4 Steps to GitMate

by Sebastian Latacz

Hooray, our first GitMate Blog entry! This entry will give you a brief history of what happened so far. It will also show you how we approach our product and business development.

In 2013 my Co-founders Lasse Schuirmann and Fabian Neuschmidt founded an open source linter framework named coala. In 2015 coala was gaining momentum: More and more people from around the world contributed, developers discussed coala on message boards and at open source conferences and we gained several GSoC scholarships.

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History of GitHub stars for coala. Graph created via star-history by timqian

coala helped developers to improve their code quality, but it had to be executed manually every single time - something we originally wanted to avoid by putting all the linters into one framework. It was hard to integrate coala into legacy codebases as well, as the local execution doesn’t support an incremental workflow well. Eventually, Lasse had the idea to offer coala as a Plugin for Git-Hosting-Services like GitHub or GitLab. coala should become your little coding buddy helping you out: GitMate was born.

We started working on the business model for GitMate. We imagined this great product, used the Business Model Canvas to sort out our approach and created a financial plan. It all looked great and numbers showed that GitMate could be a thriving business within just a few years. But all this was based on our subjective assumptions. Sure, they were critical. But still, all of this was made up in our own little world. How could we check whether these assumptions will stand in real life? We could build and try to sell it, but there are enough stories of startups which failed to meet market demand and we didn’t want to spend our time working on something nobody wants. Just moving along without having facts backing you business model didn’t feel right.

I was looking for a topic for my MBA thesis. I got into business model- and product development methods and decided that the thesis would be a great chance to dive into them. I compared Design Thinking (Platner, etc.) with Customer Development (Blank / Ries / Maurya) and Disciplined Entrepreneurship (Aulet) and figured out, that Customer Development would work best for a web-based startup like us.

The idea of Customer Development is to verify your business ideas by talking to potential customers from day one. That way you verify your product before you build and develop it in close cooperation with your target group. Framed into 4 Steps:

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The Customer Development Model

Steve Blank, the Godfather of Customer Development gives a great introduction in this video. Also, I can highly recommend “Lean Startup” by Eric Ries, which explains the approach and shows how he used the method for his Company and “Running Lean” by Ash Maurya which explains a hands-on approach to Customer Development for web startups.

We kicked off our Customer Development in November 2016. It turned out to be a bumpy road, but we made progress and gained some valuable insights already. There will be a post about this in two weeks. So stay tuned at blog.gitmate.io