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DevOps Tools / Software Development

Product-Led Growth for Dev-First Business: Is It Inevitable?

Product-led growth is doing to the software tools market what DevOps did — bringing the two functions closer together to improve the end-to-end experience.
Oct 13th, 2022 8:00am by and
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If you haven’t heard about product-led growth (PLG) yet, you soon will. It’s doing to the software tools marketing and products worlds what DevOps did for software engineering and operations teams — bringing the two functions closer together with the goal of improving the end-to-end experience. Adam LaGreca recently organized a panel to explore this rapidly evolving space within the world of building, marketing and adopting developer tools.

As evident from the fast-growing CNCF landscape, developer tools remain an interesting and evolving niche. While the focus on developer tooling remains constant, the business models of the companies building these tools have changed over the years, evolving from the focus on golf course-driven large enterprise sales, to the “developer seat” focused approach in SaaS, to the latest usage-based pricing and subscription models.

There have been many methods of marketing and selling these developer tools. The latest player to enter the game is product-led growth, a model driven by bottoms-up adoption, where growth teams focus on reducing friction-enabling users to experience value as quickly as possible and eliminate churn.

LaGreca recognized the value of this focus from his experience working with a large range of organizations:

“I have been working in the developer tool space for a decade now. Starting with DigitalOcean back in 2013, when developers were spinning up $5 servers and migrating their projects off of AWS because of how fast and friendly it was to spin up cloud infrastructure on DO.

“That’s when I fell in love with what’s known as ‘bottom-up’ adoption. Call it what you want, but it’s even more true today than it was then that software engineers don’t want to speak with sales. They often don’t even have the buying authority for major enterprise contracts, which are often clunky and can lock in vendors for years.”

PLG companies tend to lean into a different sales motion than that of traditional enterprise software companies. A PLG product is meant to be easy for the user to adopt and upgrade, without needing to talk to a sales rep. This means fewer cold calls from reps and more freedom for developers to explore the product on their own in trial periods. As noted by LaGreca:

“Devs and DevOps want to hit the ground running (this is becoming more and more true within security as well). They want to try your product and assess the value, totally self-service — and then swipe a credit card if they deem the tool valuable. In this context, the product has to do a lot more to sell itself…”

So, if the sales folks are not cold calling, where do they spend their time and how does the business make money?

We put together a panel of thought leaders and practitioners in the product-led growth space to answer this question and get to the bottom of what’s hype and what’s actionable.

The panel includes:

  • Or Weis, CEO and a co-founder of Permit, a full-stack permissions framework that makes it quick and intuitive for developers to bake access control into their products and empower the rest of their organization with low code. He is also the founder of Upwards, a community of founders interested in PLG.
  • Puneet Gupta, CEO and a co-founder of Amberflo, whose mission is to help the world transition to a more fair and transparent business model in the form of usage-based pricing (UBP). He previously worked at AWS, where he scaled Tier 1 services with a PLG motion.
  • Rez Khan, chief product officer and a co-founder of Pace, which enables B2B software companies everywhere to take advantage of the efficiency of product-led growth with the efficacy of enterprise sales. He previously worked for MongoDB, which scaled in popularity via a PLG business model.
  • Kelsey Evans, director of growth marketing at Ambassador Labs, a developer-first startup that builds tools for teams shipping cloud native applications on Kubernetes. Evans leads a team of engineers, data analysts and growth marketers to build, maintain and optimize the product-led growth funnels for Ambassador Edge Stack API Gateway, Telepresence and Ambassador Cloud.

Our panelists share tips on getting started with PLG, answer questions about pricing models and dive deep into what cultural changes an organization can anticipate when moving to product-led growth, particularly between product, marketing and sales.

Ready to dive into product-led growth? Watch the video discussion below:

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TNS owner Insight Partners is an investor in: Ambassador Labs.
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