The Success of Firebase: An Outsider’s Perspective

Oct 21, 2014

Regardless of what your opinion is of the Firebase/Google acquisition, what Andrew, James, and the rest of the Firebase team have been able to accomplish these last few years have been nothing short of impressive. As an outsider and (self proclaimed) advocate of Firebase, here’s my opinions on why Firebase was able to accomplish what they did.

First, and the obvious point, Firebase is a fantastic product. I’m the lead instructor at a ‘Learn to Code’ bootcamp. Firebase is such an easy sell. Creating brand advocates is easy when you have a product that is solving a rather large pain point while also adding more features on top of it. For example, an often overlooked feature of Firebase is Facebook/Google/Custom authentication. It’s dead simple. Also for anyone who has used AngularFire, you know how well Angular and Firebase work together. Three way data binding is like when Taco Bell joined forces with Doritos. Separated they’re great but when they combine, you start to look at the world differently. React and Firebase are also fantastic together (but because I have no other analogy to represent anything better than TacoBell and Doritos, I won’t attempt another).

Second, the Firebase team has done an impressive job at putting themselves out there and are very involved in the developer community. I spent a summer out in San Francisco last year. This is when I first discovered Firebase and met some of their team. Out of all the Meetups I went to, there was a Firebase representative at every one (minus the Meteor meetup…for obvious reasons). I’m fairly confident the Firebase team figured out a way to clone their employees. Sara, developer advocate, is everywhere — and always happy. Regardless if she is actually a real person or not, she and many others have managed to put a face to their software. I moved back to Utah after my stay in San Francisco and I was pleasantly surprised that the Firebase community in Utah was just as strong as the one in San Francisco. In fact, there were bigger advocates of Firebase in Utah than those I met in SF.

Third, hustle. I know ‘hustle’ can have an almost derogatory meaning, but when it comes to a scrappy startup, I would argue it’s a good thing. This kind of ties in with the ‘Firebase is everywhere’ comment from earlier. I talked with Alex the VP of User Experience last year and he mention their goal at Firebase is to ‘fundamentally change the internet’. That’s a rather large goal but everyone there realizes that and they’ve all drunk (or dranken? drank maybe?) the KoolAid, if you will. Every release they’ve done, whether it’s updating the docs, AngularFire 0.8, or adding hosting has been followed by extreme support from the developer community — even on HN where people hate you by default unless you tell them you hate them first (JK HN. We’re cool, right?). Because they’re so involved in the community, they’ve understood what their product was lacking and how to fix it, then they executed.

Fourth, social media (also Hustle). Have you ever mentioned anything about Firebase on twitter? At nights when I’m lonely and feeling down, I tweet something about Firebase. Each tweet is guaranteed to get at least 15% of the Firebase team to favorite it. Really, checkout this tweet. 16 Favorites. 7 Retweets. I don’t care who you are, if you’re pulling in 7 retweets with a tweet, that’s going to make the girl who dumped you and got married 3 months later question her decision.

Fifth, a very talented but down to earth team. Being a big supporter of Firebase I’ve gotten to know some of the team on a ~first name basis. They genuinely care about their developers and (don’t send me Google hate tweets for this line) have their developers best interests in mind. During my time in San Francisco when my Wife and I were deciding where we wanted to end up (Salt Lake vs SF) I interviewed at Firebase. Although I didn’t get an offer, it was one of the most pleasant interview experiences I had. Alex (VP of UX) responded very professionally and listed how my experience didn’t align with what they were looking for at that time. Though hard to swallow, it was totally fair and he listed out all the facts so it wasn’t really debatable. As the norm Alex wished me the best and told me to keep in touch. Six months later I received an email from Alex asking me how I was doing in Utah, where I ended up working, and if I was ever in SF to let him know and we would grab lunch. Turns out I was going to SF the next week so as I was there Alex, myself, and the UI team grabbed lunch. It’s that kind of attitude selfless mentality that, as an outsider, radiates from the inside out from their product to their employees.

I realize this post is super fanboy’ish, but it’s partly because I am a fan boy. Though Google doesn’t have the best track record, I’m not (as of 10/21/14) concerned about them ruining the product. For me, Firebase has been more than lightning fast three way data binding magic, and unless Google does something exponentially (or 2^n time complexity) bad — it can’t take that away.

ps. *So it turns out that James Tamplin (Firebase CEO) looks uncomfortably similar to Ryan Key (Yellowcard lead singer). If this is indeed not a coincidence and they are in fact the same person, disregard this article. My love of Yellowcard as a 13 year old boy has clouded my judgement of good software.