Developers, developers, developers.
Yup. In your mind’s eye, there’s sweaty Steve Ballmer, jumping around the stage, chanting developers at the top of his lungs. Welp, developers, developers, developers seems to be my motto too.
Hi, I’m Ceci Stallsmith, pronounced CC, short for Cecilia.I run Calyx Consulting ー we bring excellence to platform go-to-market.
A calyx is the whorl that encloses the petals of a flower before it blooms. I wanted this consultancy to convey the power of ecosystem, in a botanical sense, because I deeply believe in the power of building thriving developer ecosystems to scale your business.
Why am I an expert in developer platforms?
I started my career at where I was a founding member of the platform team. Along with an amazing team we grew Box’s platform from zero mobile apps to over 1,000 apps integrated. I did everything from DevRel to Product Management, and actually have a patent with my name on it because of the latter role. From there I worked at , where I invested in companies like and . I loved meeting hundreds of founders but missed getting to operate alongside them...so... I joined in the fall of 2015 to run platform marketing. We launched the platform in December. My team at Slack accounted for partner marketing (eg Google, Salesforce, Atlasssian), developer marketing and most importantly customer marketing ー goaled with driving adoption of the apps and integrations that our partners and developers built. See principle 2 below, it is essential for your long term success as a platform to make your developers and partners successful with you. Slack now has more than half a million daily active developers.
Here are my platform go-to-market principles.
1. The Bill Gates measure of a true platform. We all know it, but let’s re-state it here:
A platform is when the economic value of everybody that uses it, exceeds the value of the company that creates it. Then it’s a platform.
I don’t think that any of the platforms I’ve worked on have actually reached this height. Heck, I think Windows, iOS and MacOS, and maybe Shopify have achieved this level of success. But this is the kind of growth and success that great platforms build towards. Use it as a north star for everything, from product development to wholistic go to market.
2. Platforms create flywheels. You live and die by the flywheel.
When building a platform on top of your existing product, developers are adding value to your core offering. As a result, they are growing your audience and your core business.
This is why assisting with customer adoption of developer integrations is essential. If customers never get to try out the useful extensions of your product that developers build...your platform dies. It’s actually not that hard to drum up developer interest, you can use money or marketing, various carrots, to get developers to try a new platform out. What’s hard is creating a sustainable, truly valuable platform that developers use indefinitely.
3. There are (only!) three potential core value props for any developer tool or platform.
Our platform offers:
1. Cool or useful technology
2. User acquisition
3. The opportunity to make lots of $$$
These are extremely broad buckets. Actually positioning your cool or useful technology is a very hard thing to do, in and of itself. That said, the value of a platform really does fall into one of those categories. Enjoy!
4. Developers are first class citizens. Treat them as such!
You’ve implemented Salesforce and robust reporting tools to manage your customer pipeline. You know your funnels, where they leak, where they are hyper efficient. You should be thinking about your developers in the exact same way. Developers are first class citizens, treat them like customers (but don’t talk to them like customers).
On top of measuring and managing your developers well, you need to equip them to be successful. A little goes a very long way. Give away marketing resources, create scalable playbooks to help your ecosystem reach customers and position their products, build surface area for them to use for themselves that customers will be exposed to. This is all part of helping with driving adoption, but from the “teach a man to fish” perspective.
5. Take any and all marketing lingo, and put it in the trash.
Developers see through that sh&* and don’t want any of it. Work to make your language human, straight forward and meaningful. Eliminate excess. Get them to the value as quickly as possible. Excellent product marketing is essential. Hire great product marketers.
6. Ecosystems are messy, but growth takes place in the mess.
You get dirty when you actually tend to the garden. Standing up a developer community, both online and with in person events, comes with real challenges. You have to have a code of conduct. You should have at least one individual who is worrying, full time, about making your community safe and helping it to grow. There’s too much to cover in this bullet, so I’ll refer over to .
7. We can’t all be platforms.
We can’t all be platforms. Developers can’t be part of 300 communities in a meaningful way. Yes, building a true platform, especially in the sense of principle 1, will 10 or 100x your value as a business, but it’s not for all businesses. So, test and see, is your platform viable? The best way to test it is to build your first 10, 15, even 50 integrations.
If they get adopted, then you might have a big opportunity on your hands, a potential force multiplier. And if not, you can build APIs that will be useful to you and your team and extend to some nice integrations for your users.
Be fair, not everyone can be the center of the wheel.
Want to get in touch?
You can find me on Twitter or email me .