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Netlify pays it forward with Jamstack Innovation Fund

Netlify has raised millions for its own efforts to build a developer-focused service to help enable Jamstack development. Now, Netlify is looking to pay it forward, announcing today the first round of investments for its Jamstack Innovation Fund.

Jamstack is an emerging developer stack that integrates Javascript, APIs and Markup (the JAM in Jamstack) for web applications. Netlify is among the pioneers in the Jamstack space, and raised $105 million in a series D round of funding in November 2021, giving the company a valuation of $2 billion.

The Netlify platform provides developers with a service to deploy and manage Jamstack applications, which are built with a growing ecosystem of tools. To help the growth of the ecosystem, Netlify started its Jamstack Innovation Fund with investments of $100,000 in each of 10 different startups. The investments are complemented with advisory and support services from Netlify in a bid to help bring the startups broader exposure and ultimately provide more capabilities to Jamstack platforms, like Netlify.

The 10 startups in the initial round of funding include the Chiselstrike data platform; Clerk authentication; Clutch, which provides Jamstack development for small businesses; state management firm Convex; GraphQL mesh vendor TakeShape; database replication firm Snaplet; Vue.js framework vendor NuxtLabs; fundraising tool vendor Everfund; backend mobile app provider Tigris Data; and JavaScript runtime platform vendor Deno.

“We are very much focusing strongly on companies that provide tools for web developers to build in a better way,” Christian Bach, cofounder of Netlify, told VentureBeat. “If you look at the companies we have invested in, they’re all providing some sort of service that pushes forward the capabilities of building with the Jamstack in a composable way, for the modern web.”

Deno looks to reimagine JavaScript

While all of the companies that Netlify is investing in are startups, some are a bit further ahead in their journey than others. One such vendor is Deno, which announced on June 21 that it had raised a $21 million round of funding. Netlify was a small participant in the round, which was led by Sequoia.

Netlify is also already using Deno within its platform, as the underlying JavaScript runtime technology that helps to power its Netlify Edge Functions service that was announced on April 19.

“Everyone’s pushing everything to the edge, that’s a big trend for the web, but if you look at it, there’s a lot of sort of proprietary standards out there,” Bach said.

Bach noted that Deno is an open-source technology and benefits from being an open development community. He added that Deno is making it easier for web developers to build software with JavaScript, with the ability to embed a JavaScript runtime wherever website code and applications run.

Deno’s JavaScript engine also supports WebAssembly, which is a nascent open standard that can enable code written in any language to operate on the same runtime engine. Bach said that in his view, it’s still early days for WebAssembly, and he’s excited to see where the technology will end up.

Bringing more data to Jamstack applications

One of the key themes that is evident from the companies that Netlify has invested in is the need to help connect web applications to data.

Chiselstrike is one such startup. Based in London, Ontario, Canada, Chiselstrike was founded in 2021 and provides backend application capabilities as a service. Snaplet, based in Berlin, Germany, which was also started in 2021, is looking to solve a different issue, by helping Jamstack developers to easily access PostgreSQL-based databases. Bach noted that web developers can often struggle with databases and there is a need to help simplify the process inside of a Jamstack deployment.

Data also comes into Jamstack applications by way of APIs (application programming interfaces). The REST API protocol is pervasive across the web today, but it is starting to be displaced by the emerging GraphQL API standard. Netlify is investing in GraphQL startup TakeShape, which was founded in 2017 in Brooklyn with a goal of making it easier for web developers to benefit from GraphQL. 

Netlify is no stranger to the GraphQL world. Alongside its funding announcement in November 2021, Netlify also announced the acquisition of GraphQL vendor OneGraph.

“Netlify has a very strong view on GraphQL being an API technology that is absolutely necessary,” Bach said.

Giving back and paying it forward

While helping to enable Jamstack developers is the goal of Netlify’s investments, it’s also invested in Everfund, which is a bit of a different platform.

“Everfund is essentially trying to build a Stripe, but for donations,” Bach said. “Nonprofit information is something that a lot of developers actually touch.”

Bach commented that during the pandemic, the market for donations of all types mostly went online. What has become evident to him, and to Everfund, is that there’s a need for an open platform to enable donation processing.

“That whole industry is due for a big renewal of how they do things and to make it as easy as possible for nonprofits to roll out something on the web,” Bach said. “I think that Everfund has a great vision for that.”

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