Clarifying the Target Persona for Meltano: Startup Founders

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Meltano is a small startup within GitLab, and in order to be successful we have chosen to ruthlessly focus on a serving a single person. We are narrowing the target persona for Meltano to a person we will call The Founder to build a better and more focused product.

Our target persona has the following traits:

  • One busy person at a startup using Meltano in single player mode
  • They have access to all systems and data across the company
  • New to data (does not write code, queries, etc.)
  • Need to do analysis to run the business
  • Needs to do both engineering tasks and analyst tasks because there is nobody else

What they are not:

  • Don’t have “analyst” in their job title. They perform that function because they have to, and likely are CEO/founder running a department that has a lot of SaaS tools and data, likes sales or marketing. They are setting up the foundational systems in the company.
  • Don’t have technical know-how or the time for setting up a server, using the command line, writing code, creating custom taps, targets, transforms or models. They are running their company, and have a thousand other things to do.

As a result of this change, we are auditing our product and marketing this week to re-align with their needs. We have already updated the front page of the Meltano website to reflect this change, and will continue to iterate.

How We Got Here

As we continue to build Meltano in public, both as an open source project and also as a highly transparent team who shares our meetings on our YouTube channel and monthly metrics on our blog, I’d love to share a bit more about how we worked together to get things back on track. Maybe you’ll face a similar situation in the future and try some of the strategies that worked for us.

Something’s Not Quite Right

Following the launch of Meltano v1.0, we spent a few weeks on project hygiene: working on bugs, addressing technical debt, and curating our issues to come together on the theme for the next major milestone. As the fog of a major release cleared and we reconnected in conversations about the long-term vision for Meltano, it became clear our individual perspectives on the target persona for the project had diverged and as a result it was causing some decision-making thrash for a small team that is usually pretty in sync.

As anyone who builds things for a living knows, each team member is an inventor in their mind first and often if there is a gap in the stated plan we can begin to imagine a world of possibilities. It’s only human! However, this can quickly lead to major challenges when it comes to what needs to be prioritized. We have our goal to grow MAUI, but that alone is not enough. Having a crisp shared understanding of who those users should be is crucial, because “not all MAUI is created equal”.

Getting Back on Track

Last week, we spent time discussing what each of our perceptions of the target user were and also reconnected with the foundation story of the Meltano project. While this was not a consensus-building activity, talking through the disconnect helped generate a deeper level of understanding, buy-in, and clarity across the team. In a fast moving startup, it can be tempting to skip steps everywhere — but making sure your cofounders and team members feel they’ve been consulted and heard is an investment in the long-term trust and commitment that make it possible to stay motivated to work on hard problems.

I feel extremely fortunate to be part of the Meltano team, and grateful for the maturity and empathy it takes to say, “I don’t think this is clear, let’s pause and get it right”. So often when there is confusion or conflict the strong emotions associated with ambiguity can get in the way of figuring out what’s really going on. The ability to slow down in order to speed up something I’ve come to deeply appreciate in my time working on startups, and this was a great reminder of why that approach is so valuable. Onward!

Published by Danielle Morrill

General Manager of Meltano at GitLab