Software Eats Software Development

We just invested $100M in GitHub. In addition to the eye-popping number, the investment breaks ground on two fronts:

  • It’s the largest investment we’ve ever made.
  • It’s the only outside investment GitHub has ever taken.

Why did we bet the farm on a series A investment? It starts with the four founders: Tom, Chris, PJ and Scott. They had a vision for a new way to develop software and created a new kind of company to pursue it. With only a handful of people in sales and marketing, the four grew the company to over 100 people, while growing revenue at nearly 300% annually—and profitably nearly the entire way.

How did they do it? They took an old technology category and turned it on its head. Source Code Management (SCM) is the second most fundamental tool for a programmer after compiler and development tools. It stores, versions and branches source code being developed by teams of programmers. At scale, these systems become highly complex and often difficult to manage. In addition, historically SCMs have been anti-social. The No. 1 conversation they generate is referred to as: “Who broke the build?” GitHub solves these two problems and dramatically expands the category by changing the old model in two important ways:

  1. Rather than forcing every development team in the world to deploy their own SCM, GitHub runs one big SCM in the cloud and the management issues vanish.
  2. GitHub organizes projects around people rather than code.

These changes may seem simple at first, but their ramifications have been stunning. Because modern programming tends to be about assembling code—in the form of libraries, open source work, etc.—as well as writing it, code tends to belong in one place where it’s easy to access. That place has become GitHub with over 3 million Git repositories.

By orienting around people rather than repositories, GitHub has become the de facto social network for programmers. If you are using another programmer’s open source libraries, are interested in what she’s doing or just a fan of her work, you can follow her on GitHub. If you need to hire great programmers, why look at resumes when you can view a candidate’s actual work on GitHub?

Beyond the growth and great products is GitHub’s incredible culture. Tom, Chris, Scott and PJ constantly push the limits on the status quo and drive new thinking in terms of management, hiring and clarity of vision. At a16z, we share this vision and I am honored to be joining the board and partnering with the company as they continue to build one of the great software success stories of our time.

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