2019 has been a year of tremendous growth for both Stream and Ionic. My name is Nick Parsons, and I’m a Developer at Stream. I decided to reach out to Max Lynch, the CEO of Ionic, as well as Thierry Schellenbach, my CEO at Stream about trends that they see first hand in the cloud space.
To kick it off, I asked Max and Thierry about the top predictions in the market and gained some insightful knowledge about their thoughts for the future.
Max: We will see more opaque services built around problem areas like Computing (functions), AI, and ML, further reducing the need to run and manage custom infrastructure. Consider that an evergreen trend.
Thierry: There’s one trend that we see here at Stream. More companies and startups are leveraging APIs for various components of their applications. Stream for Chat & Feeds, Voxeet for Audio & Video, Algolia for search, Auth0 for user authentication, Stripe for payments – and the list goes on. Computing is continuously moving to higher abstraction levels.
As a fun aside, I think this is causing Wirth's law to no longer be accurate since these specialized companies spend a ton of time on optimizing performance.
Thierry: Even the largest of companies we work with never seem to have enough app/frontend developers. I think that’s one of the driving forces why frontend developers are starting to become significant decision-makers when it comes to adopting cloud technology. That’s why we spend a lot of effort on our SDKs and tutorials for React Chat, React Native, iOS and Android Chat. The developer experience is essential these days.
Max: Backend infrastructure is increasingly getting commoditized and turned into opaque services. This results in the consumption and configuration of those services moving closer to the frontend and those doing frontend work.
The net effect is that frontend developers are becoming more powerful than ever, and services that cater to them will increasingly win.
Max: I think it’s here to stay, but we’re going to see more specialized tools like Stencil solving specific problems around the frontend, like building reusable design systems that are framework agnostic.
Thierry: React has always been a well-executed frontend framework (I have tried quite a few in my days). The introduction of hooks has been a significant step forward, further solidifying their lead. The main reason I think it will stay dominant, though, is the ecosystem. Many cloud providers are creating reusable React components. So you have this ecosystem, which gives React an advantage. That puts up a high bar for the next framework; something has to be 10x better to beat React at this point.
Nick: Thanks for sharing. There are a few more topics I wanted to get your thoughts on. Max, how do you feel about this wave of no-code platforms?
Max: I think they will become useful for particular minimal applications, but so far aren’t living up to expectations. There’s much hype, but building spreadsheet applications has limited utility. That being said, many are helping with the design side of the problem (such as Webflow) – but I am unsure about how those scale up to building end-to-end applications. Also, primarily a prosumer driven trend while the enterprise has unique needs that won’t be solved by the same products, in our opinion.
Nick: This is one for both of you. Ionic is in Madison, Wisconsin, and Stream is located in Boulder, Colorado – how do you feel about building a startup outside of the US?
Max: I think the only thing you miss out on is the maximum valuation for fundraising and acquisition, and friction for acquisitions given the system for startups refiltering back into leading tech companies.
Beyond that, I don’t think about it much because so many of our customers are everywhere else, and we’ve successfully competed with Bay Area companies, to the point where I don’t think we lack in areas of execution which is what I’m focused on.
Having done it elsewhere now, I don’t think I’d ever move to the Bay Area to do a startup.
Thierry: My first startup was in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Fundraising was challenging. Boulder’s ecosystem is pretty amazing, and what we found is that many successful VC funds have changed their focus from the Bay area to anywhere in the USA.
On average, it takes 10+ years for companies to succeed. So we won't see this shift overnight. I do think we’ll see more and more large companies making it to IPO outside of the Bay Area.
Nick: It feels like every day there is a new company raising crazy rounds on unproven business models. What do you think about that?
Thierry: There is a real danger to raising too much capital. It’s an all too common cycle: raise too much capital, don’t keep up with expectations, lose staff, your cap table ends up broken, the company fails, customers are angry. Here at Stream, we’re focused on building a sustainable business that our customers can rely on long-term.
Max: Ionic is unique in this market in that we have an enterprise business aligned with our open-source efforts. For teams that want a platform they can invest in and have supported technology and enterprise-specific solutions, Ionic stands alone. That ends up being pretty compelling for teams building mission-critical applications. Good luck getting any help from Facebook or Google for your next big application!
Thierry: So we did a little Chat with Ionic blog post. It was quite surprising how easy it was to build and how solid performance was compared to native applications. On desktop, we’ve seen Electron win. Mobile is different, and the native options are better than on a desktop. Still, I wouldn’t bet against Ionic. Being able to write code once instead of N times is just a significant advantage for teams.
Nick: And to finish it off, what’s happening in 2020 with Ionic and Stream?
Max: Ionic continues to focus on web technology and the web platform, i.e., being web-native. That has helped us stand out for a massive swath of the developer market that wants to continue to use web browser technology.
As we expand our rapid growth in the enterprise, we are continuing to ask ourselves a simple question: what application development problems do teams have, and how can we solve them? That question is leading us into spaces like Low Code that we are excited to talk about later in 2020.
For Stream's 2020 Roadmap, I’m particularly excited about MML, improved documentation, ranking on aggregated feeds, and improvements to our various SDKs.
I want to extend a big thank you to both Max and Thierry for their time. The insight gained during this interview was excellent, and I hope that those of you reading will have a few takeaways from this interview.