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GitLab Strategy

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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
Why Why      
What Mission, BHAG Vision, Goals Strategy  
How Values How Principles, Assumptions, Pricing, Challenges, Dual Flywheels, KPIs  
When     Sequence Plan


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.

Big Hairy Audacious Goal

Our BHAG over the next 30 years is to become the most popular collaboration tool for knowledge workers in any industry. For this, we need to make the DevOps lifecycle much more user friendly.


Everyone can contribute to digital products with GitLab, to GitLab itself, and to our organization. There are three ways you can Contribute,

  1. Everyone can contribute with GitLab
  2. Everyone can contribute to GitLab, the application
  3. Everyone can contribute to GitLab, the company

Everyone can contribute with GitLab

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.

Everyone can contribute to GitLab, the application

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:

Everyone can contribute to GitLab, the company

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.


  1. Ensure that everyone can contribute in the 3 ways outlined above.
  2. Become the 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 a single application based on convention over configuration.
  4. Offer a sense of progress in a supportive environment with smart colleagues.
  5. Remain independent so we can preserve our values. Since we took external investment, we need a liquidity event. To remain independent, we want to become a public company instead of being acquired.


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:

  1. Popular next generation product where 50% of our categories are at lovable maturity and with 100m SMAU.
  2. Highly performant team with top talent team-member satisfaction above 90% and more than 90% of top talent answering "My team is a highly performing team." in the affirmative.

The top objectives of our OKRs have matched the bold part of this strategy since we started our OKRs in CY2017-Q3.

Breadth over depth

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.


  1. Independence: since we took financing we need to have a liquidity event; to maintain independence we want to become a public company rather than be acquired.
  2. Low burn: spend seed money like it is the last we’ll raise, maintain 2 years of runway.
  3. First time right: last to market so we get it right the first time, a fast follower with taste.
  4. Values: make decisions based on our values, even if it is inconvenient.
  5. Reach: go for a broad reach, no focus on business verticals or certain programming languages.
  6. Breadth over depth: see Breadth over depth.
  7. Speed: ship every change in the next release to maximize responsiveness and learning.
  8. 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.
  9. Open Source Stewardship: be a good steward of GitLab and collaborate with the wider community to improve the product together.

Other Products

GitLab and Meltano are both companies that have taken existing, fragmented software tooling markets, and by offering a consolidated offering instead, have created a new blue ocean.

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:

Category Consolidation

  1. A set of customer needs that are currently served by multiple, independent software tools
  2. Those tools may already be used in some sort of integration with each other, however they do not need to be integrated already
  3. Those tools operate in categories that are typically considered discretely (e.g. with GitLab, SCM was one market, CI another)
  4. There is no current 'winner' at consolidating this market, even if there are some attempts to combine some of the tool categories within said market
  5. The users of the product would also be able to contribute to it e.g. with GitLab, the users are software developers, who can directly contribute code back to the product itself
  6. When initially combined the categories form a consistent and desirable user flow which solves an overriding customer requirement
  7. We can offer a consolidated toolchain more cost effectively for customers, than needing to purchase, run and integrate each tool separately
  8. We can do so profitably for the company

Category Creation

  1. By combining these categories together, a new over-riding category, or market, gets created - the consolidated toolchain;
  2. Further adjacent categories and/or markets can be added to deliver additional user value. For example with GitLab, you could argue that the Defend Category (as of October 2019) is an adjacent category/market to be added;
  3. The sum of the categories combined should have desirable CAGR such that entering the markets will mean entering those on a growth curve;
  4. Not all of the individual categories need to be on the upward curve of the technology adoption lifecycle (TAL) - it is however necessary that there are enough future categories with high CAGR and early on in their adoption lifecycle - see example (very rough) diagram outlining this below: (insert overlapping TALs);
  5. The ideal overlap of the TALs is that the peaks of the curves are as close to each other as possible, so that when one TAL moves to Late Majority, the next TAL is still curving upwards. This allows it to provide an organic growth opportunity for the company in the markets it is entering.

Our goal is to develop this model to be more quantifiable and formulaic, so that we can quickly and easily assess new opportunities.


  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, we play well with others and share the pie with other organizations commercializing GitLab.
  3. Innersourcing is needed and will force companies to choose one solution top-down.
  4. Git will dominate the version control market in CY2020.
  5. A single application where interdependence creates exceptional value 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.


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:

  1. We want to be a good steward of our open source product.
  2. Giving a great free product is part of our go to market, it helps create new users and customers.
  3. Having our scope available to all users increases adoption of our scope and helps people see the benefit of a single application.
  4. Including all major features in Core helps reduce merge conflicts between CE and EE

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.

Customer acceptance

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:

  1. Engaging in illegal, unlawful behavior.
  2. Making derogatory statements or threats toward our community.
  3. Encouraging violence or discrimination against legally protected groups.

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:

Challenges as we grow and scale

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.

Dual flywheels

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.

graph BT; id1(More Users)-->id2(More Revenue); id2(More Revenue)-->id3(More Features); id3(More Features)-.->id1(MoreUsers); id1(More Users)-.->id4(More Contributions); id3(More Features)-->id1(More Users); id4(More Contributions)-.->id3(More Features);

KPIs and Responsible departments

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

Flywheel with two turbos

Compared to other companies GitLab has two turbos that boost the company:

  1. Open Source stewardship, leading to Wider community contributions
  2. Advantages of a single application, leading to more Stages per User

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.

graph TB id1(Wider community contributions Turbo) --> id2 id2(Engineering MR Rate) --> id3 id3(Stage maturity increase) --> id4 id3 --> id9 id4(MAU increase) --> id5 id5(More Licensed users) --> id6 id6(IACV) --> id12 id12(ARR) --> id8 id7(R&D spend ratio) --> id8 id8(R&D investment) --> id11 id11(Team MR rate) --> id2 id9(SpU increase Turbo) --> id5 id9 --> id10 id10(Higher Revenue per licensed user) --> id6 id6 --> id7

Legend with links to the relevant metrics:

  1. Wider community contributions Turbo
  2. Engineering MR rate
  3. Stage maturity increase
  4. MAU increase and note that MAU * SpU = SMAU
  5. SpU increase Turbo which is only possible in a single application with multiple stages
  6. More Licensed users is due to an increase in unlicensed users (MAU) and the increase in SpU leading to a higher conversion from free to paid and a higher gross retention.
  7. Higher Revenue per licensed user due to the Advantages of a single application
  8. IACV is our most important KPI
  9. ARR stands for Annual Recurring Revenue and IACV increases it.
  10. R&D spend ratio becomes higher if the growth rate is higher due to the Hypergrowth Rule
  11. R&D investment is the amount of money spend on Product Management and Engineering excluding Support
  12. Team MR rate: can't find right now, also we need to change Wider community contributions from number to the ratio when we have that.

Publicly viewable OKRs and KPIs

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.

Why is this page public?

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."