In this exciting interview, we sit down with Ben Rometsch. Ben is the Founder & CEO of Flagsmith - an Open Source Feature Flag, Remote Config, and AB testing platform. Started in 2019, the open-source company is fully bootstrapped and makes over $1M in annual recurring revenue from companies like Citi Bank, United Health Group, or Komercni Bank. Besides Flagsmith, Ben founded several other companies and serves on the OpenFeature Governance Board of CNCF. He is also the host of the “The Craft of Open Source Podcast”, where he interviews creators and maintainers from the open-source community.
Ben shares the founding story of Flagsmith and how it evolved from a side project within his software agency to a successful independent business. He also discusses the reasons behind their decision to bootstrap the company and the challenges they faced in the process. Additionally, Ben provides valuable insights into their go-to-market strategy and the importance of identifying the ideal customer profile to drive growth. Let's dive into the key takeaways from the interview.
The founding story of Flagsmith is a classic tale of a side project that emerged from Ben Rometsch's software agency in London. Initially, the platform was built to solve coordination challenges between multiple teams working on different projects. However, as it evolved, it became evident that there was a market need for an open-source feature flagging platform, which led to Flagsmith becoming a standalone business.
The Decision to Bootstrap
One of the remarkable aspects of Flagsmith's journey is that they chose to bootstrap the company, avoiding external funding sources. This decision was driven by several factors. Firstly, the team preferred to maintain complete control over the company's direction without external pressure. Secondly, they wanted to build a business that was profitable early on, and their agency provided the financial flexibility to do so. Finally, as inbound leads from large enterprises started coming in, it became evident that external funding was unnecessary.
Go-to-Market Strategy and Early Ideal Customer Profile
In the early stages, Flagsmith's go-to-market strategy relied on inbound leads from organizations looking for self-hosted, on-premise, or open-source feature flagging solutions. By identifying the gaps in their product offering and listening to potential customers' needs, they refined their ideal customer profile. This process helped them align their product roadmap and prioritize features that addressed customers' pain points.
Sustainable Growth and Competitive Edge
As a bootstrapped company, Flagsmith focuses on sustainable growth and maintaining a competitive edge in the market. They have a growing team, and while they are aware of well-funded competitors, they believe in the power of small teams to drive innovation. Their commitment to open-source values and transparency is a unique selling point, helping them gain the trust of customers who prefer a sustainable and reliable solution.
Looking Ahead - The Future of Flagsmith
In the next five years, Flagsmith envisions steady growth, continuous profitability, and remaining true to their open-source roots. They prioritize staying relevant to customers' needs and keeping the platform user-friendly while expanding their feature set. The goal is to maintain a healthy perspective on growth without feeling the pressure to chase funding or outpace competitors.
The journey of Flagsmith from a side project to a successful open-source company holds valuable lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs and developers. Ben Rometsch's insights on bootstrapping, go-to-market strategy, and customer-centric development provide a roadmap for building a sustainable and profitable business. As Flagsmith continues to grow, its commitment to open-source values and customer satisfaction remains unwavering, making it a standout player in the feature flagging landscape.
To learn more about Flagsmith and stay updated on their progress, you can follow Flagsmith on GitHub and catch Ben’s thoughts on Twitter or LinkedIn.