No-Code in venture building
Interest in no-code is exploding and for good reasons. There are now hundreds of tools that help you build software without coding. Whether you dream of building a marketplace, mobile app, internal tools or automation, there always seem to be tools available to help you out.
Before diving deeper, firstly what is no-code? No-code is a way to build applications like web and mobile apps without writing code. Instead of building your own layout with a programming language, you can use no-code platforms that allows you with a graphical user interface to create your own website and applications, typically with some type of drag and drop.
“allows programmers and non-programmers to create application software through graphical user interfaces and configuration instead of traditional computer programming”. (Wikipedia)
No-Code is nothing new
Now, this doesn’t sound so new and actually has been around a while. If we look back to 2003, WordPress was launched and allowed the ability to build a website without code (It was also the year The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was released, quite a time). The release of WordPress kickstarted the ability for anyone to have a website without having to write HTML etc. Shortly after, Shopify was launched in 2006, giving people a way to set up an online store and sell their products online. As you see this concept is not new, WordPress and Shopify are just two examples of many established applications that have allowed anyone with an entrepreneurial mindset to build all types of online businesses — from blogs and e-commerce stores.
At Sparrow Ventures, we also use both of these applications. We often build our ventures websites with WordPress to smoke test market demand for a solution and have built multiple ventures using WordPress and with a mishmash of its plugins. We used WordPress with Woocommerce to built Kindish, while we have used Shopify for many of our ventures related to e-commerce, such as MyBuddyBox, that was an online shop for pet food. Now despite this, these applications are quite restricted to their domains, content management and e-commerce shop.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to build much more diverse types of digital application without needing programming experience or a lot of money and time? Well, this is now becoming possible. New types of no-code solutions are appearing that gives you visual development tools to build stuff that only previously was available by writing, hosting, and maintaining a whole lot of code! With Bubble, you can build sophisticated web applications, such as a social network or personal finance tools. If you like to build mobile applications, this can now be done with tools like Adalo, Glide and Thunkable and can be uploaded to the App and Play Store. But take note that at least for now, it’s unlikely that one tool really solves all your needs and the real magic happens when you have a toolbox of no-code tools.
- Shopify: The most powerful e-commerce platform on the web.
- WordPress: The old content management giant with its gazillion plugins.
- Webflow: Powerful and customizable web design tool out there.
- Carrd: Simple, free, fully responsive one-page sites for pretty much anything.
- Bubble: Enables anyone to design, develop, and launch powerful web apps without writing code.
- Adalo: Create a mobile app — as easily as putting together a slide deck.
- Airtable: A super-flexible database, with a spreadsheet interface and connections to your favourite NoCode tools.
- Zapier: Connect Your Apps and Automate Workflows.
- Typeform: People-friendly forms and surveys.
How we have used No-Code
At Sparrow Ventures it’s about testing and validating business ideas as fast as possible with the highest accuracy. Often the riskiest assumptions are about whether the target market will see your solution as valuable. To test these assumptions we do different types of experiments such as customer interviews, prototype testing and smoke testing. These are great techniques to get quick feedback on your assumptions. But at some point, we have to move from lower evidence experiments to MVP building, while still seeking to keep a short cycle for testing hypothesis and gathering learnings. The new no-code tools now allow us to build more complex MVPs in shorter timeframes and with quicker cycles of iterations. We previously built a Swiss operating factoring service, called Finly. Finly allowed small to medium-sized companies access to cash tied up in their yet-to-be-paid invoice. The first version of Finly consisted of a WordPress site with an involve.me form embedded to make requests, which was combined with Hubspot for all customer management. Another example is Petcare, a Telemed solution for pets. The first version of Petcare was a WordPress site using Calendly to book a timeslot with the vet, which had Stripe integrated for payments and Whereby for the video chat between vet and pet owner. Later we built with Bubble part of Petcare, that allowed users to sign up and have access to a dashboard where they could make the bookings, initiate the video call and see all historical appointments, all in a few days.
I think we will see these tools become increasingly used by the entrepreneurial mainstream. It opens up a whole new area of creativity and further democratizes digital applications building. Yes, they are definitely not perfect and are not yet close to the versatility of what coding can produce, but the speed and cost of building, the comparative very small learning curve and the breadth of options make it a rising disruptive technology and a great fit for fast-moving venture building.