GitLab's mission, vision, strategy, and planning follow a cadence. Along each time period, we answer various fundamental questions: why, what, how, and when. The matrix of questions vs time period is below, with mappings to the appropriate sections of this page.
|Time Period||30 Years||10 Years||3 Years||1 Year|
|What||Mission, BHAG||Vision, Goals||Strategy|
|How||Values||How||Principles, Assumptions, Pricing, Challenges, Dual Flywheels, KPIs|
We believe in a world where everyone can contribute. We believe that all digital products should be open to contributions; from legal documents to movie scripts, and from websites to chip designs.
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.
We think that it is logical that our collaboration tools are a collaborative work themselves. More than 3,000 people from the wider community have contributed to GitLab to make that a reality.
It is GitLab's mission to change all creative work from read-only to read-write so that everyone can contribute.
When everyone can contribute, consumers become contributors and we greatly increase the rate of human progress.
Our mission guides our path, and we live our values along this path.
In summary, our vision is as follows:
GitLab Inc. develops great open source software to enable people to collaborate in this way. GitLab is a single application based on convention over configuration that everyone should be able to afford and adapt. With GitLab, everyone can contribute.
Everyone can contribute to digital products with GitLab, to GitLab itself, and to our organization. There are three ways you can Contribute,
To ensure that everyone can contribute with GitLab we allow anyone to create a proposal, at any time, without setup, and with confidence. Let's analyze that sentence a bit.
We actively welcome contributors to ensure that everyone can contribute to GitLab, the application. We do this by having quality code, tests, documentation, popular frameworks, and offering a comprehensive GitLab Development Kit and a dedicated GitLab Design System. We use GitLab at GitLab Inc., we dogfood it 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. There are a few significant, but often overlooked, nuances of the everyone can contribute to GitLab, the application mantra:
A group discussion reiterating the importance of everyone being able to contribute:
To ensure that everyone can contribute to GitLab, the company we have open business processes. This allows 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 an 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.
We acknowledge the risks to achieving our goals. We document them in our biggest risks page.
Along the road to realizing our mission of everyone can contribute, our strategic goal is to become the leading complete DevOps platform delivered as a single application. We believe we can achieve this due to the dual flywheels of our open-core model.
As we execute on our strategy, it is important to use our financial targets as guide rails for building a durable business for the long term.
More detail on our product strategy can be found on our direction page.
Our strategy is on a 3 year cadence.
By November 18, 2023 we want to:
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 with a single application based on convention over configuration in a cloud native way. 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. With others contributing, we'll iterate faster to improve and polish functionality over time. So when in doubt, the rule of thumb is breadth over depth, so everyone can contribute.
If you want an analogy think of our product team as a plow way in front that tills the earth. It takes a while for the plants (complete features) to grow behind it. This tilled earth is ugly to look at but it surfaces the nutrients that the wider community needs to be inspired and to contribute.
If we can make a product that is strong with all features from planning to monitoring, and it works well, then we believe we can become the number one solution that companies standardize around. We need to offer the benefits that you can only have with an integrated product. It can be difficult to make the decision to invest in breadth in a new area, when we are not seeing requests from current customers for it. Our CEO explains why it's still important to make investments in breadth in this video.
So breadth over depth is the strategy for GitLab the company. GitLab the project should have depth in every category it offers. It will take a few years to become best in class in a certain space because we depend on users contributing back, and we publish that journey on our maturity page. But that is the end goal, an application of unmatched breadth and depth.
Breadth over depth doesn't mean we should peanut butter our efforts over all the categories we ship in the product. We should concentrate our investments in the categories that have usage, growth, revenue (potential), and (customer) demand. We can have a long tail of categories that are at a minimal maturity that don't get investment until they show traction. While these come with a low level of shame they allow the wider community to contribute and people to express interest. It is much more common for people to contribute to categories that already exist and express interest in categories already shipping in the product. A minimal category is the placeholder to channel energy, and it is our responsiblity to till the earth with minimal iterations.
We would like to find more markets where we can repeat the same model.
The desirable characteristics of such markets fall into two stages: category consolidation and creation. They are:
Our goal is to develop this model to be more quantifiable and formulaic, so that we can quickly and easily assess new opportunities.
Most of GitLab functionality is and will be available for free in Core. Our paid tiers include features that are more relevant for managers, directors, and executives. We promise all major features in our scope are available in Core too. Instead of charging for specific parts of our scope (CI, Monitoring, etc.) we charge for smaller features that you are more likely to need if you use GitLab with a lot of users. There are a couple of reasons for this:
Because we have a great free product we can't have one price. Setting it high would make the difference from the free version too high. Setting it low would make it hard to run a sustainable business. There is no middle ground that would work out with one price.
That is why we have a Starter, Premium, and Ultimate tiers. The price difference between each of them is half an order of magnitude (5x).
We charge for making people more effective and will charge per user, per application, or per instance. We do include free minutes with our subscriptions and trials to make it easier for users to get started. As we look towards more deployment-related functionality on .com it's tempting to offer compute and charge a percent on top of, for example, Google Cloud Platform (GCP). We don't want to charge an ambiguous margin on top of another provider since this limits user choice and is not transparent. So we will always let you BYOK (bring your own Kubernetes) and never lock you into our infrastructure to charge you an opaque premium on those costs.
We firmly adhere to laws including trade compliance laws in countries where we do business, and welcome everyone abiding by those legal restrictions to be customers of GitLab. In some circumstances, we may opt to not work with particular organizations, on a case-by-case basis. Some reasons we may choose not to work with certain entities include, but are not limited to:
This policy is in alignment with our mission, contributor and employee code-of-conduct and company values. Here are some links that may give you some background at how we arrived at this customer acceptance policy:
Our mission is "everyone can contribute." This mission is in alignment with our open source roots and the MIT license our open source software is subject to. The MIT license is a free software license that allows the freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose. This informs our customer acceptance policy.
GitLab has a contributor code of conduct for how to contribute to GitLab, but there are no restrictions on who can contribute to GitLab. We desire that everyone can contribute, as long as they abide by the code of conduct.
GitLab has a set of values for how Gitlabbers strive to conduct themselves. We don’t expect all companies to value collaboration, results, efficiency, diversity, inclusion and transparency in the same way we do. As an open company, “everyone can contribute” is our default and transparency is our check and balance. Transparency means our handbook, issues, merge requests and product roadmap are online for everyone to see and contribute to.
Related topic: At GitLab, we want to avoid an environment where people feel alienated for their religious or political opinions. Therefore, we encourage Gitlabbers to refrain from taking positions on specific religious or political issues in public company forums (such as on the GitLab Contribute stage, the daily company call or Slack channels) because it is easy to alienate people that may have a minority opinion. It is acceptable to bring up these topics in social contexts such as coffee chats and real-life meetups with other coworkers, but always be aware of cultural sensitivities, exercise your best judgement, and make sure you stay within the boundaries of our code of conduct. We always encourage discussion and iteration on any company policy, including this one.
Losing the interest of the open source community would be detrimental to our success. For example, if someone wanted to make a contribution to CE and decided not to merge it because a similar feature already existed in EE, we would have lost out on an important contribution from the community.
We'll also need to adapt with a changing market. Netflix is a great example of this. Everyone knew that video on demand was the future. Netflix, however, started shipping DVDs over mail. They knew that it would get them a database of content that people would want to watch on demand. Timing is everything.
If a new, better version control technology dominates the market, we will need to adopt it and keep an open mind. Hopefully, we will be big enough at that point that people will consider us an integrated DevOps product. If not, we can always change our name, but we are currently investing to make git better for everyone.
For more thoughts on pricing please see our pricing model.
GitLab has two flywheel strategies that reinforce each other: our open core flywheel and our development spend flywheel. A flywheel strategy is defined as one that has positive feedback loops that build momentum, increasing the payoff of incremental effort. You can visualize how the flywheels work in congruence via the diagram below. The KPI and responsibilities table lists the relevant indicator and department for every part of the flywheel.
In the open core flywheel, more features drive more users which in turn drive more revenue and more contributions which lead to more users.
|Part of flywheel||Key Performance Indicator (KPI)||Department|
|More Users||Stage Monthly Active Users||Product|
|More Contributions||Wider community contributions per release||Community Relations|
|More Features||Merge Requests per release per engineer in product development||Engineering and Product Management|
|More Revenue||IACV vs. plan||Sales|
Compared to other companies GitLab has two turbos that boost the company:
The advantage of a single application manifests itself if people start using more stages of the application. In the graph below this is visualized with Stages per User (SpU), knowing that a user using an extra stage triples conversion. Increasing SpU drives both more seats and higher revenue per seat.
In the development spend flywheel, we capture the relationship between merge requests (MRs), changes in ARR from one period to the next (Delta ARR), hyper growth R&D spend and the resulting impact on MRs. We see that more MRs increase stage maturity which drives more monthly active users and stages per user which in turn drives more seats and more revenue which funds R&D spend and leads to more MRs.
Legend with links to the relevant metrics:
To make sure our goals are clearly defined and aligned throughout the organization, we make use of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which are both publicly viewable.
Our near terms plans are captured on our direction page.
Our strategy is completely public because transparency is one of our values. We're not afraid of sharing our strategy because, as Peter Drucker said, "Strategy is a commodity, execution is an art."