A case study and review based on the examples of Snowplow, dbt, Rudderstack, and Iceberg
Interesting Timo. Agree with you on dbt in the sense that the product didn't have a clear direction between the demand for better UX on the cloud app which they had a huge disadvantage, and the pull towards metrics, with no clear value capture mechanism in that direction? The other products I'm less familiar with so I found your analysis insightful.
Another one to your list is Posthog. At the start they had an open source "demo" version, with certain features pay-walled, they've sunset a few and are now open source on a constrained version of the product.
I found your dbt & Rudderstack observations interesting.
It's not uncommon for startups to go after markets that are not yet mature, because once they are, it takes big budgets to compete. Think how many backlinks the most frequent terms have. If you anticipate well, you can be building them long before the traffic is there. So I think it's pretty standard for a go-to-market strategy to focus on a single growth pillar initially. Be that acquisition. Retention. Or Monetisation. And you may be right about DBT's approach. Looks like they followed Tim Ferris's blue print for how to build a movement. Step 1: Create a phenomena (they did this with a new tool). Step 2: Create a community, they did this with champion enablement. Step 3: Monetise. Which is where you are pointing out that they're struggling here.
I don't have my go-to monetisation diagnosis dashboards with their data infront of me, so I can't comment specifically on what their specific challenges are. But based on your observations, you're saying that their monetisation is broken, because the 'what' do we charge for, isn't enough, therefore adds too much friction. It's possible. I would not call this "they no clear go-to-market strategy" though. I'd say they hit monetisation challenges. When cash is pouring in, this is less of an imminent growth blocker. Think Facebook. But if the macro changes and the need for self sustaining growth loops place more emphasis to get monetisation right, then it's a challenge to be solved. A difficult one, and one that's best viewed as an iterative state until the business finds model / market fit. Reforge have a mountain of material on this, but I agree with you that unless you have deep pockets, monetisation can break a growth loop. Data space is notorious for needing 'market education' investments to take a target prospect and nudge them to 'in-market'. This is a high CAC channel because we're talking about things like enterprise technical content, CSMs, enterprise sales ect. So if the business does not earn enough ARPA or earn it back fast enough, what follows is slow growth. Creating more opportunities for others to spot gaps and fill them.
Re Rudderstack. I just remember that different. But maybe that's just a timing thing. Me coming into it later or earlier, and therefore a different meme sticking. I remeber Segment was born out of open source. And Rudderstack was quick to recognise a few category entry points, and forked Segment's repo before building differentiation. They saw an opportunity to position against Segment as for Cost Leadership. In doing so, they took a different stance on CDP, putting your data warehouse at the center of it. That was either a great vision, or lucky, because it does turn out like the meme stack and is gaining popularity. That's what composable CDPs are. Datawarehouse first. Ie, data warehouse CDP. And for that, Rudderstack were first. If they leaned into that more, I'd bet they'd compete against Segment's mind share more effectively. I tweaked their hope page last night when thinking about how this could be done haha https://www.linkedin.com/posts/rhys-fisher-growth-mentor_cherches-le-creneau-fill-the-gap-french-activity-7104560222995656705-SXMP