DevTools GTM Strategy (zero to one)

If you do not know what developer tools are, skip this post.

Why We Are Discussing DevTools GTM Today

After numerous discussions with VCs, angels, founders, and mentors, I’ve noticed a common misconception: the Go-To-Market (GTM) strategy for developer tools is often compared to that of traditional SaaS.

This is a flawed approach. Developer tools cater to a vast and diverse user base, making it challenging to confine them to a specific vertical or business type.

Open-source is a popular route for many in this space. Having worked with open-source developer tool companies, I’ve experienced its benefits and drawbacks firsthand. While open-source can drive strong developer adoption and provide valuable feedback, it often blurs the line between building a free tool and a viable business.

Therefore, it’s perfectly acceptable to remain closed-source unless a clear and meaningful strategy is identified.

Core Principles of Developer Tools:

  • Efficiency & Productivity: They must save money and engineers’ time.
  • System Design: They should encourage good system design by default.

Failing at the first principle means no adoption, and missing the second leads to poor retention. The scale and success of developer tools are closely tied to the amount of time and money they save.

With these basics established, let’s dive deeper

Key Considerations for DevTools GTM:

1 Identify Your User: Is your tool for solo developers or engineering teams? Catering to both from the outset is nearly impossible.

2 Determine the Payer: Will the user and the payer be the same? For team-focused tools, a double opt-in might be necessary.

3 Integration with Existing Tech Stack: Will your tool be a new addition to the existing tech stack, or will it replace and reinvent current practices?

4 Adoption Strategy: Consider the scale of adoption needed. Do you require 100 engineers in an organisation for adoption? How will you achieve mass market adoption? Will your tool necessitate process changes or compatibility upgrades, or will it be plug-and-play?

Answering these questions is crucial before thinking about your GTM strategy. Once defined, you can start small to ensure a rock-solid product. Here is my list of things to take care of:

Feedback Cycle: It is advisable to target smaller companies initially to benefit from a faster product feedback cycle. In the first 0-24 months, you need all the feedback you can get and at speed. Larger organisations can slow down this process. The basic idea is to gather feedback from a wide range of companies quickly, so you don’t get bogged down iterating on overly complex features.

Enterprise Move: This is recommended only after extensive testing with smaller entities. Building for enterprise often requires shifting focus away from core USPs to emphasise security, multi-tenancy, SCIM, SAML, etc. It’s advisable to defer this to a later stage. While some DevTools go straight to enterprise, these are mostly exceptions.

Product-Led Growth (PLG): Most developer tools I have experienced are PLG, so efforts should be directed towards user experience (or Developer Experience) and value delivery. Think about how the product will resonate with developers: Can you automate mundane tasks that engineers do not enjoy? Can it reduce iteration time?

Metrics: The metrics for dev tools are unique and do not overlap with other product categories.

  • Time to Value (TTV) vs. Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): How long does it take for users to fully realise the value of your product after signing up?

  • Natural Rate of Growth: The percentage of your revenue that comes organically through self-service.

  • No Self-Serve? Developers expect it. No exceptions.

  • Product Qualified Leads (PQLs): Users on free plans or trials who haven’t upgraded to premium.


Content is the most crucial way to grow a developer tool. Blog posts, YouTube videos, podcasts—anything you excel at should be prioritised. Engineers love watching other engineers on YouTube and can quickly see the value within the first 10 seconds of your audio/video or the first paragraph of your blog post.

  • Tutorials: Release short tutorials on how to go from zero to one with your developer tool.
  • Use Cases: Solve various use-cases through video or blog.
  • User Interviews: Highlight some users, give them the stage, and watch it go viral.

⠀Avoid the following with content:

  • Lack of a quick-start tutorial.
  • Lengthy tutorials that are exhausting.
  • Highly focused tutorials that don’t provide a clear output.

Support Community

Encourage your super users to train and help others onboard.

At Appsmith’s Discord, many power users guide first-time users and become your ambassadors.

Actively building a community of engineers around your developer tool is essential for growth. Engineers help each other because they understand the frustration of being stuck and value new connections, friendships, and potential future collaborations. It’s a win-win for everyone.

#devtool #gtm #market