 50 individuals, expected to double its workforce by the end of the year.

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