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What Can You Learn From A Company’s Tech Stack?

It’s no secret that most companies leverage an incredible amount of SaaS technology for their business. But did you know that these tech stacks can often act as tea leaves providing insight into the strategies and stage of a company? This insight can be used as competitive research to mimic practices of market leaders, understand differentiation between your competitors, and even evaluate the sophistication and stage of a startup.  Let’s take a look at a few of these examples.

The strongest go-to-market organizations make decisions based on solid market research.

When I ran Product Management for Email Delivery at Dyn I was obsessed with monitoring our competitors and the market in general.  We’d use this to arm our Sales and Marketing teams with playbooks, generate blog ideas, and even just tune the anecdotes we’d share throughout the day.  One of the ways we’d gain insight was through technology stack evaluation. Here’s some of the types of things we were able to learn from tech stacks:

  • Whether a company is selling through a sales team, self serve, or both.  The use of CRM providers like Hubspot and Salesforce can often indicate an inside sales team which uses the technology to track leads from the website.
  • Which cloud providers they leveraged and what locations they were in. The underlying infrastructure, and locations a company operates in, can help with differentiators, especially when selling critical infrastructure where uptime is critical.  When you see multiple cloud providers, CDNs and more, it really indicates an eye for performance.
  • The sophistication of their Marketing can also be indicated through the use of multiple analytics / optimization tools, paid advertising tracking, marketing automation and more.

It’s not hard to get started using this technique.  Here we’ll review three of the most common ways to gain insight through technology stacks.

Technology Scraping

Here are some tools you can use to gain insight into the technology stack of these companies.  Tools like Datanyze, BuiltWith and Wappalyzer can help provide some quick insight into the tech stacks and are by far the easiest to use.  These tools work by scanning the websites, domains and infrastructure of various companies finding the digital footprints of these various SaaS technologies.  Some even offer free browser extensions you can use to lookup the technology stack of a website you might be visiting.

Job Postings & Reviews

A lot can also be found by reviewing job postings as SaaS technologies require humans to configure, maintain and operate to their fullest potential.  The breadth, seniority and number of these positions can also give some insight into what areas of focus these companies may be heading in as well.

Legal & Data Privacy Practices

Legal policies and data privacy policies can say a lot as well.  The lack of these policies can also say a lot about the stage and sophistication as they are not often present with smaller startups.  With the adoption of EU’s GDPR policies, there’s a requirement to publicize sub-processors, which are SaaS vendors that a company may share personal data with in offering a service.  When a company offers this, it can indicate traction in EU along with a sophisticated legal and data privacy program.

Sophistication and Stage of the Company.

When reviewing companies for strategic investment or acquisition purposes, we like to factor the insight from tech stacks to gain an understanding of the sophistication and stage of the company. As you take the next step into putting this into practice remember to think about why these companies are using specific technologies, what skill sets and staff they need to operate them, and what types of customers they’re servicing through them and you’ll be in a good spot.  You can use this to evaluate your own competitors or even market leaders (e.g. Tesla, Slack, etc..) and apply those strategies to your startup.

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