Airbyte's explosive growth through community-led approach

A deep-dive into how Airbyte scaled to 3500+ Slack users in a year with a community-first approach to growth.
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Pramod Rao
October 26, 2021

“Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once." (Drew Houston, Dropbox Co-founder)

In September 2019, Michel Tricot and John Lafleur were winding up their previous jobs and decided to start Airbyte. Well, Airbyte was not conceived that easily!

Both Michael and John got together and validated (or rather, invalidated) 10 different ideas in two days. In fact, they submitted their first application to Y Combinator with the idea of founding integrated banking, accounting and tax service for the workers of the gig economy, such as drivers (Uber, Lyft, Amazon, Postmates, etc.), Airbnb hosts, Upworkers, Fiverrs and other gig workers (people using gig work platforms, a subset of freelancers). They withdrew their application within 3 days when they got to know that both Uber and Lyft were working on a similar solution!

🔁 They were back to square one. But this was merely a speed bump. They spent time brainstorming further and came up with another idea with which they finally applied to YC. This time the idea was, to take on all the operational complexity involved in any data exchange between two parties; which again was very different from Airbyte!

🏆 They got selected for YC! During those three months, they pivoted thrice to finally shape Airbyte, as we see it today - the open platform that unifies all your data pipelines!

💵 In early March 2021, Airbyte announced their $5.2M seed round with Accel. Just 2 months later, they raised $26M Series-A round led by Benchmark.

🌬️ Airbyte - the single source of truth for your data teams

Airbyte lets you unify your data integration pipelines under one fully managed platform.

  • It allows data teams to focus on insights and innovation by facilitating hundreds of connectors like Google Analytics, Salesforce, Amplitude, and many more!
  • The open-source solution comes free of cost; there is a very simple and minimal pricing structure for the cloud version, on top of the free open source.

Learn more about how you could progress with your data, from Michel as he talks to Data Nerd Herd about Airbyte in this video 👇

Average businesses today use well over 100 software apps, many of which contain valuable insights about an organization’s operations. You are likely on the way to using just as many apps, if not more, and you’ll need a solution to integrate all of the data your apps produce. Building your own pipeline by yourself is a significant time and resource commitment. It can take between 3-6 months to set up a basic pipeline. Beyond the time commitment, there is some inherent complexity in building a reliable, high-performance ELT pipeline. That's where Airbyte comes in! Here's an infographic representation of what Airbyte could do to your business 👇

Airbyte's potential impact on a business. Source

The early adopters loved Airbyte! Michel and John always had "user success" in mind. In January 2020, while they were a part of YC, they met with about 45 companies. This enabled them to study their audience better, understand their go-to-market and help them build a list of potential clients. Once they had their vision and roadmap clear, they set out to build the alpha version and took about 5 weeks to do that. In the next 6 weeks, they landed their first paying customer! Let's double click on how they redefined "user success"!

📈 Scaling to 1000+ members on Slack in 7 months

Airbyte launched its first functional MVP in September 2020. In a mere 7 months, this open-source platform redefined user success by completely owning the community piece.

Let's take a look at their Slack engagement metrics:

Airbyte Slack Metrics. Source. Data as of April 2021

Here are 5 things Airbyte did right 👇

1) They built a remote-first team with people from France, United Kingdom, India, Singapore, New Caledonia (near Australia), and the US to cover all time zones.

35% of the community members were from the US, but the rest were spread out. They wanted to build a team that could always be available to users, no matter the time or timezone.

2) Align "user success to user goals"

John defines “user success” for their team as: the team's focus to help our users be successful in whatever project they want to build around data, whether it be with Airbyte or another tool.

The team wanted to gain the community's trust by aligning the business goals and incentives to that of the members. They wanted to be the one-stop solution that users look up to - for anything around data.

3) Super-quick 'Time to Response' and 'Time to Resolution'

The team was particular about acknowledging or responding to every question asked in the community within a few hours. Either one of the team members or a community member would pick this up. Their average 'Time to Response' is about 2.5 hours!

They also followed through on resolving and closing the query. Once the query is resolved, the thread is marked with a ✅ emoji! The average 'Time to Resolution' is about 3.5 hours!

Here's a sample query thread 👇

The Airbyte team is pretty prompt at replying to user queries and resolving the same with a quick TAT

4) Welcome every Slack member personally

The first touchpoint matters for every member, because that is what will define their user journey. Airbyte has a very personalised, humble touch to their welcome message, where they ask for product feedback/suggestions. Here's a screenshot of the welcome message we received. 🙂

Welcome message from the Airbyte community member

5) Hire a User-Success Engineer

Airbyte focussed on employing a strong "user success engineer". The said person would know the product inside out and thus, help resolve a bunch of user-queries at his/her end. Also, he/she would know how to filter out pain points that users are facing while using the product and highlight in the community - and pass it on to the engineering team, thus making it a complete ongoing feedback cycle.

Airbyte is also about to become the GitHub repo with the most stars around data integration, too! 👇

Github star comparison with other brands in the same space. Source. Data as of April 2021

They also run a Discourse forum to address connector needs and take inputs on feature requests.

🛣️ Future Plans - Nail community engagement with 1000 weekly active users on Slack 🎯

It's great to see Michel and John focus completely on taking a community-led approach for scaling Airbyte. As of April 2021, they were at 1000+ users. Today they host 3500+ members on Slack!

Airbyte's growth over the last few months

Here are a few key things they have planned for:

  • Track user success in terms of community engagement → and measure community engagement as a metric of weekly active users. Their target is to take this to 1000 weekly active users.
  • To drive the community towards their role they hired for two key positions: Senior Developer Advocate and User Success Engineer.
  • The Senior Developer Associate Abhi Vaidyanatha was tasked with constantly improving our developer experience and engagement. This includes documentation, tutorials, and, therefore, insightful content for the Slack community.
A sneak peek of how Abhi engages with the community.
  • Marcos Marx was hired as the user success engineer. He would drive the time to first response and resolution down so that there is the best support experience with Airbyte in the whole ETL/ELT industry.
Here's a sample of Marcos in action - with a quick TAT to respond to user queries

Airbyte's always been open about their learnings and metrics, and building and writing in public about the same! They do a monthly community call on their YouTube channel to update their users about the community metrics and the product roadmap. Here's the latest one they did👇

Twitter avatar for @chetanp

We've always heard stories of how brands drive value for their members. Here's a cool example of how the community helped Airbyte ❤️ 🤝

Airbyte was running multiple iterations to decide their logo, font, mascot and the mascot's name!

Multiple options for Airbyte's Mascot as designed by Laurel Duermael. Source

They went ahead with #15 as their mascot. The next task was naming the mascot. it needed to be friendly, delightful, and easily memorizable. The team started listing a few names that they liked and built a survey for the community to vote. The survey was also a way to gather other name ideas from the community. Here are the top 3 they narrowed down to 👇

  • Bytee or Inky (most popular in the survey).
  • Tako (meaning octopus in Japanese), suggested by the community.
  • Octavia Squidington III (just “Octavia” for short) - the last name Squidington was a suggestion from the community.

They finally went ahead with the third option!

Every move, product feature update or tone of the brand is completely centred around the community. Kudos to Michel, John, Abhi, Marcos and the entire team for creating this power-packed community-led product, revolutionising how you look at data! ❤️

To Summarise:

  • Michel Tricot and John Lafleur invalidated 10 ideas and pivoted over 3 times before they shaped Airbyte.
  • They withdrew their YC application within three days after submitting their first idea. Uber and Lyft had started working on similar lines.
  • As they narrowed down on the next idea, they spoke to over 45 companies, took inputs from all of them and re-shaped the product to fit the market and solve real problems faced by users.
  • Airbyte has become the single source of truth for building anything around data.
  • It allows data teams to focus on insights and innovation by facilitating hundreds of connectors like Google Analytics, Salesforce, Amplitude and many more!
  • It's an open-source free platform, focused on community-led growth. They hosted their communities on Slack and Discord
  • Today, Airbyte stands at 3500+ users on Slack in less than a year. Here are the key things they focused on👇
  • They built a remote-first team with people from multiple countries to cover all time zones.
  • Align "user success to user goals"
  • Super-quick 'Time to Response' and 'Time to Resolution'
  • Focused onboarding - Welcome every Slack member personally
  • Hire a User-Success Engineer
  • The future plan - gunning for 1000 weekly active users on Slack. Here are the key focus points for the future of their community 👇
  • Track user success in terms of community engagement → and measure community engagement as a metric of weekly active users. Their target is to take this to 1000 weekly active users.
  • To drive the community towards their role they hired for two key positions: Senior Developer Advocate and User Success Engineer.
  • They continue to improve the community experience and engagement with insights on Slack, community calls and constantly taking feedback from the community and allowing members to drive the product growth.

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