Startup Tech Stack Trends
Insights from Conversations with 200 Startups
Sep 11, 2023
"We've talked to almost two hundred startups in the last several months, and that's given us insight into what tech stacks startups are using in 2023."
Here are a few of the startup tech stack trends in 2023 we are seeing at Fraction, the place to hire developers, PMs, and software architects fractionally. We originally published this piece based on conversations with startups in late 2022 – but a lot has changed in the tech world since then! What changed? In a word – AI. The explosive rise of LLMs and generative AI, with Chat GPT storming onto the scene, has impacted software tech stack choices as developers seek to integrate both OpenAI and also open source LLMs into their products.
Before I go further, a note on the data - this is based on conversations with almost 200 tech startups since September 2022. We work with US based companies with less than 100 employees, and the vast majority have less than 30 employees - true early stage startups, with a smattering of existing businesses putting their toe into the software game.
Before jumping into traditional technology stacks, I should note the rise of low-code and no-code solutions. We’ve seen substantial growth in the use of low-code solutions by early stage startups, whether to build mobile apps (FlutterFlow), to build highly customized general apps (Bubble), to build more b2b-centric apps (Retool + Refine.dev), or to go no-code for the lowest cost go-to-market (Softr). No one vendor or approach rules the low-code market just yet – the G2 grid does a pretty good job of providing a means to sift through many dozens of vendors.
The essential approach we do see is that early-stage startups are getting to market faster and cheaper via low-code, and then pivoting to “real” code AFTER they see real traction with customers.
AI to Boost Developer Productivity
An increasing percentage of startups are leveraging Github CoPilot and its numerous competitors to boost their developers’ productivity. Here at Fraction we’re pretty close to mandating the usage of such tools! There’s no excuse for not using a bit of ML-powered help. One word of warning though: these tools can’t magically turn junior developers into senior developers, and shipping machine-written code to production without testing is just as risky as practicing law via AI without fact-checking.
Front End Frameworks
React followed by Vue, and now Svelte:
65% of startups in our sample are using React, often in conjunction with full-stack frameworks like Next.js. React's market dominance is bolstered by an abundance of associated frameworks including React native support for mobile apps. Next.js is emerging as a potential de-facto standard for building new React applications, as the majority of startups (using React) that we’ve spoken to in the last quarter all use or plan to use Next.
A smaller percentage (roughly 1/5th) are using Vue instead of React - many find its templating system easier to use, and it can integrate more seamlessly into existing projects. Svelte and SvelteKit are rapidly gaining ground as well, though they don’t seem to have as many projects in production just yet.
C# and the .NET framework are still alive and well among startups building on the Microsoft stack - this can be critical if interfacing with Excel or other MSFT products is important. Other older languages like Java seem to be fading - I built HiddenLevers in Java, but there are a lot of simpler options for startups to embrace now. Java and .NET do offer a lot of enterprise capabilities, but with the rise of AWS and its cloud competitors, scaling services can be accessed in virtually any language. Java maintains some interest via Android, but mobile apps are increasingly being authored via Flutter and React Native, or Kotlin / Swift when native, leaving Java on the outside.
The vast majority of startups are still using SQL, with PostgreSQL the most common database we encounter. NoSQL options like Mongo and DynamoDB occasionally come up, but the power of modern SQL databases to cover both approaches (storing large JSON in columns is now easy) makes them a more flexible approach for most use cases.
No big surprises here - it's AWS, AWS, AWS, with Azure rising due to OpenAI relationships and GCP rounding out the big three. The cloud hosting providers are increasingly convergent in terms of providing serverless capabilities, managed databases, authentication/authorization, and tons of other functions. The more you depend on them, the deeper the vendor lock - but the savings in avoidance of DevOps and infrastructure management can be huge at scale.
If you made it this far, here's a summary:
1. React / Node / PostgreSQL was the default stack for the majority of startups at the start of 2023, but as of September 2023 it’s a tie between that and React / Python / PostgreSQL.
2. See #1 - A substantial slice use React / Python / PostgreSQL - particularly those focused on building data analytics or ML in-house.
3. Q: What's the best programming language?
A: The one you already know!