Can an old Terminal learn new tricks? Fig, a company out of Y Combinator’s S20 class, has raised a $2.2M seed round to prove that it can. Their goal: augment (but don’t try to replace) the command line terminal that so many people use every day and make it more powerful and easy to use — especially for teams.
The first of these augmentations is autocomplete. Start typing your command and it’ll respond with a narrowing drop down of things that might complete it, saving you the keystrokes, time and brain juice required to perfectly remember the myriad terminal commands you might use throughout your work day.
If you're changing directories, for example, it can help finish paths as you type; with Git, it can keep track of your most recently tapped branches. If you find yourself punching in the same Google Cloud or AWS commands 10 times a day, it'll put them a tap away. The autocomplete functionality tied to each command line tool can be tweaked to your liking and shared with the wider community. Everything can be done without taking your hands off the keyboard, for those who tend to avoid reaching for a mouse.
Autocomplete is a great feature, though perhaps not enough to fuel an entire company — but it’s just step one, says the team. Fig founder Brendan Falk tells me the goal is to build out an “app ecosystem” for companies that use the terminal as a key part of their daily workflow, charging teams a monthly subscription fee. They’ve built a platform for shareable Markdown-based apps that can a user can launch from the terminal, giving them a visual interface that can be filled out and adjusted before piping output back into the terminal. Autocomplete, as they see it, is just the foot in the door.
“Suddenly I’ve written a little script, but it’s visual, it’s discoverable, I can share that with my team,” says Falk. “Building these internal tools for your development team is really where we want to go here … things like sharing scripts, sharing deployment workflows, sharing monitoring commands. All of this boilerplate stuff that is spread throughout your system, that really is focused within your terminal and should be contained within the terminal.”
Here's a tweet from Fig showing that visual interface in motion:
The team didn't initially set out with their sights set on the terminal. Falk tells me that he and co-founder Matt Schrage had pivoted from idea to idea for months, building out things like a personal CRM, prediction markets and a stock exchange for creators. "We had all of the bad college kid ideas," Falk says, "but they were just not problems we had. They were ideas, as opposed to problems people had."
A bunch of pivots later, says Falk, they realized that each pivot had them back in the terminal typing the same commands, following the same complicated workflows to spin up a new project. "The last major changes to the terminal were in 1978, and it hasn't really changed much since." notes Falk. "Yet literally every hardware engineer, software engineer, data scientist is using it." Could that be the problem they went after?
It seems there's an audience for it; while Fig is still in private beta, Falk tells me they currently have tens of thousands of users on the waitlist to get access.
This round was led by General Catalyst, and backed by YC, SV Angel, a partner at Kleiner Perkins and a bevy of current/former tech execs including Adobe CPO Scott Belsky, Stripe CPO Will Gaybrick, Datadog CEO Olivier Pomel, former Github CTO Jason Warner, former Heroku CEO Adam Gross, Segment co-founder Calvin French-Owen and Eventbrite founder Kevin Hartz.
Fig works with macOS’ built-in terminal app out of the box, but they’ve also got add-on integrations to make it work within things like VSCode, Hyper and iTerm. It won’t work on Windows or Linux just yet, but the team says support for them is on the roadmap.