It’s always interesting to look back on the journey of one of our portfolio companies through the lens of the times we’re living in today. Thinking about GitLab, one can only conclude that founder and CEO Sid Sijbrandi was nothing short of prescient–about where the world was headed and the future of work.
We met Sid and the GitLab team back in September of 2018, just as GC was developing a view on the developer software and DevOps space. We were captivated by Sid, the impressive team he had assembled, and their unique ‘full bundle’ approach to building the developer toolchain. We thought their business model and comprehensive product set were big advantages–which the marketplace has proven to be true.
But even more impressive than their work was GitLab’s unique way of working. The 9-person team that started in a house after Y Combinator in 2015 had simply stopped showing up to the office one day. Early on, the team realized that there was simply no real need to work together in person. The time saved on commuting could be rechanneled into productivity. The (at that time) new tools like Slack, Zoom and Google docs allowed for new ways to collaborate remotely. The ability to recruit outside of San Francisco allowed for lower expenses for the business, better quality of life for the employees, and greater diversity of thought for the team. And their groundbreaking ‘work from anywhere’ proposition gave them a real advantage in recruiting and engaging best in class developers.
GitLab’s journey has been a fascinating and not uneventful one. The systems and processes that govern in person work needed to be reimagined and forged from scratch for a completely remote working environment. GitLab was a pioneer in creating a true employee driven culture and committing to a level of radical transparency and open communication that would be unthinkable in most traditional company structures. They maintain a 3,000-page publicly available online handbook that serves as a platform for proposing, discussing, and documenting decisions around nearly every aspect of the company–evidence that they were light years ahead of others in understanding the new say and sway of employees in the workplace. None of these decisions were without hiccups…but it laid the groundwork for what has now largely been accepted as best practices for the modern workplace.
What once was a source of fascination about an odd experiment has become a blueprint for the new distributed work economy. Indeed, GitLab’s ‘lessons learned’ were well documented and newly examined as the world was forced to adapt to the model they had forged from the very beginning. Today GitLab is one of the world’s largest entirely remote work companies and a shining example for how you create culture, empower employees, drive innovation and build an extraordinary business in an entirely new way.
It’s not surprising that Sid and the GitLab team have spawned other companies designed for today’s new way of working. Remote.com, another GC portfolio company, was founded by Job van der Voort, the former VP of product at GitLab and given early support and mentorship by the GitLab team. We can imagine many other businesses being formed in the wake of GitLab’s trailblazing efforts.
We are delighted for Sid and the entire GitLab team as they mark another milestone today as they become a publicly traded company today (GTLB). Not knowing it at the time, GitLab created a purpose-built organization for a world none of us saw coming. Prescient, indeed.
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