Improving Performance for Founders: NFX

Michael Dijkstra

Michael Dijkstra

April 24, 2019

NFX, a seed and series A venture firm based in San Francisco have built 10 companies with more than \$10 billion in exits across multiple industries and geographies. In addition to investing, NFX builds software and distribute content to help early-stage Founders.

Angel Velasco, Full Stack Engineer at NFX, explains the importance of web performance for their business and the startups they invest in:

"Speed is the critical attribute of successful startups and we also embody that in the products we build. We don’t want long load times taking away valuable time from Founders. As we optimize performance to minimize bounce rates, we help Founders realize meaningful connections and get closer to finishing their raises."

The product team was looking for a way to integrate Google Lighthouse testing into their deployment process and explored ways to call the Google Lighthouse API and reject any code from pushing if it significantly impacted the sites' performance, but they weren't able to come up with a solution on their own.

"Since one of our applications is deployed on multiple servers, running the Google Lighthouse Node.js package and integrating into continuous deployment wasn’t an option for us. Then we came across Calibre, which allowed us to run tests on production and track historical performance data."

NFX monitors the performance of Signal, a product which helps all Founders (not just the ones they invest in) shortcut their fundraising, and The Brief, a product like Docsend but free and also for Founders. Given the nature of these products, they needed to test both publicly accessible pages and those that are protected by a login.

"What set Calibre apart was that it easily supported more than basic authentication. By allowing us to set a cookie behind every test, we weren’t limited to testing our anonymous pages."

The team is focussed on two key metrics: First Meaningful Paint and Google Lighthouse scores.

"We want to make sure as we continue to enhance our products with new features, we’re not sacrificing performance with longer load times. We care about our Founders and their experience with the services we provide."

Since adding Calibre to their workflow, the team has recorded significant improvements in performance.

"We decreased our Time to First Paint metric by 85% when we disabled server side rendering for logged in pages. By making configuration changes to our DNS server, we increased our Lighthouse Best Practices score by 20%."

With another configuration change they were also able to boost their Lighthouse SEO score from 90 to 100.

By setting Metric Budgets they receive notifications in Slack if any metric falls below a certain threshold. With the Calibre GitHub action they can initiate tests whenever a branch that has been merged into master has been successfully deployed:

"By being able to run performance tests once a deployment has succeeded rather than scheduling a test, this allows us to pinpoint which code changes are responsible for any significant performance impacts. This is especially helpful since we occasionally deploy multiple times in a day."

NFX is constantly shipping new features and writing great content on network effects and growth. You can get the latest startup insights by signing up to their newsletter.

Michael Dijkstra

Michael Dijkstra

Michael is a product-minded developer with more than 10 years experience across the entire product stack. Find him on LinkedIn.

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Addy Osmani

Addy Osmani

Engineering Manager at Google Chrome