Written By
Tyson Clark

A trend I'm following is the growth in enterprise migration from cloud to serverless environments. Gartner estimates that 30% of global enterprises will have serverless computing technologies deployed by 2022, up from 5% in October 2019. A serverless approach paves the way for a significant shift in front-end web development, and we're seeing a new crop of startups emerging that offer easier ways to create websites. The frontrunner in this space is the software development workflow and deployment platform Vercel, which just announced its Series B funding, led by GV.

Vercel founder Guillermo Rauch is a passionate advocate for removing barriers to creative web development. Since back-end systems are now available off the shelf, and with innovation accelerating on the front end, developers can code, preview, and ship interactive web applications as fast as they can dream them up. "Modern software development evolved in such a way that front-end became a very specialized field," Guillermo explained in a recent conversation, adding that "Vercel puts the front-end developer first, with comprehensive tools to create high-performance websites and applications that scale globally."

Guillermo's energy is off the charts. The momentum he's generating with Vercel, and the rapid growth of the open source Next.js framework he created, makes him an emerging leader in this field. Originally from Buenos Aires, Guillermo learned English by reading software manuals. When he was eleven, he taught himself web development so he could take on remote Javascript projects as a contractor. That work eventually brought him to San Francisco, and he found the city was a perfect environment for his early entrepreneurial drive.

"I really fell in love with the Bay Area's openness to entrepreneurship and new ideas," he remembers. "I was here to start something new. I made a lot of connections with immigrant entrepreneurs who showed me it was possible."

As a Latin American founder in the U.S., Guillermo didn't have a built-in network in Silicon Valley. But he persevered. "One thing that helped me was open source. People were happy to talk to me because I'd built things that piqued their curiosity. The content I shared with the world always created new opportunities for me."

His experience has deeply influenced the development of Vercel. The platform is completely open source, and the company values collaboration as a cornerstone. Vercel's Next.js software framework makes it easier for developers to collaborate across their entire organization — not just with each other. "I think that's ultimately what will make our society more equitable, more interesting, more artistic, more creative," he says. "Giving everybody the opportunity to create products."

This move to bring more disciplines across an organization into the website process also changes the game about who can be a front-end developer. We're moving to a place where designers will increasingly be coders. Guillermo notes that Vercel is "attracting a new breed of developer who is super creative. It wouldn't be surprising to me if we end up renaming 'front-end developer' into 'product developer'."

Global companies like Hulu, Target, Airbnb, and Tripadvisor use Vercel to deploy their front-end sites, in part because the platform minimizes back-end complexity. I asked Guillermo if back-end development has become commoditized. "With incredible innovations like Kubernetes and the API platforms, all those backends are really well built," he observes. "We've learned how to scale them. That leaves the most interesting part for any business in the front end — that's where you meet your customer."

Both Guillermo and I are fathers of three young children, and we've talked about the crazy challenges of working from home and parenting (his young son even joined us when we were recording this video). Guillermo takes it all in stride, and even embraces optimism. "You want to build a company that is going to be here for the next decade, for the next century," he says. "It's empowering to think our children could be Next.js developers in the future. Founders tend to become super obsessive about their companies, but creating different spaces for developing yourself and developing your family will make the company better. These things are not at odds. They complement each other really well."