The modern world is built on software. Today, every industry, business, and function within a company is dependent on it. To remain competitive and survive, nearly all companies must digitally transform and become experts at building and delivering software. Everywhere, organizations have teams of designers, developers, testers, and many more collaborators working together to create software solutions that make their businesses run more efficiently. Over the years, software development methodologies have evolved from rigid and slow sequential processes to far more iterative and collaborative ways of working.
GitLab has helped facilitate this evolution, having pioneered The DevOps Platform, a fundamentally new approach to software development, that empowers organizations to maximize the overall return on development efforts by delivering software faster and efficiently, while strengthening security and compliance. With GitLab, every team in an organization can collaboratively plan, build, secure, and deploy software to drive business outcomes faster with complete transparency, consistency, and traceability.
GitLab now has an estimated 30 million registered users and more than 1 million active license users, along with an active community of more than 2,500 contributors. With an open core business model, GitLab leverages a dual flywheel strategy to continue advancing The DevOps Platform. By leveraging both development spending from its research and development team members as well as contributions from its vast community, the company creates a virtuous cycle that leads to more features, which leads to more users, leading back to more contributions.
In 2011, GitLab’s co-founder Dmitriy Zaporozhets needed a tool to collaborate with his team. Wanting something efficient so he could focus on his work, together with fellow co-founder, Sid Sijbrandij, he started to build GitLab as a solution. It was created as an open-source collaboration tool for programmers where users could contribute to it. Initially, it was a source code management solution to collaborate within a team on software development that evolved to an integrated solution covering the software development life cycle, and then to the whole DevOps life cycle.
Large organizations running GitLab were soon asking the company to add features that they needed, so it introduced GitLab Enterprise Edition and began releasing updates every month. Ten years on, the company averages more than 650 code contributions a month from over 2500 wider community contributors. The company itself now has over 1400 team members in 65 countries and regions around the world, as it continues to support and educate businesses about the benefits of remote work by leading key discussions with companies, VCs, and universities since the beginning of the covid pandemic. In October 2021, GitLab Inc. became a publicly traded company after its listing on the Nasdaq.
Co-founder Sid Sijbrandij is GitLab’s current chief executive officer and board chair. Sid was instrumental in the commercialization of GitLab, and by 2015 he led the company through Y Combinator’s graduate school for start-ups. Under his leadership, the company has grown to millions of users from start-ups to global enterprises.
Sid is joined by chief technology officer, Eric Johnson, who after helping multiple start-ups scale to various levels, including acquisitions and an IPO, arrived at GitLab in 2017 and is responsible for the company’s vast team of software engineers, designers, and support personnel responsible for the DevOps platform.
By creating a single application that brings together development, operations, IT, security, and business teams onto a single interface to deliver desired business outcomes, GitLab has facilitated a step function change in how organizations plan, build, secure, and deliver software. The DevOps Platform accelerates customers’ ability to innovate and create business value by reducing their software development cycle times from weeks to minutes. It removes the need for point tools and delivers enhanced operational efficiency by eliminating manual work, and increasing productivity, while building a culture of innovation and speed. The platform also embeds security earlier into the development process, improving customers’ software security, quality, and overall compliance.
The platform has broad use across organizations as it helps:
– product and business teams to work with developers to introduce new features and drive successful business outcomes
– chief technology officers modernize their DevOps environment and drive developer productivity
– chief information officers adopt microservices and cloud-native development to improve the efficiency, scale, and performance of their software architecture
– chief information security officers reduce security vulnerabilities and deliver software faster
– organizations attract and retain top talent by allowing people to focus more time on their job and less time managing tools
The majority of GitLab’s customers begin by using Create and Verify. Developers use Create to collaborate on the same code base without conflicting or accidentally overwriting each other’s changes. Create also maintains a running history of software contributions from each developer to allow for version control. While teams use Verify to ensure code changes go through defined quality standards with automatic testing and reporting. GitLab believes this system of recording code coupled with high engagement with developers has become a competitive advantage, with the single application creating interdependence and adoption across more stages of the DevOps lifecycle, such as Package, Secure, and Release. As more stages are addressed within a single application, the benefits of the platform are enhanced.
GitLab is available to any company, regardless of the size, scope, and complexity of its deployment and it is used globally by organizations across a broad range of industries. To reach, engage and help drive success at each customer, the company’s sales force is complemented by strategic hyper-scale partnerships, including Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services, or AWS, which offer The DevOps Platform on their marketplaces. GitLab also benefits from strategic alliance partnerships, which resell the platform to large enterprise customers, while strong channel partnerships range from large global systems integrators to regional digital transformation specialists, and volume resellers. The company employs a land-and-expand sales strategy with customer journeys typically beginning with developers and then expanding to more teams and up to senior executive buyers.
GitLab exists in large part due to its vast and growing community of open-source contributors around the world. It actively works on growing its community engagement by operating with intentional transparency. It makes the company’s strategy, direction, and product roadmap available to the wider community, encouraging and soliciting their feedback. By making information public and generating contributions and collaboration from users and customers, GitLab drives rapid innovation with its development strategy, leveraging learnings to establish a swift feedback loop to continually improve the platform.
Furthermore, this large open source installed base leads to paying customers. GitLab provides users of the platform with a free tier to encourage adoption and increase overall awareness. This leads to deep familiarity and affinity for the platform, which serves as a highly targeted and efficient source to convert prospective customers into paid clients. The company believes this provides a competitive advantage as the more users who can act as advocates the easier it is to secure new paying customers or expand within existing customers.
By maintaining this culture of innovation, GitLab continues to hold a leadership position that is critical in light of major secular industry trends. Digital transformation is now a board-level imperative, and The DevOps Platform is at the center of it. GitLab is helping customers successfully embrace the benefits of more effective DevOps processes, pursue their digital transformation strategies, and create new business value with speed and efficiency.
In addition, the platform is designed in a way that enables customers to manage and secure their entire DevOps workflow across any hybrid or multi-cloud environment. This enables customers to select the best cloud provider for them and optimize for their best features when deciding where to host their DevOps projects and embrace the full benefits of a multi-cloud strategy. And as organizations move more workloads to the cloud and consume technology as a service, GitLab believes its SaaS offering will continue to grow at a faster rate than its self-managed offering. As a result, it intends to continue making investments in research and development to enhance new SaaS features, as well as in sales and marketing, to drive further adoption of the SaaS offering.
GitLab’s growth strategy is currently focused on continued investment in advancing the adoption of the platform. In addition to the hiring of top technical talent to advance feature maturity across more stages of the DevOps lifecycle, the company also recently acquired Opstrace, Inc., to deliver functionality in the monitor stage, leveraging the entire platform to provide advanced observability. Driving growth through enhanced sales and marketing is also a priority as nearly all organizations modernize to DevOps platforms provides an enormous opportunity. With a focus on replacing legacy systems within larger organizations, GitLab will also continue to acquire users with its free product and subsequently convert those users to paying customers. Given customers realize the benefits of a single application and then typically increase their spending by adding more users or purchasing higher-tiered plans, driving increased expansion within the existing customer base will also provide considerable opportunities.
GitLab has also been investing in its global partner ecosystem, composed of hyper-scalers and cloud providers, technology and independent software vendor partners, global resellers, and system integrators. It plans to continue investing in building out the partner program to expand its distribution footprint, broaden the awareness of the platform, and more efficiently add new customers. The company also believes there is a significant opportunity to continue to expand internationally. International revenue increased 57% in 2021 and this trend is expected to continue by increasing investments in international sales and marketing operations including headcount in the EMEA and APAC regions.
GitLab has experienced rapid growth in recent years and in FY22 generated revenue of $252.7 million, up 66% from $152.2 million in FY21, as the company continued to invest in growing the business following its public listing. The momentum has continued in the opening period of FY23 after delivering a record quarter of $87.4 million, driven by a substantial shift in how enterprises are developing, operating, and securing software by moving to a platform strategy.
In addition to accelerating revenue growth, GitLab continues to improve operating leverage. Underpinning this acceleration in growth was a higher velocity of new customer wins, as well as seat expansion and tier upgrades of existing customers. Customers with more than $5,000 and $100,000 of annual recurring revenue both increased by more than 60% year-on-year, while the company’s dollar-based net retention rate exceeded 130% in the first quarter of the year.
Looking ahead, GitLab is forecasting total revenue for the second quarter to be within the range of $93.5 million to $94.5 million, while revenue for FY23 is to be within the range of $398 million to $402 million, which is in line with consensus estimates for year-over-year growth of almost 60%. Loss per share estimates are also expected to improve, increasing by 26% to $0.89, tempering from $1.20 in 2021.
GitLab operates in a highly-competitive environment, which includes deep-pocketed rivals such as Microsoft’s GitHub, Atlassian, IBM, and Oracle. Although GitHub is the dominant platform among public repositories, GitLab is carving out a niche for itself with its platform approach focused on DevOps. Today, more and more companies are choosing a hybrid approach toward cloud and on-premise deployments, and so, GitLab is well placed to win market share due to the interoperability of its platform.
GitLab has built an impressive product that plays a critical role for not only developers, but also major stakeholders across an organization. With the growing importance of digital transformation, GitLab plays an integral role in the software development process for companies of all types and sizes. Benefitting from a deeply embedded go-to-market strategy that takes advantage of a vast community to build loyalty, it appears the company’s momentum and impressive growth are showing little signs of waning.