Q&A with Sid Sijbrandij, Cofounder of GitLab

by Y Combinator10/17/2018

YC posted a list of top alumni companies by valuation, as of October 2018. You can see the full list at https://ycombinator.com/topcompanies.

Here’s a Q&A with Sid Sijbrandij, the cofounder of GitLab, one of the companies featured on the list.

What does GitLab do?

GitLab is the first single application for the entire DevOps lifecycle. Only GitLab enables Concurrent DevOps, unlocking organizations from the constraints of today’s toolchain. GitLab provides unmatched visibility, radical new levels of efficiency and comprehensive governance to significantly compress the time between planning a change and monitoring its effect. This makes the software lifecycle 200% faster, radically improving the speed of business.

GitLab and Concurrent DevOps collapses cycle times by driving higher efficiency across all stages of the software development lifecycle. For the first time, Product, Development, QA, Security, and Operations teams can work concurrently in a single application. There’s no need to integrate and synchronize tools, or waste time waiting for handoffs. Everyone contributes to a single conversation, instead of managing multiple threads across disparate tools. And only GitLab gives teams complete visibility across the lifecycle with a single, trusted source of data to simplify troubleshooting and drive accountability. All activity is governed by consistent controls, making security and compliance first-class citizens instead of an afterthought.

Built on Open Source, GitLab leverages the community contributions of thousands of developers and millions of users to continuously deliver new DevOps innovations.

How many employees does Gitlab have?

GitLab currently has 352 employees. That number is growing as we fill our many job openings.

How many founders?

GitLab has two founders, Sid Sijbrandij, CEO, and Dmitriy Zaporozhets, Engineering Fellow.

What is your most impressive recent product milestone?

Last year, we made a goal to ship the entire DevOps lifecycle and we completed that goal. Over the past few years, GitLab evolved from a code collaboration platform for developers to a single application for the entire DevOps lifecycle.

We are able to accomplish this by iterating quickly and shipping new features on the 22nd of every month. Our latest release, GitLab 11.3 was our 83rd consecutive monthly release where we shipped built-in Maven repositories for Java projects, and protected environments. We also recently shipped Auto DevOps, a feature that provides a complete delivery pipeline out of the box by automatically detecting the language of the code, then builds, tests, and measures quality, scans for security and licensing issues, packages, instruments, and deploys the application.

What is the larger impact / societal impact of your product in the space you work within?

Our mission is to change all creative work from read-only to read-write so that 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. GitLab 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.

What’s an interesting element of GitLab’s company culture?

GitLab is a remote-only company with employees around the world in 45 countries. Our remote culture is governed and protected by our values of collaboration, results, efficiency, diversity, integration, and transparency. We believe in radical transparency and as such, our company culture and how we run our company is documented in our public handbook with more than 1000 pages.

Looking back, what motivated you to start Gitlab?

GitLab was created because of a need. Our co-founder, Dmitriy, needed a tool to collaborate with his team. When I first saw GitLab, I thought it was natural that a collaboration tool for programmers would be open source so you can contribute to it. I asked the Hacker News community if they were interested in using GitLab.com and hundreds of people signed up for the beta. After that, large organizations started running GitLab and asked for more features. At the same time, Dmitriy tweeted out to the world he wanted to work on GitLab full time so we teamed up and introduced GitLab Enterprise Edition with the features asked for by larger organizations.

Is what you’re working on now the original idea or did you pivot?

GitLab started as a collaboration platform for developers but has grown into a single application for the entire DevOps lifecycle.

Were there moments where you thought the company might die? Describe one of those and anything you learned from it.

We never thought the company might die. But after the first year it was clear that our SaaS offering in the form of GitLab.com was not making enough money. Luckily we had large organizations that self-managed their GitLab installation who contacted us for more features. So we changed our model to cater to them.

What was a particularly important insight you had about your market that made your product work?

We didn’t anticipate a single product would have all these emergent benefits in visibility, efficiency, and governance for our users. We only combined our two products into one because one of our engineers said it would be more efficient for our own development process. Only after doing this we gained the insight in how much better it was for our users.

What’s one piece of advice you’d share with a young founder?

I sold one of my early startups and finished university, life is long and most people should stay in school.


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