GitLab Strategy

Why

GitLab was created because Dmitriy needed an affordable tool to collaborate with his team. He wanted something efficient and enjoyable so he could focus on his work, not the tools. He worked on it from home, a house in Ukraine without running water.

We think that it is logical that our collaboration tools are a collaborative work themselves. More than 1000 people have contributed to GitLab to make that a reality. We believe in a world where everyone can contribute. Allowing everyone to make a proposal is the core of what a DVCS (Distributed Version Control System) such as Git enables. No invite needed: if you can see it, you can contribute.

In summary, our vision is as follows:

We believe that all digital products should be open to contributions, from legal documents to movie scripts and from websites to chip designs. GitLab Inc. develops great open source software to enable people to collaborate in this way. GitLab is integrated and opinionated collaboration software that everyone should be able to afford and adapt. With GitLab, everyone can contribute.

Mission

Change all creative work from read-only to read-write so that everyone can contribute.

How

Everyone can contribute to digital products with GitLab, to GitLab itself, and to our organization.

  1. To ensure that everyone can contribute to digital products we make GitLab joyful to use. It is integrated and opinionated collaboration software. Because there is no need to string together multiple tools you spend less time, have less frustration, there is less bikeshedding, and you get more results.

  2. To ensure that everyone can contribute with GitLab every person in the world should be able to afford it and adapt it. GitLab CE and GitLab.com are both free as in beer so everyone can afford it. GitLab.com comes with free private repos and CI runners, so you don't even have to host it yourself. People should be able to adapt GitLab to fit their needs. That is why GitLab CE is also free as in speech; we distribute the source and use MIT Expat license. But open source is more than a license, that is why we actively help our competitor Perforce to ship GitLab as part of Perforce Helix, and are a good steward of GitLab CE. And we keep all our software open to inspection, modifications, enhancements, and suggestions.

  3. To ensure that everyone can contribute to GitLab itself we actively welcome contributors. We do this by having quality code, tests, documentation, using popular frameworks, offering a comprehensive GitLab Development Kit, and a dedicated GitLab Design Kit. We use GitLab at GitLab Inc., to drink our own wine and make it a tool we continue to love. We celebrate contributions by recognizing a Most Valuable Person (MVP) every month. We allow everyone to anticipate, propose, discuss, and contribute features by having everything on a public issue tracker. We ship a new version every month so contributions and feedback are visible fast. To contribute to open source software people must be empowered to learn programming. That is why we sponsor initiatives such as Rails Girls and Lean Poker.

  4. To ensure that everyone can contribute to our organization we have open business processes that allow all team members to suggest improvements to our handbook. We hire remotely so everyone with an internet connection can come work for us and be judged on results, not presence in the office. We offer equal opportunity for every nationality. We are agnostic to location and create more equality of opportunity in the world. We engage on Hacker News, Twitter, and our blog post comments. And we strive to take decisions guided by our values.

Goals

  1. Ensure that everyone can contribute in the 4 ways outlined above.

  2. Become most used software for the software development lifecycle and collaboration on all digital content by following the sequence below.

  3. Complete our product vision of an opinionated and integrated set of tools based on convention over configuration that offers superior user experience.

  4. Offer a sense of progress in a supportive environment with smart colleagues.

  5. Stay independent so we can preserve our values. Since we took external investment we need a liquidity event. To stay independent we want that to be an IPO instead of being aquired. We want to triple ARR (Annual Recurring Revenue) in 2016&17, and double it in 2018&19&20 (T2D3), in order to IPO in 2020.

Sequence

We want to achieve our goals in the following order:

  1. In 2015 we became the most popular on-premises software development lifecycle solution, and we want to continue that.

  2. We want to become the most revenue generating on-premises software development lifecycle solution.

  3. After on-premises, we want to become the most popular SaaS solution for private repositories (a complete product that is free forever is competitive since network effects are smaller for private repositories than for public ones).

  4. After private repositories, we want to become the most popular SaaS solution for public repositories. This market has a strong network effect since more people will participate if you host your public project on a site with more people. It is easier to overcome this network effect if many people already use GitLab.com for hosting private repositories. Having people on our SaaS helps drive awareness and familiarity with GitLab.

  5. Our BHAG is to become the most popular collaboration tool for knowledge workers in any industry. For this, we need to make the git workflow much more user friendly. The great thing is that sites like Penflip are already building on GitLab to make it.

While we achieve our goals one by one, this doesn't mean we will focus on only one goal at a time. Simultaneously, we'll grow our userbase, get more subscribers for EE, grow GitLab.com, develop products, realize our scope, and make version control usable for more types of work.

During phase 2 there is a natural inclanation to focus only on on-premises since we make all our money there. Having GitHub focus on SaaS instead of on-premises gave us a great opportunity to achieve phase 1. But GitHub was not wrong, they were early. When everyone was focussed on video on demand Netflix focussed on shipping DVD's by mail. Not because it was the future but because it was the biggest market. The biggest mistake they could have made was to stick with DVDs. Instead they leveraged the revenue generated with the DVDs to build the best video on demand service.

We realize our competitors have started earlier and have more capital. Because we started later we need a more compelling product that covers the complete scope, that is integrated out of the box, and that is cloud native. Because we have less capital, we need to build that as a community. Therefore it is important to share and ship our vision for the product. The people that have the most knowledge have to prioritize breadth over depth since only they can add new functionality. Making the functionality more comprehensive requires less coordination than making the initial minimal feature. Shipping functionality that is incomplete to expand the scope sometimes goes against our instincts. However leading the way is needed to allow others to see our path and contribute. So when in doubt, the rule of thumb is breadth over depth, so everyone can contribute.

Principles

  1. Founder control: vote & board majority so we can keep making long term decisions.

  2. Independence: since we took financing we need to have a liquidity event; to maintain independence this needs to be an IPO rather than an acquisition.

  3. Low burn: spend seed money like it is the last we’ll raise, maintain 2 years of runway.

  4. First time right: last to market so we get it right the first time, a fast follower with taste.

  5. Values: make decisions based on our values, even if it is inconvenient.

  6. Free SaaS: to make GitLab.com the most popular SaaS in 2020 it should be largely free.

  7. Reach: go for a broad reach, no focus on business verticals or certain programming languages.

  8. Speed: ship every change in the next release to maximize responsiveness and learning.

  9. Life balance: we want people to stay with us for a long time, so it is important to take time off, work on life balance, and being remote-only is a large part of the solution.

Assumptions

  1. Open source user benefits: significant advantages over proprietary software because of its faster innovation, higher quality, freedom from vendor lock-in, greater security, and lower total cost of ownership.

  2. Open Source stewardship: community comes first, and share the pie with competitors.

  3. Innersourcing is needed and will force companies to choose one solution top-down.

  4. Git will dominate the version control market in 2020.

  5. An integrated tool is superior to a collection of tools or a network of tools. Even so, good integrations are important for network effects and making it possible to integrate GitLab into an organization.

  6. To be sustainable we need an open core model that includes a proprietary GitLab EE.

  7. EE needs a low base price that is publicly available to compete for reach with CE, established competitors, and new entrants to the market.

  8. The low base price for EE is supplemented by a large set of options aimed at larger organizations that get a lot of value from GitLab.

Quarterly OKR

Our quarterly Objectives and Key Results are publicly visible in our Lattice goal tree.

Why public

Our strategy is completely public because transparency is one of our values. We're not afraid of sharing it because as Peter Drucker said: "Strategy is a commodity, execution is an art.".