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Developer interviews

Interview with Pierre Burgy

CEO, Strapi - An open source headless CMS.

What is Strapi and why did you build it?

Strapi is an open source Headless CMS. Today, content has to be displayed everywhere - mobile applications, IOT, ATMs, all kinds of platforms - but traditional CMSs are designed for managing content on websites only. That is a strong limitation. Even the way to create a website has completely changed over the past few years because developers want to use modern frontend frameworks, such as React, to build faster websites. These new frameworks are designed to be connected to an API, pull the content, and display it their own way. For these reasons, developers need something new in terms of content management. They need a content management system that is based on an API so the content can be available on any platform.

We started Strapi when we were students. At the time we were working as developers to make some money. We had all built lots of websites using traditional CMSs, but when we wanted to build a mobile application or use one of these new frameworks, that old approach wasn’t compatible. So we decided to create our own piece of software and we started using it for our clients' projects. When talking with other companies and developers, we quickly realized that dozens of people had similar needs.

We decided to make our project available to others. One option was to build a SaaS solution, but we knew that developers need the ability to customize the CMS and the company needed the ability to host the CMS on their own cloud. That’s why we published Strapi as an open source project.

What does a “day in the life” look like for you?

I typically start my day by checking my emails and Slack - all internal stuff. When I’m up to date, I aim to do a two-hour focus session, which could be on a specific topic such as hiring.

During my lunch break, I enjoy doing sports, which drives me a lot. In the afternoon I start with another two-hour focus session and then do back to back meetings until the end of the day as we work a lot with the US and I’m based in France. At the moment, these meetings are mostly calls with prospects, meetings with the team, and interviews with candidates.

What is the team structure around Strapi?

Our team is structured by departments. We have product, engineering, marketing, finance & legal, people & talent, user success and sales. Within the engineering team, we have Software Engineers,  Engineering Managers and QA Engineers. This is our biggest team.

How do you think about the open source business model?

Open source is a big part of our DNA at Strapi. Until 2020 we were not making any revenue. That was the strategy. Our investors were completely aligned with us to build the largest community of Headless CMS users, which we have successfully done.

In 2020 we released Strapi Enterprise Edition, which is the extension of the open source product. This extension includes additional features such as role-based access control, single sign-on and support. We sell this Enterprise Edition through a self-serve model on our pricing page, and through a sales-driven process with the executives in the team.

We also have a network of Solution Partners like digital agencies, which are very important in our go-to-market strategy. Our marketing team also invests a lot of time in content marketing and community marketing.

How did you first get into software development?

I started my studies in a business school and then began working in a real estate agency selling houses and apartments when I was 19. I was working closely with the owner of the real estate agency, which was when I realized that I wanted to build my own company. I knew that the future was online and everything was going digital. I was already playing with some traditional CMSs to build a few websites. As I wanted to create my own company I wanted to be able to create my own websites and products - having the ability to do software development was part of the process.

I really dug into JS, and fell in love with software development. It went from a need to a passion. It was in 2013 so it was the days of NodeJS and other frameworks that were just starting. It was super exciting. I spent my days and nights learning software development. I did an internship at checkout.com and then I worked as a freelance developer.

Now as a CEO, I don’t really code anymore, but I still enjoy talking a lot with developers both internally and externally.

What is the most interesting development challenge you’ve faced working on Strapi?

I think it’s managing the community. When you create an open source project you get your first users, it is very exciting, especially for us at the time because we were students. Making something useful for plenty of people was extremely rewarding.

One of the first challenges was to answer questions, fix issues, and add new features. Being transparent with the community has been a priority since day one. We created a vote page on our website to make this kind of feedback possible. We released a public roadmap. The community has always been at the center of what we do. We build with the community all the time and we don’t prioritize features for customers but for the community. That’s a very important challenge as a team.

How do you go about managing that community?

We definitely get a lot of emails and issues, posts and messages! Our role is to empower the contributors. By contributors I not only mean source code contributors, but people who help others in the community, people who publish content about Strapi, people who suggest ideas, etc.. The community is much larger than the core contributors. We use tools like Canny to get feedback and quantify what we should work on.

How do you decide which features are going into the enterprise product versus the open source product?

Everything for developers and individuals is completely free, it’s in the Community Edition, we don’t want developers to pay.

We have self-serve tiers, Bronze and Silver, in our pricing. which contain everything for content editors in teams. This includes role-based access control to restrict access in the CMS and define who can do what.

The Gold tier is for enterprises and compliance. For example, we offer single sign-on and SLAs.

What interesting tools have you been playing around with recently?

The overall Jamstack ecosystem keeps moving very fast. Vercel is definitely doing a great job. Also, I’m glad to see new contenders like Remix.run challenging the status quo and focusing a lot on both the developer experience and performance.

Describe your computer hardware setup

I use a 16 inch Macbook Pro, and I also have a 29 inch 4K monitor, and a vertical mouse. I have a very special keyboard, because I’ve had to deal with a lot of issues using a keyboard that started in 2015. I even thought about stopping everything around the computer and doing something else.

Finally, I found a solution. I use a vertical mouse, which is a Deluxe mouse, and then I use a BEPO keyboard, which is a TypeMatrix keyboard, so it’s not a QWERTY keyboard. I almost don’t move my hands when using it, but only my fingers. I even use a trackpad for my left hand, that way I don’t put everything on the right hand. If anyone wants to ask questions, I would be happy to answer and feel free to reach out.

Describe your computer software setup

OS: macOS.

Browser: Chrome.

Email: Gmail.

Chat: Slack internally. Discord with the community.

IDE: JS Code.

Source control: GitHub.

Describe your desk setup

I have a standing desk but to be honest, I almost never use it to stand up. I actually put it very low in terms of height because I do consider it important to have the feet flat on the floor, and so I can put my chair at its lowest level. My chair is a Herman Miller Aeron chair.

The desk of Pierre Burgy, Strapi

When coding

Daytime or nighttime? Day.

Tea or coffee? Tea.

Silence or music? Music.

What non-tech activities do you like to do?

Windsurfing. This is my favorite sport. I started when I was 10 and it’s still my passion. Other than that, I run a lot and like reading as well.

Find out more

Strapi is an open source headless CMS. It was featured as an “Interesting Tool” in the Console newsletter on 24 Feb 2022. This interview was conducted on 21 Feb 2022.