Analyzing Tools Used by Our Network

This summer at Union Square Ventures, Jennifer Greenberg joined us as our summer intern. During her time at USV, she worked on many projects, and one of them was analyzing tools from across our portfolio companies. As part of this process involved grouping and sorting tools, she came away with a few observations from her project. Read her post below.

Hi, I’m Jennifer Greenberg, a current computer science student who had the pleasure of interning at USV this summer to support the Network Team.

Through my community management work in Slack as well as in attending USV network events, I noticed that one of the most common questions that comes up in the network is what tools are used by other companies.

To embark on this research project, we gathered over 450 software tools used across 64 companies, representing approximately 86% of our active portfolio. We began by tagging each tool based on department, the type of tool, and then explored how company size impacted usage.

Below are some observations and trends that we discovered.

Types of Tools Reported

As you can see below, developer tools ranked #1 among the categories of reported tools for this project, with 164 total tools reported. We also saw large numbers of tools used for communication, business intelligence, and design   

Most Popular Tools

The top reported tools were G Suite, Slack, GitHub, Jira, Sketch, Salesforce, DropBox, AWS, Excel, and InVision. These top tools (in particular G Suite, Slack, and GitHub) were used across multiple departments or tended to skew toward developer tools.

Developer Tools in the Network

The chart below show the most popular developer tools overall in the network. After Github and Jira, there was a drop off which may be because there are many free/open source options, causing individuals and companies to explore and favor different ones.

Size Breakouts

Company size creates a stratification among developer, hiring, and communication tools. As an example of how this plays out in engineering, you can see that all of the size brackets use either Github or Jira, but after that, the differentiation develops. For example, smaller companies are less likely to use security software. On the communication side, smaller companies are more likely to use internal tools like Calendly, GoToMeeting, and Rocketchat, whereas external tools including Docusign, Facebook, Medium, Sendgrid, and Twitter persisted across all size brackets.

 

As for hiring tools, LinkedIn, Lever, and Greenhouse are the most popular in the network, but these are primarily only used by companies with more than 30 employees. Tools like Guru, Textio, DiscoverOrg, and Checkr were used with companies larger than 50 employees, while Jobbatical, Entelo, Jazz, and AngelList were used by our smaller companies.

 

Market Dominant Tools by Category

While AWS still appears to be the favored cloud platform used among our portfolio, Google Cloud in particular appears to be gaining more traction. As you can see below, ¼ of companies are using either Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure.

Other tools with dominant market share include Slack and Salesforce. While 92% of our companies report using Slack, some companies opted to use Hipchat (recently acquired by Slack), Beekeeper, and Rocket Chat.

For sales management CRMs, 42% of our companies use Salesforce, however, some used alternatives like Google Streak, Insightly, or Close.io. It does not seem as though size played a role in a company's choice in any of these circumstances.

Closing Thoughts

One of the most fun parts about working on this project was learning about new tools used in the network. In fact, 52% of the tools reported were used exclusively by one company in our portfolio, which exposed a few new tools like Jell and Perdoo (both workflow management tools) as well as Sapling (an HR platform built for G Suite). It was also great to see how 78% of our portfolio companies use tools built by our portfolio companies (including Code Climate and Cloudflare, among others.)

While the average company in our portfolio is using 7 tools, one of our larger companies reported using 77 different tools, which made me realize that transitioning between tools may be a source of growing pains for startups. As our portfolio continues to expand, we hope that by aggregating and sharing this list internally (we’re even building a Slack Bot for our network to search these tools), we can make it easier to choose the best tool for each use case.

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