Leaving Target Partners to join Gitpod as Chief Commercial Officer

Johannes Landgraf

I tried my best to not just write another "why I joined X" blog post. Promise ✌️

With a smile and a heavy heart I decided to leave Target Partners. The leading 🇩🇪 early-stage tech VC that was more family than professional home to me for the last 2.5 years. I once jokingly told Berthold that working together with the investment team rather feels like working together with siblings, uncles and... yeah... grandpas ¯\(ツ)/¯. The level of integrity, brain power and gut intelligence of up to 36 (!) years of Venture Capital (I was minus 9 years old when Waldemar started) I interacted with and absorbed each single day was unparalleled to what I had experienced before. This is something I will never forget and be forever truly grateful for.

Even though venture is a great, comforting and intellectually stimulating industry to work in, the entrepreneurial itching never went away. Honestly, it only got stronger when working closely together with entrepreneurs finding product-market fit. It is one thing to tell people what to read (👉 my reading list) and to make intros but it's a whole different story to execute. Taking to heart the football analogy "you can coach your whole life, but you can only play while you are young", I decided to follow the big footsteps of Target Partners' previous associates (Marc, Christian, Raphael and many more) - and switch sides.

Route to Gitpod

After my Computer Science studies at UCL, I joined Target Partners in late 2017. One of my first tasks was to make sense of the - often misquoted - umbrella term "Cloud Native" - both on the technical side and as an investment opportunity (.pdf below).


This piece of research first introduced me to the Linux Kernel features namespaces and cgroups. Both features power Linux containers and hence the omnipresent container orchestration system Kubernetes (K8s). For all non-technical people out there: it is thanks to Kubernetes that you can binge-watch Last Dance, Tiger King & Dark on Netflix during a pandemic. It is also thanks to Kubernetes that a small group of highly gifted engineers working remotely from Kiel were able to build a fully containerized and automated cloud-based dev environment (👋 Gitpod.io..).

Learning about cloud got me hooked and even more interested in everything that happens on the infrastructure side of the OSI-layer. I spent most of my time on developer tools, dev{sec|net|git}ops, infrastructure, developer platforms and open source. I attended almost all relevant European conferences (KubeCon, ContainerDays, Cloud Native Rejects, FOSDEM, All SystemsGo etc) and I was almost always the only venture guy there. Honestly, I never understood why, instead, European early-stage investors visit conferences such as NOAH for Dealflow that all suffer from adverse selection 🤷‍♂️.

Dev-Environment-as-Code (DEAC)

During GoDays 2020 my favourite talk by far was by Chris who leads the backend efforts at Gitpod. In his talk he addressed the biggest developer productivity killers in modern, distributed applications: local K8s clusters (Minikube), long build times (Docker) and cumbersome debugging processes. We are not talking minutes, but hours per week here (per developer!) that are lost. There are several companies that try to tackle this problem, but the streamlined setup that the team at Gitpod built to develop Gitpod itself (eat your own dog food ✔️) just blew my mind. This is by far the leanest, most automated and productive dev environment I have seen for developing distributed, microservice-oriented applications (they start coding and debugging on any branch in less than 15 seconds 🤯) !


We call this Dev-Environment-as-Code (DEAC).