The Low-Code / No-Code Ecosystem
Low-Code / No-Code (LCNC) is a fast-evolving industry sector with a number of start-ups and several larger companies approaching the space from numerous directions and product opportunities.
Whether it is creating a website, a business workflow application, or performing data analysis, the promise of LCNC tools is to enable non-technical users to create and develop ideas in a novel way: in a short time and at a low cost. Although the Low-Code / No-Code term was coined in 2014 by Forrester, the term has become a veritable buzz-word, particularly in the last few years.
This article aims to provide a high-level introduction to the space and share a deeper dive into the key industry players.
- What is Low-Code / No-Code
- Technology Landscape
- Market Growth
- Investment and Market Value
- The List
What is Low-Code/No-Code?
Forrester defined LCNC as “application development platforms that enable rapid application delivery with minimal hand-coding, and quick setup and deployment.”
The term generally refers to any class of software and tools that provide:
- Interactive visual programming environment
- Drag-and-drop capabilities
- Visual modeling tools
- Prebuilt templates
It also usually has the easy ability to integrate with third-party tools and solutions.
WYSIWYG (wiz-ee-wig) tools have been around for a while — think WordPress for websites and Mailchimp for email marketing campaigns — but several market and technology trends have come together to fuel the growth of the LCNC movement. In particular:
- Ease and availability of cloud computing
- Shortage and rising cost of software developers
- Growing amount of data and the subsequent IT needs within organizations
Why is LCNC valuable?
LCNC’s value proposition is two-sided; from the investment standpoint, LCNC companies offer the promise of accessing an untapped market/user base: domain experts that are empowered with tools to encode their knowledge and thus focus on high(er)-value activities. For the businesses adopting LCNC tools, the value lies in increased productivity, increased automation, faster execution and product time to market (TTM).
Who Is It For?
LCNC tools are for organizations of all sizes, ranging from traditional small businesses, to technology start-ups, to mid-large size enterprises.
According to this study, the confluence of rising IT needs (80% of organizations need to digitize more processes) coupled with the scarcity of developers (96% of organizations do not have the technical resources to affect those changes) have driven an increasing desire and need for Do-It-Yourself (DIY) tools. This trend has given rise to what has been called the citizen developer — namely business users who can develop applications for themselves or others.
Businesses are taking notice of this trend: 60% of organizations believe LCNC can help them and 75% have plans to build solutions with these tools.
To help provide the lay of the land, we compiled, reviewed, and curated 130+ companies and organized them by category to help understand the players in this fast-moving segment. We also looked at private equity investment and enterprise value (where available) to try to provide a sense of what investors and the financial markets see when they look at the momentum and opportunity in the sector.
There are many more tools and companies than the ones we profiled, but we believe this list contains a representative and interesting set of companies to highlight. More comprehensive lists can be found here and here with hundreds more tools and platforms.
Throughout our analysis, we were able to identify nine different categories that group the LCNC platforms. Many businesses fit into multiple categories and there are many overlaps within the categories but as our goal was to provide an overview of this landscape, we did our best to try to generally align each company to one primary category.
Business Intelligence: Tools that serve to transform information into knowledge, with the aim of improving the decision-making process in a company. Notable examples of these types of tools are Tableau, Looker, Google Data Studio, and SAP Business Objects — all of which give users the ability to manipulate, analyze, visualize business data.
Customer Service / CRM: Platforms that manage all the communications, opportunities and documentation relating to customers, along with those that help them in all stages of the buying and selling process. Salesforce is the giant in this space, but other tools such as Zoho, Bitrix24, and Creatio are all platforms that enable companies to automate their business processes to create and manage customer relationships.
Enterprise Application Development: These visual development platforms enable developers, of varying skills, to build out entire enterprise wide applications — building and managing custom databases and tools to run entire business processes. This is a large and lucrative space with a number of large players including ServiceNow, Appian, Mendix, and newer entrant Unqork.
IoT / Industrial automation: This category includes both IoT (internet of things) platforms, that serve to connect hardware to the Internet and Industrial automation platforms, that enable automatic operation of industrial processes and machinery without the need for human operators. Akenza.io for example, is a self-service IoT platform that connects, controls, and manages IoT devices allowing users to build IoT products and services.
Machine Learning: With the growth of AI and machine learning there has also been a surge of tools that have sought to make ML models available to non-data scientist users. Amazon, Microsoft, and Google all have powerful such platforms but dedicated no-code companies such as Data Robot are also providing an increasing amount of AutoML-type tools.
Marketing / E-Commerce / Design Tools: Marketing-technology (or martech) has been a category of its own for quite some time — with large companies such as Mailchimp, Hubspot, and Marketo empowering marketers to build powerful management of campaigns and customer relationship management. We have also included e-commerce tools — including giants like Shopify — that enable businesses of all sizes to conduct commerce online while managing their products and services and their entire virtual storefront. Additionally, in this category, we added design platforms such as Canva and Figma where you can create and share designs and templates easily without having the trained skillset for it.
Software Development Tools: These tools are similar to enterprise application development but geared towards technologists. Virtuoso is an example of such tools, it offers QA automation and web application code generators, which allows for faster and easier website creation.
Workflow Automation: A workflow may be defined as a set of related activities, which are completed in a certain order to achieve a specific organizational goal. Whereas automation enables these activities to be controlled by a system that will ensure their completeness, correctness and repeatability. Zapier, Kissflow, and Pipefy are all examples of tools that provide integration and/or facilitate business processes workflows, enabling LCNC business users to describe and run full end-to-end business processes.
Although LCNC tools have been around for a number of years, the recent growth has been substantial. The following timeline depicts the number of companies (that we analyzed) founded or created by year. The timeline illustrates the massive growth in new companies in the last few years.
Investment and Market Value
Private Funding: In the past several years, a tremendous amount of investment capital has gone into LCNC companies. In our analysis, 44 companies have received more than $10M of funding and $7.5B of funding in total, and 20 of them are unicorns worth over $158B in aggregate enterprise value!
There have been big investments in all major areas particularly machine learning and AI, business intelligence, workflow automation, and web application development.
The image below depicts private companies that have received more than $50M in funding. For the companies where the information was publicly available, we have also included enterprise value.
Public / Enterprise Value: The following chart shows the incredible enterprise value of public and large private companies in the space. The illustration below shows 17 public companies (including such giants as Microsoft, Google, and Amazon) — but also including dedicated LCNC companies like ServiceNow, UI Path, and Appian.
The list of companies including their URL, funding (from Crunchbase), categories, industry, etc. is included in this Google sheet. As mentioned earlier, the list is not comprehensive but intended to be a fair representation of the space. New entrants and new funding are being announced every day, if you have any feedback or corrections you’d like to suggest, please let us know.