GitHub CEO: We're helping software eat the world

CEO Tom Preston-Werner explains the appeal of his cloud-based code repository, why Andreessen Horowitz invested $100 million, and what 'optimizing for happiness' really means

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That's critical because we want people in enterprises using essentially the same version of GitHub they're using online. A lot of those enterprise users are also going to be users, and they don't want to be switching back and forth and saying, "Oh, where are all the features? They're missing from my enterprise install and that makes me unhappy." Pushing for enterprise is huge. Also, there is some stuff we're going to be working on in the enterprise space that I can't really talk about, but some of the money will be going there.

Knorr: In this day and age lots of enterprises are subscribing to public cloud services. Why wouldn't you expect them to simply use the public cloud version of GitHub?

Preston-Werner: Well, they will go that direction eventually. But the problem is that this is people's code. People see their code as their most valuable intellectual property. They're still going to be very hesitant to put that outside of their own firewalls due to either their perception of the Internet as a scary place or legal requirements, SOX compliance issues, HIPAA compliance-type things.

Knorr: Obviously you still want it to be remotely accessible and collaborative, so when you install it, you're setting up a separate instance similar to what you're hosting, right?

Preston-Werner: That's exactly right. [The enterprise version] is a whole GitHub just for your company. But within a company you get those same benefits of having a social coding environment. People can see everything that's going on throughout all the projects they can access. You can follow and get updates when things happen to those projects. You can collaborate on the code through pull requests, where you create a branch, you do some development, you issue a pull request to that project -- which is where you can discuss the changes that you've made. Essentially it's a way to discuss what you've changed. That's huge because it allows for code reveal in a really natural way.

Knorr: Up until now your enterprise traction has been more or less organic?

Preston-Werner: We don't do a lot of external marketing. Really is the marketing for GitHub Enterprise. All of the developers who are using for open source or working on something with their friends, now they're working in an enterprise and they're using something terrible and to go their manager and say, "Hey, we need to get GitHub Enterprise."

Knorr: The classic pull model for software as a service. Individuals discover it and they sell it to management. So part of the investment is going to be for selling directly to management?

Preston-Werner: That's part of it -- marketing efforts. Money will be going into marketing efforts to get in touch with the CTOs and CIOs of larger companies just so that they know GitHub exists. When developers come to a manager and say, "Hey, we need GitHub," the managers have seen the marketing and can say, "OK, I know what GitHub is, I know it's legitimate and let's have a discussion about it," instead of saying, "I don't know what GitHub is, get back to work."

Knorr: How do you plan on making that pitch to the enterprise?

Preston-Werner: If we can demonstrate to managers of large companies that we can help them build software more quickly and with greater developer happiness, then they will buy GitHub products. Simple, right?

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