Welcome back to another episode of The Room Podcast!
Today we are excited to share our conversation as we sit down with a legend and innovator in the software development space, Guillermo Rauch, CEO of Vercel and creator of Next J.S. Next.js is the most popular react framework that most of your favorite websites and apps are leveraging, andVvercel was born out of the development of Next.JS. Vercel’s frontend cloud gives developers frameworks, workflows, and infrastructure to build a faster, more personalized web. If you have been to the websites of Adobe, eBay, Loom, zapier, even the Washington Post, you have encountered Vercel.
To date, Vercel has raised over $313M in venture funding from the likes of Accel, GGV, CRV, and many more. And was recently valued at $2.5 billion.
In today’s conversation we explore insights and themes such as when to compete with a platform vs. building as a layer on top, the art of making shipping software addictive, and evaluating, then executing on what you are uniquely positioned to solve for.
Let’s open the door.
1. When to Compete with a Platform vs. Building as a Layer on Top
Rauch’s journey began with a deep passion for enabling developers. He founded CloudUp, an offshoot of edtech company LearnBoost, which simplified file sharing. However, he soon realized that his true calling lay in enabling developers to create and deploy web applications with ease. This led to the birth of Next.js, an open-source React framework that has become the backbone of countless websites and apps. However, instead of creating a closed ecosystem, Rauch and his team chose to open-source Next.js, allowing developers worldwide to use and contribute to the project. This decision, in essence, was to build as a layer on top of existing technologies — the React framework in this case — empowering developers and businesses to leverage the power of Next.js without starting from scratch.
When contemplating launching a new business, it’s critical to understand emerging technologies and ask yourself whether you should compete directly with the platform or innovate on top as Rauch has done with Next.js and Vercel. As he puts it, “Sometimes what you really need to do is understand that certain technologies are just generational. They’re poised to change the world. The right thing to do is build on top of them and become an expert in them.”
Which technologies does this make you think of for today?
2. The Art of Making Shipping Software Addictive
One of the core tenets of Vercel’s success has been its ability to make shipping software addictive. Rauch believes that developers should find it irresistibly easy and efficient to deploy their code. Vercel achieves this by offering a seamless developer experience — simply connect your GitHub repository, push your code, and Vercel handles the rest. This ease of use encourages developers to ship code continuously, fostering a culture of rapid iteration and deployment. The result? Over 3 million deployments per week and 40 million downloads across all Vercel’s open-source projects. The key takeaway here is that addictive software isn’t just about features; it’s about making developers’ lives easier, one deployment at a time.
3. Evaluating, Then Executing on What You’re Uniquely Positioned to Solve For
For Rauch, the journey to Vercel was about recognizing his unique position in the tech landscape. He understood that his true passion lay in creating foundational technologies and infrastructure for the web. This realization led to the development of Next.js and Vercel as a cloud platform. The key lesson for founders is to identify what you’re uniquely positioned to solve for and build upon that foundation. In Rauch’s case, he had previously been a founder in the EdTech space and came to the realization that it wasn’t where his competitive advantage lay. This insight eventually led him to launching a company at the heart of the developer journey, Rauch’s true passion! What is an area o that you’ve had which you might be uniquely positioned to solve for?
In conclusion, Guillermo Rauch’s journey with Vercel exemplifies the power of open source, the art of making shipping software addictive, and the importance of identifying your unique position in the tech landscape. Whether you choose to compete with a platform or build as a layer on top, remember that success often lies in simplicity, accessibility, and a deep understanding of what truly drives your passion and expertise.