Multibillion-dollar Atlassian competitor GitLab is planning an aggressive play for the Australian market, despite the global economic downturn, having already landed a handful of marquee local clients.
GitLab provides IT teams with a platform for software development and engineering, giving teams planning, collaboration and issues tracking tools like Atlassian’s Jira, but also portfolio management, code storage and analytics and a service desk for external users.
The company, which operates completely remotely from all over the world and considers its PO Box in San Francisco its head office, has already hired 48 people in Australia – including a front-end engineer in the Northern Territory town of Katherine.
Speaking to The Australian Financial Review, GitLab co-founder and chief executive Sid Sijbrandij said Australia was a promising market for the tech company, with lots of companies undergoing digital transformations – many of which were now occurring more rapidly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We think there is great potential [for us] in Australia. We’re already working with companies like Infoxchange and Ticketmaster,” he said.
“We don’t have a plan per region, when we hire people we just source certain people who are the best fit. But, I do see it growing in the next couple of years and not just in Sydney and Melbourne.”
The tech start-up, which is backed by Telstra Ventures, was created by Ukrainians Dmitry Zaporozhets and Valery Sizov in 2011 as an open source DevOps lifecycle tool. It was started in Mr Zaporozhets house, which had no running water.
In 2012 Mr Sijbrandij came across GitLab and began approaching organisations to see if they’d use it, the first being Hacker News. In 2014 the GitLab company was officially incorporated and in December of that year it was accepted into Y Combinator’s January 2015 intake, which Mr Sijbrandij considers the turning point for the business.
In 2015 GitLab still had only 10 employees, but since then it has grown to more than 1250 staff across 65 countries and counts companies such as AMP, Siemens and Goldman Sachs as customers.
It has about 100,000 organisations using GitLab and still offers an open source version of the platform. Organisations that want more support and additional features have to pay. GitLab has 15,000 paying enterprise customers.
Last September, it raised $268 million in a Series E round, which valued the business at $US2.75 billion ($3.93 billion). It has also exceeded the $US100 million revenue milestone.
Locally the company has appoined former HP and SAP Asia executive Anthony McMahon as Asia Pacific regional director.
Mr McMahon took on the role after deciding he wanted to move back to Australia with his family.
While the local expansion comes during a challenging business environment, he said he was going to tackle it by prioritising working with GitLab’s existing customers in the region who are navigating the work-from-home transition, while building awareness of the company.
“The good thing for GitLab about being 100 per cent remote is there’s been very little disruption to the way we operate,” Mr McMahon said.
“We have seen a bit of an acceleration where customers are realising there’s extra challenges of getting the same level of productivity in a remote environment and if you don’t have tools to cope with that, it becomes a challenge.
“A lot of customers had business continuity plans with data centre availability, disaster recovery and network infrastructure solutions, but there was less preparedness around people continuity and remote working from home.”
In Australia the business has about 120 paying enterprise customers and up to 300 using its open source free version.
While Atlassian is usually characterised as a competitor, GitLab also has an integration with Jira, meaning customers are able to use both platforms should they wish.
As one of the biggest fully remote workforces in the world, Mr Sijbrandij said GitLab had realised there were three phases of working from anywhere right.
First you start to hold meetings on Zoom and talk on Slack, then you realise you should be recording Zoom meetings and learning how to use Slack properly, and thirdly being intentional about building a remote culture.
Mr Sijbrandij said GitLab was built to be remote and so had things in place like a thanks channel on Slack and random coffee catch-ups on Zoom to replace hallway meet-and-greets where the company pairs together two random employees to have a chat about anything they feel like for 25 minutes.
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It also has a yearly trip for the whole company, which has been held in locations such as Mexico, Crete and South Africa.