Redpoint Ventures
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Redpoint Ventures

Redpoint Office Hours Recap: Scaling and Measuring an Effective Developer Relations Organization with Shawn Wang, Temporal’s Head of Developer Experience

By: Sai Senthilkumar

Developer Relations is a critical function for any developer-centric startup to build mindshare and drive business value. But it also begs a number of questions, namely: How do you evangelize a vibrant community of developers and measure success while avoiding pitfalls? Last week during Redpoint’s Office Hours, we had the pleasure of hosting Shawn Wang, who leads Developer Experience at Temporal. Shawn has an amazing background in starting and running communities for hundreds of thousands of developers; now, he’s building a strong developer community at Temporal.

Thank you to the 400+ people who registered for the event! The key takeaways from our discussion are below.

Starting fresh

The most frequently asked question we received before Office Hours was “When does it make sense to start building a developer relations function?” Typically, developer relations teams are assembled when an MVP is out in the market. But the reality is that companies can start attracting and engaging developers well before a formal developer relations team is built out. Executives, engineers, etc., can wear the developer relations hat in the beginning.

A key question to ask before starting is, Does my organization need developer relations in the first place? If you go into DevRel, it’s about building trust and making sure you’re listening to developers — because their feedback drives the product and ultimate success of your business.

Structuring your Developer Relations organization

Shawn has a great framework for structure which draws on his background as a game designer as game designers pay detailed attention to how a gamer interacts with a video game. Similarly, you should have a deep understanding of a developer’s journey with your product: they go from not knowing about your offering to evaluating competitors, understanding your core features and why you’re a best fit, and finally making the decision to go with your offering and deploy.

You should have different people addressing each part of that journey (front-end, documentation, community, etc.). Eventually, you will have a formal Developer Relations org structure like HashiCorp, but the game designer perspective is a great framework when starting out.

The importance of community

Shawn stressed the importance of community for any developer relations team: “Community is how developer tools cross the chasm from early adopters to the majority.” Community itself can be a viable moat for your business, working exceptionally well for companies like GitHub, StackOverflow, and Hacker News. Eventually, you’ll want to hire a separate community function for your DevRel efforts.

The north star: Daily active developers

When measuring your developer relations efforts, teams should keep themselves honest with clear KPIs. Your north star metric should be monthly active developers. If growth is accelerating, good. If growth is constant, fine. If growth is 0% or worse, then whatever you are doing isn’t working. For more, check out Shawn’s blog post on measuring DevRel.

Hiring for Developer Relations

Finally, we discussed why hiring for DevRel doesn’t need to be so challenging. Former or current engineers serve as great pools to source DevRel talent. Having someone with a technical background is important to relate to developers. To get started recruiting, Orbit.love has some great profiles and is becoming the operating system for DevRel and community teams.

Want to hear more? You can watch the entire session here (password: officehoursSSSW). Thanks, and we hope to see you at the next Office Hours on October 13th!

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