Lee Robinson / November 23, 2021
7 min read • ––– views
Today, we announced our $150M Series D at a $2.5B valuation. I joined Vercel a year and a half ago. Before Vercel, I’d never worked at a hypergrowth company. When you’re in an environment with exponential company growth, you’re also likely to have exponential personal growth.
To visualize growth, here’s a timeline of my work at Vercel alongside major events:
- Apr 2020: Vercel announces $21M Series A.
- June 2020: Vercel announces first-ever Next.js global community conference.
- July 2020: I started helping plan and execute the conference (part-time).
- Sep 2020: I join Vercel full-time as employee #34.
- Oct 2020: We host Next.js Conf with 40,000 attendees.
- Oct 2020: Next.js 10 makes some waves, our biggest release yet.
- Oct 2020: We launch Vercel Analytics.
- Dec 2020: Vercel announces $40M Series B.
- Jan 2021: Next.js crosses 1,000,000 weekly downloads.
- Feb 2021: I helped close our largest ARR enterprise customer to date.
- Apr 2021: I’m promoted to Head of Developer Relations.
- May 2021: I start hiring Developer Advocates for my team.
- June 2021: Vercel announces $102M Series C at a $1B valuation.
- June 2021: We host the special edition of Next.js Conf and announce Next.js 12.
- June 2021: We announce Next.js Live.
- July 2021: Delba joins my team.
- July 2021: Steven joins my team.
- Sep 2021: Hassan joins my team.
- Oct 2021: Steph joins my team.
- Oct 2021: We host the 2nd Next.js Conf, which I helped script, record, film, and edit.
- Oct 2021: We launch Vercel Checks and Edge Functions.
- Nov 2021: Vercel announces $150M Series D at a $2.5B valuation.
And that brings us to today:
- 150+ Vercelians, 5x larger than when I joined.
- 30,000+ developers in the Next.js Discord.
- 2,000,000+ weekly downloads for Next.js.
- 4 Developer Advocates on my team, growing more in 2022 👀
- Incredible customers like GitHub, McDonald’s, Uber, Patreon, Facebook, and more.
Here’s some thoughts on my past year and a half at Vercel.
In 2017, I heard about this company making it simple to deploy your website. Just one command in the CLI and you're online. I remember checking out their product and feeling connected. This sleek, well-designed tool was for me. It helped me become a better developer and I was hooked.
Joining Vercel came at the right time. I felt stagnant in my career, longing to spend more time being a creator and less time as a product engineer. I was excited by the Vercel product and even more excited about the team. So, I made the jump and joined.
I joined as employee #34. I quickly got to know everyone and helped wherever possible. Hypergrowth feels like there’s more water coming into the boat than you have plugs to fill the holes with. I was able to help with engineering, product, design, presales, support, you name it. I helped our customers be successful using Vercel and Next.js.
As the company grew, I was able to double down and focus on what I do best: educating developers and building developer communities. We hired more engineers, more product managers, more engineering managers, more customer success managers, etc. Our customers succeeded and grew, and we grew with them.
Hiring is incredibly difficult. When I moved into leading DevRel, I knew I needed to grow a team, but first I had to create the foundation. I tried to document as much of my process and workflow as possible. In an ideal situation, I’m able to “clone” myself with my first hire. They learn the tips and tricks I use to handle my job effectively. Then, for the next hire, we have two people to help influence. And so on (thanks, Delba!).
For me, the hardest part of growing a team is delegation. It’s hard to give up ownership over something you’ve carefully crafted or implemented. It requires an immense level of trust in those you’re delegating responsibility and ownership to. This comes back to hiring. Finding people I could trust, and then working to strengthen that trust, has made our team highly effective.
It's still early days for DevRel at Vercel, but I'm extremely proud of what we've accomplished. Some recent highlights:
- Hassan just spoke at the Prisma Serverless Conference
- Steph just spoke at Svelte Summit
- Delba created two videos (1, 2) for Next.js Conf and is speaking at React Conf
- Steven helped create vercel.com/edge and examples for platforms on Vercel
I joined Vercel without having worked remotely full-time (only part-time). I was incredibly scared about missing the in-person parts of work I enjoyed: being able to work on hard problems together with someone in the same room, the easy opportunities to chat about non-work stuff and learn more about my co-workers, and the clear separation between home and work.
Now, these are all solvable problems in a remote world. But they’re not easy. Both myself and the company I work for have to be intentional about not losing the best parts about being in person. Especially with a globally distributed team.
In one of my first jobs, I’d meet up with three other people to carpool every morning. Most mornings, the last thing I wanted was to make small talk in the car before work. I wanted to sleep. So, I would struggle to get 30 minutes more of sleep before going into my 8 hour day. Then, back to the carpool for the ride home. Rinse and repeat.
Reflecting on this, I couldn’t fathom how unhealthy it sounded for me. I wanted more flexibility with my schedule. Some days, I wanted to get that extra 30 minutes of sleep and then stay an hour later. Other days, I wanted to leave as soon as possible and enjoy the nice weather. But I was bound to the shackles of the 9 to 5 and my limiting carpool. I thought about the mornings I’d get up and hit snooze for five more minutes. Then, I contrasted to today.
Today, I wake up depending on my schedule for the day. Sometimes I’ll sleep in a bit later, others I’ll wake up extra early and go to the gym. When I wake up, there’s no carpool. There’s no 30 minutes of forced sleep and 30 minutes of small talk on the ride home. I just walk to my office in the other room. I can design my day to best fit my life. I can make accommodations for my life first and work second. The flexibility of remote work is a privilege and one that I am thankful for every day.
For Vercel, we're just getting started. Earlier this month, Rich Harris joined to work on Svelte full-time. Many more exciting announcements are coming in the following months. As outlined in our Series D post, we're going to use this funding to:
- Support open-source software
- Make the Web Edge-first
- Build the end-to-end development platform
- Grow our team
I’ve grown more as a developer and creator in the past year and a half than in the previous five. I'm excited to keep educating and helping developers succeed with React, Svelte, or any frontend framework of their choice.
Thanks to @signalnoise for the banner art.
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