November 7, 2018

A platform became my competitor, I'm not sure how to procceed

Hi all,

I've been working on a product on top of GitHub that solves what GitHub Actions (currently in beta) is solving.

Their approach is good, mine was different and more simplistic.

In short: I wanted to allow teams to create workflows based on events that happen in their repository: Sending a Slack message, initiating a job on Jenkins and etc. GitHub is basically doing the same.

Since GitHub is the platform I was building on top of, it's very hard to have them as a competitor. I'll need so much more added value to "make" GitHub users pay an additional fee for my product, that feels impossible to me right now.

I'm not sure how to approach this issue.

My thoughts are:

  • I don't have an idea on how to offer a much better solution that will justify the additional price that GitHub users will have to pay me.

  • The main difference between my approach to GitHub's is that their solution is more devops-y, mine is a UI-only solution which is simpler, but both approaches solve the core problem.

  • I'm trying to find a way that I can use what I've built so far (back-end is 89% done, UI is partially done) and maybe pivot to something similar but different enough? can't think of anything yet.

Maybe you have some other suggestions or things I should consider?

I'm unemployed, living off savings and this product was my main focus in the last 4-6 weeks.

Thanks!


  1. 8

    Switch to bitbucket and smaller platforms? People will see Github Actions and will want it on the competitors platforms and will look for it. It can be a boon.

    1. 4

      That's a good point and also note that a lot of devs packed their bags off GH and moved to GitLab after the M$ acquisition.

      1. 2

        That's true. I'll consider BitBucket and GitLab.

        Just need to understand how I can offer much more value than they can even if they offer a similar feature to their customer base.

        1. 3

          Switching to another platform just kicks the problem down the road.

          If this feature becomes widely used with Github, the other platforms will just replicate it. After-all, they are all essentially clones of each other: you can expect them to quickly replicate competitor features.

          1. 2

            This will always be a risk, it is the nature of the domain he has chosen.

            But hopefully by then, he will have figured out how to grow and add value elsewhere.

            He can also look at the complaints with Github Actions and build a version that answer these complaints.

          2. 1

            GitLab already has the technical setup to allow a feature like that.

            And I completely agree with it being "kicking the problem down the road", I'm just accepting any kind of thought and idea to see if something sparks something new.

    2. 2

      What chances do I have against BitBucket if they do it themselves? I'll have the same problem of creating so much more added value (that I haven't figured out yet) and justify the cost.

      If you were a customer of BitBucket and me, and BB offered you a solution included in the subscription you already pay them... don't they need to really screw up their product so you'll want to stay with me?

      or am I seeing this wrong? because that how I would react.

      1. 1

        If you can get people using it before they add this feature, there's also the pain/cost of switching factor – people may want to 'set and forget' it and leave it running rather than taking the additional time to set it up using a new solution.

        1. 1

          I thought about it, to me it seems like the pain is not that big.

          If I put myself in place of a customer, it's an obvious choice to switch over to GitHub to save money and keep everything under the same roof.

  2. 3

    If yours is more simplistic and easier to manage then there is no reason to kill the project. Microsoft bought Github and they have a product they charge for that sounds like it does what you are saying https://flow.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/

    1. 1

      This is a very good point.

      So let's say I choose to continue, how should I alter my strategy?

      My first thought is that I need to test their solution and invest more time it doing their bad parts way better in my product.

      Anything else in that regard I should think about?

      Thank you

      1. 1

        A platform has the disadvantage sometimes of being too generic solution that has to suit all users leaving some niche use cases. Yes test their product and identify what it could lack. You might find the platform lacks a audit view of past triggered events or some other functionality that might be useful to some users. Give your product a free tier and ask users what they think of the product and you can get hints where you can add.

        1. 1

          thank you!

  3. 3

    There is always a risk when building on top of a platform, that:

    a.) The platform will compete against you (as in this case)

    b.) The platform changes its API or terms of service.

    c.) The platform hikes its charges, making your business model uneconomic.

    This doesn't mean you can't make money off a third party platform, but those risks always apply and you need to go in with your eyes open. Getting burned happens all the time, because you're essentially relying on a third party for your daily bread.

    You're not the first person this has happened to and you won't be the last. Of course the platforms will always make it very attractive and will try to seduce you.

    I wrote an article about this issue a while back. Good thing is you only spent a few weeks, you could have building for months.

    1. 1

      Thanks!

      I do see the positive side, I'm lucky it happened like it did and not later in my progress.

      I found your article, going to read it now.

  4. 2

    Happened to me and many others. It makes it easier to get clients if you work on top of a platform but you are fully dependent on them.

    If it's very useful and makes sense for them they can build the missing feature themselves or they can restrict you.

    However, if you can make it work for multiple platforms, you'll reduce the risk.

    1. 1

      Thanks!

      Working on top of other platforms are indeed one of the options, I need to think about how smart it is.

  5. 2

    Can you switch to another platform

    1. 2

      I can in theory, but this event made me realize that I can't offer something better than the platform itself, and GitHub is the bigger market for what I wanted to achieve.

      GitHub nailed it, I don't expect their competitors to do something worse in the future.

      1. 1

        Not everyone uses GitHub so wouldn't that warrant the switch? Or can you use githubs version with bitbucket etc?

        My app is built on a Google API so I understand the worry

        1. 1

          GitLab is not that far from creating a very similar solution, they already have the tech stack in place to boot configurable VMs, which is a big part from GitHub's solution.

          BitBucket is still an option of course, but they don't have a huge market share and with GitHub and GitLab being "competitors" my growth strategy is void now.

          1. 1

            It still has a massive username.

            You could hold out and wait for the community to start complaining and then build for those pain points which GitHub aren't addressing.

            Or move on

            1. 1

              Thanks!