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This company was entirely remote with 1,300 employees long before the coronavirus – here’s how they did it


The founders of GitLab, Dmitriy Zaporozhets and Sid Sijbrandij


Many companies have struggled to adapt as all of their employees have started working remotely.

This is not the case for GitLab, one of the largest enterprise software start-ups in the world. He has no offices. He’s been estranged since his debut in 2014.

So when the pandemic hit, GitLab was prepared. Employees already had adequate spaces at home where they could work.

Like many other companies, GitLab relies on virtual communication tools such as Soft and Zoom. Employees just use these tools in a very specific way.

They follow the policies of selecting the appropriate emoticons to react to chat messages and allocating a certain number of minutes to conclude video calls. Its website regularly posts and updates detailed instructions on how to onboard new employees, and a buddy system keeps new hires from being overwhelmed. Many of the company’s activities are recorded in GitLab’s own open source software, which companies can use to manage their source code. Face-to-face meetings are rare.

“We would get together from time to time with people living nearby, and about once every 9-10 months with the whole company,” said Job van der Voort, former vice president of product at GitLab, in an email interview.

“It was a great time to get to know other sides of people, but it’s true that we’ve already done a lot of work on this through more occasional Zoom calls, for example.”

Even though some employees are taking care of their children in addition to their current responsibilities, productivity has increased since Covid struck, GitLab co-founder and CEO Sid Sijbrandij told CNBC in an interview on Monday.

“After interviewing people, it looks like they’re bored,” he says. “There isn’t much else to do, so people tend to work harder to counter that.”

And it’s not a small group. GitLab has more than 1,300 employees, having raised $ 436 million from Goldman Sachs and other investors. Sijbrandij wants to make sure that the employees stay together and don’t feel too isolated. There are new daily gratitude and sanity channels on Slack, and soon there will be a day when family members can join Zoom internal calls.

“With the kids at home, the kids are super curious,” he said.

GitLab employees sometimes organize thematic social calls through Zoom.


Transparency and IPO date

One of the GitLab six core values it is transparency.

GitLab organizational chart is public. His Infrastructure and marketing the proposals are public. And employees are constantly reviewing and updating a publicly available manual for all business activities. There is a history of earlier versions of documents that reveal who said what. The idea is to do things that anyone inside GitLab can review at their convenience. This makes it less important to attend every video call, for example.

Van der Voort, whose start-up simplifies the process of hiring employees in many countries, liked the strategy of opening everything by default while he was at GitLab. He thinks this is a requirement for a totally remote business. “It makes sure you don’t run into the ‘who can give me permission to see this thing?’ question, and gives confidence and ownership to all employees, ”he wrote.

One of the most important pages in the GitLab manual deals with the company’s strategy for going public. In 2015, when it was still a small start-up, GitLab revealed its intention to go public on Wednesday, November 18, 2020. The specificity surprised people. It showed outsiders that the business was serious. For employees, this meant that while they could work from home, they had to be serious about making and selling products that many people would be willing to pay for.

Then the coronavirus appeared. In March, the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic, and businesses around the world have switched to operating remotely like GitLab has been doing for years. Stock indices fell as the economy contracted, and people lost their jobs in tech companies and other industries. Some GitLab customers have delayed their purchases or reduced their orders.

With the odds of a successful market debut in 2020 appearing less certain, employees began to ask Sijbrandij about GitLab’s IPO plan, Murph said.

On May 13, Tony Righetti, head of investor relations at GitLab, who previously led investor relations at an application monitoring software company New Relic, made a change to the GitLab manual. Details of the timing of the IPO have been removed.

“We continue to believe that being a public company is integral to achieving our mission,” says the new language. “As a public company, GitLab would benefit from better brand awareness, access to capital, shareholder liquidity, autonomy and transparency. That said, the strength of our business model gives us some latitude to select a favorable public offering environment and not be liable on a specific date. In order to maintain the flexibility mentioned in this section, we have chosen to remove the dates previously targeted for these objectives. “

While it may appear that the company has withheld important information from the public, Murph said that by editing it, GitLab was, in fact, transparent. GitLab’s commitment to transparency, and its use of software that records all adjustments, helps to see who changed the IPO language and when.

For Sijbrandij, the target had achieved its objective for GitLab. It grew to over $ 100 million in annualized recurring revenue.

“Today we have enough income to go public,” he said. The company hired people like Righetti who know how state-owned companies work, and it became clear that the IPO date was not a good idea. So the date is gone.

GitLab has not given up on its goal of being publicly traded, despite the lack of offices.

“We will come out when we and the markets are ready. We will not give you a warning like all other companies,” Sijbrandij said.

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