Home / Companies / Radical transparency pays off for GitLab CEO worth $2 billion. Here's the story
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Even in the quirky world of software development, GitLab Inc. stands out. 

The company has no headquarters. It’s released a new version of its software on the 22nd of each month for more than nine years and publishes its entire company handbook -- replete with details of corporate strategy -- online, free for anyone to read and contribute to.

The idiosyncrasies are the work of GitLab’s chief executive officer, Sytse “Sid" Sijbrandij, a Dutch web developer who started exploring a business based around open-source programming tools in 2012. The company is expected to begin trading today in New York after it priced its initial public offering Wednesday at $77 a share, valuing his 19% stake at $2 billion. Other major shareholders include Khosla Ventures and Iconiq Capital.

A spokeswoman for GitLab declined to comment.

“GitLab’s mission is to ensure that everyone can contribute," Sijbrandij, 42, wrote in a letter included in the company’s prospectus. “When everyone can contribute, users become contributors, and we greatly increase the rate of innovation."

Sijbrandij built a pandemic-era business years before Covid-19 reared its head. GitLab’s suite of tools help developers plan, build and secure software through an open-source platform. Centered around the software-building philosophy of DevOps, it has won respect among developers for being almost a one-stop shop. Revenue soared 87% to $152.2 million in the 12 months ended January 2021, aided in part by businesses rushing to shift more processes online during the pandemic. 

WFH advocate

While GitLab is legally based in San Francisco, its 1,503-member workforce is 100% remote and has been since the company’s early days. The firm’s website highlights the global span of its employees, listing each person’s whereabouts down to the town, from Wailuku, Hawaii, to Novosibirsk in Siberia. Sijbrandij emerged during the pandemic as a proselytizer for working from home. GitLab’s Remote Work Playbook, a spinoff of the vaunted company handbook, offers what it calls “unparalleled insight on creating and maintaining a distributed company."

Even GitLab’s origin story has a remote element. The firm was started by two Ukrainian software engineers, Dmitriy Zaporozhets and Valery Sizov, who were trying to create a development tool that made it easy to collaborate with colleagues. 

Zaporozhets at the time was working from his house in Ukraine that lacked running water. Sijbrandij stumbled on the site from the Netherlands in 2012, where he was working as a developer. Impressed with the quality of the code, he joined forces and they soon began to offer services for large companies. 

The three relocated to the Bay Area with a small team in 2015 -- their first experience working in close proximity -- to participate in the Y Combinator accelerator. Sijbrandij stuck around when the program ended while most of the others returned to Europe.

The majority of GitLab’s revenue comes from selling subscriptions to corporations, such as UBS Group AG and T-Mobile US Inc. The company, which has yet to post a profit, had a net loss of $192.2 million in fiscal 2021, a 47% increase from a year earlier. 

“Some companies talk about being a family," Sijbrandij wrote in his CEO letter. “We don’t think that is the right perspective. At GitLab, the relationship is not the end goal. The goal is results."

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