The JAMstack Startup Landscape

Below is an overview of the culmination of several trends that has given rise to a new frontend architecture and what we believe is a resulting fertile startup ecosystem.

How websites and applications are developed is undergoing a massive architectural shift — from the tooling developers utilize to build them to the UI/UX end users interact with. It is revolutionary and turning the world of application development upside down.

Why Now?

Explosion of JavaScript: JS has become so powerful at a higher level of abstraction, enabling the development of more interactive and faster apps and improved end user experience. Proliferation of APIs: from microservices in the backend, to the rising popularity of GraphQL and loosely coupled frontends, APIs are core to the architectural shift underway. More Developers: Growing number of developers and reduced median skill level of the industry. The result is more developers with an appetite for education and modern tools. The Rise of Git: Git-centric workflows are now central to modern developer collaboration and version control. Cloud Infrastructure Advances: Reduced computing costs, serverless architectures, and more tooling enables developers to focus on frontend dev/design to quickly and efficiently build apps with better performance.

Regardless which ideologies you believe in — thick/thin clients, single page applications (SPA)/server-side rendering, static/dynamic sites — the commonality is that the way the frontend is being developed is drastically changing.

JAMstack Background

Dynamic websites won over static websites by offering a lot more interactivity and personalization but had problems like performance, malware and high costs. With the likes of modern browsers, learnings from mobile app development, mature public cloud offerings, the interactivity of HTML5 coupled with JavaScript, and APIs like Disqus, Algolia, there’s an opportunity to revert back to the simplicity of Static websites. To take this to developers, the likes of Matt Biilmann, founder and CEO of Netlify, has been preaching the concept of a JAMStack: a different, serverless approach to building fast, modern websites. JAM stands for JavaScript, APIs and Markup and the core idea is to drop servers altogether, host the code on fast, reliable and secure CDNs and make the browsers interact with the APIs that can take care of the “dynamic” component. The JAMstack embodies these trends highlighted above.

The JAMstack Landscape

This is meant to highlight the burgeoning startup landscape with a few key community and open source projects, enabled by the trends above.

Benefits

The result is increased security, faster deployments and load times, that cost less and are easier to manage. Sound too good to be true? Unlike the LAMPstack there’s no database in the JAMstack, which results in less calls to the backend and reduced surface area of attack. Websites in particular (like those built on Wordpress) have been plagued by malware, but with no database or plugins, threats are drastically reduced. The decoupling of the frontend from the backend also enables developers to plug in best of breed third party APIs like Algolia for search. The CMS component is critical, with an API-first (or “headless CMS” like Contentful or Tipe), enables more collaboration across design, marketing and development. With a git-centric workflow updating the site or app is much easier, you can deploy right from GitHub ensuring content is up to date, roll back to previous versions, and track down bugs.

What’s Next?

Filling the collaboration gaps between frontend stakeholders — from content creators, marketers, design and development.“Devs hate creating and editing text, content creators hate going through engineering to make simple changes”-Scott Moss, CEO of Tipe. Component-based UI design is on the rise, Storybook is taking off (10% of React downloads!) and reusable components will increase the speed of development particularly for teams. “React, Vue and Angular adoption is driving a paradigm shift towards component-centric development and Storybook is at the heart of this movement”- Zoltan Olah, CEO of Chroma. Backend of the Frontend: platforms like Zeit and Netlify are emerging that abstract a lot of the time and difficulties across the processes of site generation, build, deploy, content delivery through hosting. Edge Compute opens up so many doors to new ways to make applications. Once you get access to fast storage at the edge you will able to easily segment, customize traffic, manage content, and rarely hit origin for faster apps.

In Closing…

The frontend dev trends and resulting architectural shift to the JAMstack, is very exciting for the startup and venture ecosystem. At CRV, as an early stage venture capital firm, we’ve already invested in 6 companies in the JAMstack Landscape (3 still to be announced). As it relates to the ecosystem, if you are a founder, investor or just want to talk shop please reach out reid@crv.com.