Examining The Tech Stacks of 150 Unicorn Startups

May 27, 2016 Isaac Wyatt

This post was written by New Relic's Director of Marketing Operations, Isaac Wyatt. The presentation first appeared at Martech 2016 in San Francisco.

"Technographics" is a relatively new term, but it isn't hard to grasp. It is simply the collection of hardware and software tools that a business uses. It is going to become a key part of the toolbox of many B2B marketers and sales organizations. I hadn't realized this until I attended a party full of Unicorns.

At a cocktail party held at the San Francisco Hilton in March of 2015, early in the year of the Unicorn, my boss and I chatted with founders, investors and other folks attending Scott Brinker’s annual #MarTech conference. It all seemed like a normal cocktail party, until someone from Battery Ventures, who sponsored the party, found a microphone and asked a single powerful question:

“Who can name any of the top 5 technologies used by unicorn companies?”

It was such a good question. I hadn’t thought much about ranking technology solutions by popularity, and certainly not amongst the 150ish pre-IPO private companies valued at $1B or more at the time. The crowd responded to the question with a couple obvious answers and some slightly obscure or hopeful technologies. Several people shouted in near unison—“New Relic!” Almost all of the suggestions were in the top 25, but because the question asked for the top 5, many people were stumped. Our interrogator then read off the list: Tower Data, Optimizely, SendGrid, Crazy Egg, and Adroll. Google Analytics was actually at the top, but is too ubiquitous to be presumed.


Long after the party, the question continued to burn in my mind: If we can see the top technologies used at unicorn companies, could we do the same for the entire market? What could we learn if we did? As marketers, could we create a better customer experience by customizing buyer’s journeys and communications with information relevant to their specific tech stack?

I got to work looking deeper by setting up Datanyze, integrating it into New Relic’s marketing automation platform, writing some R scripts to leverage Datanyze’s API, and analyzing all types of technologies (marketing, sales, developer, infrastructure) used at all of the unicorn companies.

I was able to see not only the most popular technologies, but how many technologies the unicorn companies used, the average number of technologies at each stage of funding, and the most common technologies by industry. I was also able to learn about the technologies that tend to be “co-located”—that is, which technologies tend to be most commonly used with each other.

A key learning from the analysis was that technology stacks are large, even at early stage companies, and companies that care about creating the best possible customer experience for their apps and websites use a combination of Optimizely and New Relic to make the frontend work well and enhance the backend infrastructure code.

This was a powerful learning for me at New Relic, but the underlying insight is that understanding the technologies companies use, their “technographics,” can sometimes create a more informative, pleasant, and valuable customer experience than do traditional demographics or firmographics.

We are able to use this information to better understand our customer’s business priorities, sometimes in ways that they may not even understand themselves since we can see technology patterns across organizational silos.

The broader B2C and B2B market is just at the beginning of using technographics to drive business insight and engagement. As all companies continue to become software companies, the number of ways to use technographic profiles will get very, very interesting.

About the Author

Isaac Wyatt

Isaac is Director of Marketing Operations at New Relic. He came to New Relic with 10 years of business and SaaS experience, 8 in SaaS. His two pillars of expertise are marketing automation and marketing analytics.

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