The Business Philosophy Behind Revolutionizing a Web Architecture with Chris Bach, Co-founder of Netlify

Business Philosophy Behinds Revolutionizing a Web Architecture With Christian Bach


When I sat down for a remote podcast conversation with Christian (Chris) Bach from Netlify to learn about their successful business philosophy, I underestimated the depth and breadth of the topics we would cover.

By the end of our conversation, we had explored a wide range of subjects, starting with the story of how Chris and his co-founder began Netlify and grew it into the successful company it is today. Along the way, they revolutionized web architecture in their own unique manner.

Our discussion primarily focused on three main areas: 1) The journey of Netlify and how they developed a platform specifically tailored for web developers. 2) The role Netlify played in driving a revolution in web architecture. 3) Words of wisdom from Chris for both startups and already successful businesses looking to scale beyond their current capacities.

Listen to the Audio Version of the Episode

Summary Points

  • Chris Bach shared the evolution of web and the rise of the Jamstack. He explained how Netlify's platform decouples the frontend and backend, allowing for faster, more scalable, and more secure web applications.

  • The conversation covered the challenges of monolithic systems, the benefits of edge computing, and the role of Netlify in the shifting IT landscape. It also highlighted the importance of understanding the human condition and solving real problems in the development of successful business solutions.

  • Chris shared the process of identifying problems and developing solutions, the importance of technical insight and product development, and the steps to building a viable business.
  • We focused on Chris' vision for the future of Netlify and the challenges of scaling beyond oneself. He emphasized the need to remove oneself as a bottleneck and scale companies delegate responsibilities to others.

  • Towards the end, Chris shared that he finds happiness in learning, building, and surrounding himself with passionate people. Chris also appreciates analog experiences and the beauty of art, architecture, and nature.

Watch the Video Version of the Episode

"So yes, we all have dark nights, absolutely. But those are some of the ways that you deal with it. Are you in principle in the right place? Should you be an entrepreneur? Are you optimizing for doing things that keep you going? It cannot just be your business success. It has to be what are you doing for that business success and what does that mean for how you thrive as a working human being."

~ Christian Bach, Co-Founder, Netlify

Following are the sections we covered in this conversation with their summaries, along with the time location in the video and audio to follow along.

00:00 Introduction to Chris Bach and Netlify

Chris is originally from Copenhagen, Denmark, and has spent the last decade in Silicon Valley pioneering a new architecture for building sites, stores and apps for the web. Today, this new architecture is used by the majority of enterprises. The company he co-founded to do this, Netlify, today has almost 5 million businesses and developers that run over 35 million sites, stores and apps. He is very engaged in the web community and sits on a number of advisory and executive boards besides being an avid angel investor. 

01:11 Netlify's Architecture and Evolution of the Web

Netlify is a platform that addresses the underlying architecture of the web and its evolution. The traditional approach to building websites relied on monolithic structures, where a single server would generate and deliver a version of the site to each visitor. While this allowed for real-time updates and interactions, it also presented security vulnerabilities and performance issues. As closed ecosystems emerged, a new architecture was needed. Netlify provides a solution by separating the presentation layer and content management, resulting in faster and more secure websites. This shift can be compared to the transition from websites as icons to the development of mobile apps. Netlify's architecture plays a significant role in shaping the future of the web.

03:46 The Shift to Pre-built Applications

This architecture allows for independent development of the website's shell and business logic, similar to mobile apps. By pre-building the website and utilizing multiple points of origin, performance and scalability are significantly improved. The website can handle sudden increases in traffic without concerns about bandwidth or compute power. Furthermore, this approach enhances security.

06:29 Decoupling the Frontend and Backend

The conversation delves into the concept of decoupling the frontend and backend of websites, allowing for more flexibility and efficiency. By separating the UI from the backend, web developers can make live updates without relying on backend implementation. This not only saves time but also empowers web developers to build entire applications instead of simply converting files. The decoupling also paves the way for composable architecture, where different components of a website, such as analytics, commerce, and content management, can be sourced from different providers. This modular approach eliminates the need for expensive and time-consuming monolithic software packages, allowing for greater adaptability and scalability within enterprises.

09:38 Composable Architecture and the Challenges of Monolithic Systems

The conversation explores the concept of composable architecture and the challenges associated with monolithic systems. While the new approach offers numerous benefits, including faster time to market, flexibility, scalability, and security, there were initial obstacles to its adoption. One challenge was the lack of an ecosystem, as there were no headless providers available. Additionally, the need for a workflow platform to facilitate communication between different components arose. To address these issues, Netlify launched its automation platform, allowing developers to build in this new way. Over time, the ecosystem has grown significantly, with numerous companies embracing the composable architecture approach.

13:03 The Growth of the Jamstack and Netlify

The conversation highlights the growth of the Jamstack architecture and its acceptance by enterprises. Initially, the focus was on developers adopting the new approach, gradually building grassroots support and creating an ecosystem. However, as the ecosystem expanded, it became relevant for enterprises, offering the potential to replace their existing stacks with a composable standard. Netlify played a significant role in this journey, naming the architecture the Jamstack and leveraging trends such as the increased power of internet browsers and the API economy. By capitalizing on these advancements, Netlify positioned itself as a leader in the space, providing developers and enterprises with the tools and platform to embrace the Jamstack.

15:51 The Role of Netlify as a Platform

Netlify plays a crucial role as a platform that provides the glue between different components and tools in the Jamstack architecture. While Netlify doesn't offer the individual components, it automates the operations and turns the infrastructure into code. By allowing developers to plug in various AI components, commerce solutions, content solutions, and more, Netlify simplifies the process of creating and deploying applications and websites. This eliminates the need for a single server in a specific location and reduces delays caused by physical distance. Netlify's platform brings together the necessary elements and makes them available to users worldwide, enhancing performance, security, and overall user experience.

17:33 The Benefits of Edge Computing

The conversation explores the benefits of edge computing and the genius of Netlify's approach. Traditionally, the TCP/IP protocol used in the internet was not specifically designed for its purposes, leading to performance issues. However, changing the entire infrastructure to support a new protocol was not feasible. Netlify's innovation lies in leveraging the existing infrastructure while introducing new tools and processes to optimize performance and user experience. By bringing the computation closer to the user through edge computing, delays caused by physical distance are minimized. This revolutionizes the way websites and applications are delivered, enhancing speed, efficiency, and overall functionality without requiring a complete overhaul of the underlying architecture.

20:58 The Magic Moment of Automation

The conversation highlights the magic moment of automation in the context of Netlify's architecture. By automating the build process and deploying the website to edge locations, Netlify eliminates the need for users to fetch the entire website from a central server. Instead, users can access the website from the edge, resulting in faster performance and reduced latency. This breakthrough innovation allows for the creation of a CDN-like experience without the need for large-scale infrastructure investments. Netlify leverages existing data centers and points of presence to deliver international performance, making it accessible to a wider range of users and organizations.

26:31 The Evolution of Netlify's Customers

The conversation explores the evolution of Netlify's customers over the past 10 years. Initially, Netlify was started by Chris Bach and his partner Matt in Copenhagen with a small team. The focus was on solving the problem faced by developers and agencies who needed a more efficient and flexible way to build and deploy websites. However, as Netlify grew, its customer base expanded to include enterprises and larger organizations that sought faster time to market, scalability, and security. Netlify's platform and tools have evolved to cater to the needs of a broader range of users while continuing to address the initial problem of streamlining the website development process.

33:46 Netlify's Role in the Shifting IT Landscape

The conversation highlights the role of Netlify in the shifting IT landscape. As more business problems have digital solutions, the budgets for digital and IT have grown significantly. Netlify is positioned to address the complexity of the modern IT landscape by providing a platform that automates infrastructure and workflow processes. Instead of businesses managing their own infrastructure, Netlify offers pure automation and scalability, allowing organizations to focus on their core business instead of technical complexities. This aligns with the concept of a business philosopher, as Netlify combines independent thinking, understanding of the human condition, and the ability to provide marketable solutions to digital challenges.

35:43 The Business Philosopher Approach 

The conversation acknowledges that Chris Bach embodies the qualities of a business philosopher. He demonstrates independent and original thinking, considers the human condition and its problems, and devises marketable solutions. This aligns with the definition of a business philosopher, as someone who combines philosophical thinking with business acumen to address real-world challenges. Despite Chris feeling unwell during the conversation, his insights and expertise still shine through, reinforcing his status as a business philosopher.

"The point is to saturate that, and then as that ecosystem crystallizes, then Netlify is present as being this centralizing layer. We had all the focus on building out the category and creating those connections to early tech partners and pushing and helping that along. That's why I'm on all these advisory boards today and why I'm an angel investor in so many as well, to push that along. Then, of course, that changes." 

~ Christian Bach, Co-Founder, Netlify

37:56 Identifying the Problem and Solution 

The conversation emphasizes the importance of identifying the problem and finding a viable solution. Chris Bach mentions the need for a technical insight, a deep understanding of the pain point, and a clear vision of how to address it. This insight leads to the development of a product or solution. However, it is crucial to determine if the solution can stand alone as a marketable product and if there is a viable business model around it. This comprehensive approach ensures that the problem is not only solved technically but also meets the needs and expectations of potential customers.

39:12 Technical Insight and Product Development

The conversation emphasizes the importance of having a technical insight and translating it into a viable product. This insight is often derived from recognizing and understanding abstract problems that people face. By walking into someone's office and identifying a real concrete problem, a solution can be developed that meets the needs of individuals who are seeking a resolution. However, it is essential to determine if this solution can stand alone as a marketable product and if there is a viable business model behind it. This comprehensive approach ensures that the technical insight is transformed into a practical and successful product.

40:35 Building a Viable Business

The conversation emphasizes the importance of building a viable business based on successful product development. After identifying a technical insight and translating it into a product, it is crucial to determine if the product can stand alone and if there is a viable business model behind it. This involves considering factors such as market demand, product-market fit, and potential revenue streams. Additionally, gaining traction and user excitement is an important measure of success, as it indicates the value and usefulness of the product. By waiting to raise funding until after achieving significant traction, there is a greater chance of securing investment and scaling the business effectively.

43:36 Having a Vision for the Future

Chris Bach explains that Netlify's initial vision was to revolutionize the web and provide a better way of building applications. The company's mission-driven approach focused on fighting back against the limitations of traditional web architecture. Over the past decade, Netlify has played a significant role in shaping the modern web and application development landscape. Looking ahead, the vision is to continue providing viable workflows and empowering developers to build applications using their preferred methods and tools. Netlify aims to maintain its position as a key player in the evolving web architecture space, working alongside other industry players to drive innovation and improvements.

47:16 Decoupling the Front End and Making Front-End Clouds

The conversation explores the concept of decoupling the front end and making front-end clouds a viable solution for enterprises. This approach, pioneered by Netlify and other players in the industry, allows for the separation of the front end from the back end and the creation of front-end clouds. It caters to developers, architects, marketers, business owners, and CIOs who seek to optimize their public infrastructure and improve time to market. By providing a comprehensive solution that integrates legacy systems and creates common workflows across old and new technologies, Netlify addresses a critical problem in the industry. The company's focus on digital experiences and its commitment to innovation position it at the forefront of the evolving landscape, with a vision to provide viable solutions for the future, including the incorporation of AI technologies.

49:44 Adapting to New Technology and Architectures

The discussion revolves around the challenges and opportunities of adapting to new technology and architectures, particularly in the context of AI and front-end development. The conversation emphasizes the rapid evolution of AI technology, making it difficult to predict the default way of implementation in the future. There is also a focus on the importance of flexibility and agility in choosing and discontinuing technology components, aligning with the vision of providing absolute flexibility to enterprise developers. The conversation underscores the potential impact of AI in driving efficiency and the need for enterprises to embrace new technology with a good return on investment. The conversation also discusses the importance of allowing developers to use new technology in enterprise projects, rather than just in hobby projects, as long as it provides value to the enterprise.

53:18 Dealing with Challenges and Dark Nights of the Soul

The conversation delves into the challenges and uncertainties of entrepreneurship, with a focus on moments of doubt and difficulty. The discussion highlights the fluctuating emotions experienced by entrepreneurs, from euphoria to absolute terror, and the impact of victories and setbacks on their journey. The conversation also emphasizes the importance of finding satisfaction in the process of building and solving problems, rather than being solely focused on the financial aspects of entrepreneurship. The conversation provides insights into how entrepreneurs deal with moments of doubt and the mindset required to navigate the ups and downs of the entrepreneurial journey.

59:11 Scaling Beyond Yourself

The conversation explores the realization that staying in one's high-performance zone is crucial for success. It highlights the shift from focusing on internal scaling to embracing ideation and being on the front line. Chris acknowledges that he wasn't learning enough and wasn't excited about internal scaling, leading to a lack of success. He emphasizes the need to make the right changes and shift into a place where he is more fulfilled and happy. The conversation also discusses the importance of humility and recognizing one's strengths and weaknesses. It cautions against the common mistake of trying to be good at everything and emphasizes the need to evolve while staying true to oneself.

01:03:07 Removing Yourself as the Bottleneck

The conversation focuses on advice and words of wisdom for individuals who need to scale beyond themselves. Chris suggests identifying where one is the bottleneck and finding ways to remove themselves from that position. This can involve up-leveling, delegating, or even replacing oneself. Chris also mentions the importance of making oneself dispensable and building a team or system that can function without solely relying on one individual. Practical advice includes evaluating why one couldn't walk away from the business and addressing those reasons, such as building a brand or developing a sales function. The conversation acknowledges the challenge of letting go and the temptation to do everything oneself, but emphasizes the need to overcome these tendencies to enable successful scaling.

01:08:40 Finding Happiness in Learning and Building

The conversation revolves around what makes Chris happy, focusing on his love for learning and building. Chris expresses happiness when he learns something new and when he is involved in building and changing the status quo. He emphasizes the need for a substantial mission and the importance of surrounding himself with passionate and enthusiastic people. Chris mentions that he feeds off the energy of others and enjoys solving problems and evolving. Outside of work, Chris finds happiness in aesthetics, such as art, architecture, nature, films, and music. He mentions the opportunities for exploring the art scene and nature in San Francisco and his frequent travels to Europe. Overall, Chris finds happiness in both professional and personal pursuits, driven by a love for learning, building, and experiencing beauty.

01:11:24 Appreciating Analog Experiences

The conversation briefly touches on Chris' appreciation for analog experiences and the enrichment they bring to our lives. Bhavesh notes that, for Chris, the primary world is digital and analog is the alternate universe. Chris acknowledges this and expresses his love for analog experiences. Bhavesh highlights that Chris is fortunate to love what he does and receive positive responses from the world, allowing him to make a contribution and solve people's problems. Bhavesh expresses appreciation for Chris sharing his story, business wisdom, and philosophy. He suggests the possibility of reconnecting in the future and asks Chris how others can reach out or connect with him, to which Chris confirms there are ways to do so.

01:12:51 Connecting with Chris Bach

Chris Bach can be reached through social media, particularly LinkedIn, where he can be found under the name "Chris Bach." He is also accessible via email. Chris is open to continuing conversations on various topics, including the future of the web, digital strategies for businesses, race cars, art, business philosophies, and startups. Bhavesh mentions that he will include Chris's contact information in the show notes for easy access. Bhavesh expresses gratitude for the conversation and looks forward to future interactions.

Please follow and connect with Christian (Chris) Bach by following this link. If you make a connect request, please mention this podcast. 

"It's that notion of saying, where are you the bottleneck? And how are you going to remove yourself as being a bottleneck? That could be to up-level in a certain way. It could be to delegate, but it could also be to replace yourself." 

~ Christian Bach, Co-Founder, Netlify

Conclusions And Take-aways

  • Netlify pioneered the Jamstack architecture, which decouples the frontend and backend of web applications, leading to faster, more scalable, and more secure sites.

  • The traditional monolithic architecture of the web was a bottleneck, while the Jamstack allows for pre-built applications and distributed origins, resulting in improved performance.

  • Netlify's platform automates the operations of web development, eliminating the need for manual processes and reducing time to market.

  • The growth of the Jamstack and Netlify has led to a shift in the IT landscape, with more enterprises embracing composable architecture and seeking solutions that offer scalability, flexibility, and security.

  • A business philosopher combines independent thinking, an understanding of the human condition, and the ability to create marketable solutions to solve real problems. Identifying the problem and developing a solution is the first step in building a successful business.

  • Technical insight must be translated into an actual product that solves a concrete problem for customers.

  • Building a viable business requires considering the market and finding a way to sell the product.

  • Having a vision for the future helps guide the direction of the company and anticipate potential challenges.

  • Scaling beyond oneself requires identifying and removing bottlenecks, delegating responsibilities, and hiring talented individuals.

  • Finding happiness in learning, building, and surrounding oneself with passionate people is key to long-term success.
Scroll to Top