GitLab is a company that doesn’t pull any punches or try to be coy. It actually has had a page on its website for some time stating it intends to go public on November 18, 2020. You don’t see that level of transparency from late-stage startups all that often. Today, the company announced a huge $268 million Series E on a tidy $2.75 billion valuation.
Investors include Adage Capital Management, Alkeon Capital, Altimeter Capital, Capital Group, Coatue Management, D1 Capital Partners, Franklin Templeton, Light Street Capital, Tiger Management Corp. and Two Sigma Investments.
The company seems to be primed and ready for that eventual IPO. Last year, GitLab co-founder and CEO Sid Sijbrandij said that his CFO Paul Machle told him he wanted to begin planning to go public, and he would need two years in advance to prepare the company. As Sijbrandij tells it, he told him to pick a date.
“He said, I’ll pick the 16th of November because that’s the birthday of my twins. It’s also the last week before Thanksgiving, and after Thanksgiving, the stock market is less active, so that’s a good time to go out,” Sijbrandij told TechCrunch.
He said that he considered it a done deal and put the date on the GitLab Strategy page, a page that outlines the company’s plans for everything it intends to do. It turned out that he was a bit too quick on the draw. Machle had checked the date in the interim and realized that it was a Monday, which is not traditionally a great day to go out, so they decided to do it two days later. Now the target date is officially November 18, 2020.
As for that $268 million, it gives the company considerable runway ahead of that planned event, but Sijbrandij says it also gives him flexibility in how to take the company public. “One other consideration is that there are two options to go public. You can do an IPO or direct listing. We wanted to preserve the optionality of doing a direct listing next year. So if we do a direct listing, we’re not going to raise any additional money, and we wanted to make sure that this is enough in that case,” he explained.
Sijbrandij says that the company made a deliberate decision to be transparent early on. Being based on an open-source project, it’s sometimes tricky to make that transition to a commercial company, and sometimes that has a negative impact on the community and the number of contributions. Transparency was a way to combat that, and it seems to be working.
He reports that the community contributes 200 improvements to the GitLab open-source product every month, and that’s double the amount of just a year ago, so the community is still highly active in spite of the parent company’s commercial success.
It did not escape his notice that Microsoft acquired GitHub last year for $7.5 billion. It’s worth noting that GitLab is a similar kind of company that helps developers manage and distribute code in a DevOps environment. He claims in spite of that eye-popping number, his goal is to remain an independent company and take this through to the next phase.
“Our ambition is to stay an independent company. And that’s why we put out the ambition early to become a listed company. That’s not totally in our control as the majority of the company is owned by investors, but as long as we’re more positive about the future than the people around us, I think we can we have a shot at not getting acquired,” he said.
The company was founded in 2014 and was a member of Y Combinator in 2015. It has been on a steady growth trajectory ever since, hauling in more than $426 million. The last round before today’s announcement was a $100 million Series D last September.