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The People Behind GitHub - The Facebook for Developers


The age of technological advancements has been ever-changing and constantly improving. This itself brings countless opportunities and as a lot entrepreneurs know - there is nothing more expensive than a missed opportunity!

When the opportunity arose for 4 passionate programmers to improve an already existing version control system called Git and democratize code - they took it!

They wanted to be able to collaborate and consult on projects with other programmers and share code freely and safely. Thus, GitHub was born - a Facebook for developers, where instead of pet photos and funny statuses, they'd share code lines!

Read more about the company that has fundamentally influenced the way we live today here:

The Ruby Community

We can't talk about GitHub without mentioning Git - the brainchild of Linux founder, Linus Torvalds. He invented it while working on Linux Kernel along with many other developers, and it was a moment that altered the course of programming.

Back in 2007, two years after it was initially launched, Git was still a largely unknown version control system. At the time, many developers were facing problems when collaborating on projects: most of them did use Git, but it still lacked some of the necessary tools at the time.

The need for more flexibility from Git was recognized by Tom Preston-Werner, a Ruby-on-Rails developer. He came from the Ruby community, which consisted of like-minded developers/hackers who enjoyed late-night drinking sessions and talking about their code. These late-night sessions were the birthplace of an idea: GitHub.

At one aptly named 'I Can Has Ruby' night, Tom was sitting at a booth, sipping his drink when he invited Chris Wanstrath over to his booth. At the time, Tom and Chris had been just acquaintances, occasionally greeting each other and sharing compliments on their coding skills. Tom had shown Chris a project he had started working on just a week before named Grit, and explained the idea behind it.

When he saw the sparkle in Chris's eyes, Tom shared his idea about a website that would act as a hub for developers to share their git repositories. With Chris' simple 'I'm in', GitHub was born!

On October 19, 2007, at exactly 10:24 PM, Wastrath had made the first commit in the GitHub repository and thus the first digital block of the foundation had been set.

The Hub to the Git

Although GitHub had a lot of potential, both Tom and Chris couldn't allow themselves to dedicate 100% on the project. Tom had been working as a developer at Powerset and Chris was working as a Ruby consultant. This meant only one thing - both Chris and Tom had to invest a lot of their time.

For the next three months after that fateful meet up, they put in the hours needed to map out and program GitHub. Tom and Chris met every Saturday to talk about the details and worked simultaneously on Grit and the application. Around the same time, another co-founder joined them - PJ Hyett, a senior software engineer Chris had met while working at CNET.

After countless after-work hours and weekends spent in front of the computer, the trio launched the beta version of GitHub for their closest friends.

The official version of GitHub was launched in April 2008.

The Risk of a Lifetime

A few months after the official launch of GitHub, Powerset, the company where Tom worked, was acquired by Microsoft for $100 million. Tom was faced with a dilemma: stay and work at Microsoft or leave and work at GitHub full-time.

Investing his time and money into GitHub, he had accumulated a large debt despite his six-figure lifestyle, and working as a Microsoft employee would mean an additional $100k per year - a pretty hefty sum.

As if finding balance between work and GitHub wasn't enough trouble, his wife Theresa had moved back after finishing her Ph.D, so the hustling entrepreneur had to go back to being a married man.

On top of all this, another thing bothered Tom: he knew the relationship with his co-founder would become strained if he continued to split his time unevenly, as he had become fully invested in the project, both with his time and his emotions.

It was the dilemma of his life - leave a steady job with an even better salary than before, or give up on a project he was passionate about!

Luckily, he chose wisely - on the day when the offer for Microsoft was up, he found himself in his manager's office to politely decline. Taking the risk of his life, Tom decided to fully invest himself into GitHub - a risk that would soon pay off in the millions!

The Four Founders and an Octocat

Shortly after Tom's life-changing decision, another man came into the picture - Scott Chacon. The two met at a Ruby meetup in San Francisco where Chacon presented one of his many Git projects. He was probably one of the few who'd been working with Git the longest at that point.

The way that Tom saw it, Chacon could either become an ally or a competitor and having him on his team was, of course, the better option. Chacon was first employed as a consultant, then as a full-time employee and finally, he joined the team as the fourth and last cofounder.

In 2009, GitHub had grown to over 100,000 users and was pretty comfortable living off the subscriptions alone. In fact, GitHub has been profitable since the day it became public - the company didn't need a single dime from investors in the first five years of its existence! Only a year later they reported a million public repositories, as opposed to the 90,000 they had before.

GitHub was growing - fast!

A few years down the line, they came across the Octopuss, a drawing of a cat with octopus tentacles drawn by Simon Oxley. They renamed it into Octocat and the mascot has since become synonymous with GitHub.


Although GitHub had started off nicely with the subscriptions, it soon expanded and it needed to raise fundings from venture capitalists. The first funding round was in 2012 when the company raised $100 million from Andreesen Horowitz. With an annual growing revenue of 300% since its first year of operations, GitHub was the El Dorado for investors.

Another funding round in 2015 was slightly bigger - a $250 million worth of investment led by Sequoia Capitals. This raised the value of the company close to $2 billion!

GitHub Today

From the initial code-sharing site that was intended as an extension to Git, GitHub has become a vital part of any software project. It gives users the option to collaborate on projects, but also enables them to have private repositories with custom permissions and user settings. The newest upgrade is the GitHub sponsors option, which allows users to sponsor each other, much like Patreon.

In addition to its many users, GitHub records some very notable names on their list of users, such as NSA, Google, and Microsoft, all of whom have used the platform to store and work on their code. After using GitHub as a tool for their open-source projects, Microsoft decided to buy GitHub for a staggering $7.5 billion.

With concerns that Microsoft acquired GitHub solely to get to its user base, some of GitHub's competitors have reported a spike in users. Despite this, GitHub still has over 40 million users and 100 million repositories, and at least 28 million public ones.

And it doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon - until the coding community reaches full social integration!