🧐 Founder Musings #1: Better Understanding B2D

The attempt here is to pen down my thoughts and experience of building a startup for developers.

🔥Developer Tools - the unsexy segment of the B2B business - a category few have delved into.

The world of startups is constantly buzzing with new trends. Be it founders or be it investors providing capital to founders, there is always a flavour that catches on with the whole industry. B2B and SaaS is a segment that seems to be abuzz lately, specially consumerisation of knowledge workers tools. You have playbooks being created and being used and re-used and sometimes re-invented. But if we take a step back and dig a level deeper into the whole B2B play, there is one particular segment ripened with abundance of opportunity, with no playbooks as charters and has a flavour of both B2B and B2C play - yes I am talking about developer tools.

As founders in this category we like to call it we are about Business to Developer, referred to as B2D henceforth, a niche in it’s every right. Companies in this have never been about the glamorous ARR and MRR’s, they are about community and behavior and knowing your audience. Investments have also not set a precedent of blessing this segment as well as. Other categories like marketing and sales counterparts are more predictable hence attract more capital. However, this seems to be changing now, thanks to successful IPOs by startups in the segment.

Being a B2D founder myself I have now been questioning why is it that I find few who take this path. While countries like US are seeing this space heat up from an investment perspective, in India I still see a lot early capital either not willing to bless the space or simply in the process of building their thesis. The few VC’s who are spear-heading this space In India have made some great bets - Nexus when it comes to companies like Postman and Hasura or Accel with Browserstack or Axilor Ventures with Kloudi.

🤔 With a global population of 23 million, the problems developers face are the barebones problem that automatically get percolated into the DNA of every technology business.

While I talk about availability of capital, even at the founder or startup side of things the space is sparsely populated across any geography.I sometimes wonder why is it so. The attempt with this blog was to pen down my thoughts on this space and the experience of building a B2D startup.

⚒️ B2D is (not) difficult

Almost any SaaS Industry event that I have been to or any non dev-tool but B2B SaaS VC I have spoken to their solemn expression as soon as they hear B2D is almost as-if they have walked into a funeral. The next most popular statement I hear thrown around with a sigh is “Oh but building in this space is difficult”. So here is my attempt at breaking this down, yes nobody has cracked a playbook that guarantees success because the audience that you are building for is not a fan of marketing jargon. They are like any other B2C consumer, they want you to build for their problems, choices and behaviours and these are challenges that any B2C startup faces. The beauty of B2D is the community of loyalists that you see being built sans all the marketing , and there is nothing more sustainable than having that.

🥅 More behavioral understanding, less selling

Developers are a passionate community. They love their tools, while many might say that hey I might as well build this than you giving it to me pre-built, once they find value they become evangelists. Think of them like a mother for your technology, they won’t accept your help and would want to do everything themselves but once you do help them they appreciate the help offered. Building a developer tool is about actually building a great product experience for your user. You don’t have to sell it if it is built on giving value to your user. Developer’s see right through marketing tactics, so don’t try and sell them on your product.

🏗 Building better tools

I say this with the experience of building in this space. Be it the US or India or any geography this space needs change. Our tooling is built to be complicated, there are a lot of problems associated with existing tools. We need more founders to help solve problems of engineering teams. Engineering teams are at the core of every tech business while we are solving for the smallest pinch felt in sales and marketing or any other business teams because we see a direct impact, we need to solve for engineering problems as well. Your tech is what your businesses are built on and paying attention to it is the need of the hour. Sometimes developer tooling can be built just to unburden your developers and empower your ops teams to take care of the smaller issues without learning how to code (an anecdote from personal experience). Tooling for developer is as unbundled and filled with alert fatigue as any other industry, it just needs more problem solvers.

💸 B2D is not only about ARR/MRR

As an addendum and on a somewhat educational note B2D is bottoms-up building. It is about understanding your user and their behavior and building a product that they find value in. It is about finding early-adopters who then evolve into a community of followers and users. Blindly looking for ARR/MRR metrics at the very beginning of a developer tool company's journey is a wrong premise to set your assumptions on. Look for early usage signs and that should guide you towards imagining a better future or solving a pain point. 

Finally Business-to-Developer is a segment that gives you the creative freedom to imagine the change you want to see in a universe on which every tech startup is built. Code, like atoms, is the basic block of creation for all the wonderful ideas that are changing every industry. It is high time we pay a bit more attention to the block on which technological changes are being built.

- Sneh Ganjoo


Appendix

Some interesting reads towards building a better context of this topic. Let us know some of your good finds and we'll keep updating the list.

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