Artificial Intelligence
Build An Online Company: No Code Required!
By: Sarah Hoffman | August 23, 2022
For non-technical folks, starting an online business used to mean finding (and hiring) a developer or chief technical officer. No more. Thanks to no-code development tools, anybody who can access a keyboard can build a business. Justin Welsh built a one-man online business that generated over $1M in revenue in 810 days without writing one line of code.[i] Hello Prenup, which helps couples write low-cost prenuptial agreements, was also built with no-code software.[ii] These successes aren’t accidents. No-code tools are proliferating, ranging from workflow automation to gaming and augmented reality. We can expect to see more businesses launched using no-code, given that the results are:
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Scalable. Comet, a marketplace where tech and data freelancers meet potential clients, was built using no-code development platform Bubble and supports more than 1000 clients and more than 1500 freelancers.[iii] Online coding provider Bloom Institute of Technology (formerly Lambda School) built its MVP that served over 3000 students using a combination of no-code tools. It added more no-code tools as it scaled its platform.[iv] FiveTeams recruiting marketplace, which focuses on passive and anonymous job searching, was also built using numerous no-code tools.[v] FiveTeams has more than 10,000 people signed up on its platform.

Profitable. Justin Welch’s success is not unusual. Launched in 2016, Flexiple, which helps startups connect with freelance developers and designers, got its first $100,000 just by using Google Sheets. It later added multiple other no code tools.[vi] Last year, it hit $3 million in revenue, while spending less than $100 a month on no-code software.[vii]

Intelligent. No-code website builder Webflow plans to introduce machine learning to help designers build its sites by learning from the millions of other designs on Webflow.[viii] Just 9 months after OpenAI’s powerful language model GPT-3 was launched, more than 300 apps were using it.[ix] Microsoft incorporated GPT-3 into its low-code application, Power Apps, simplifying the users’ experience by letting them type in natural language to get the appropriate formulas (for example, “Show me customers from the US whose subscription expired”).[x]

What’s Next

While no-code tools are still relatively novel, we expect more entrepreneurs will embrace them because:

Training is growing by leaps and bounds. Launched in 2020, WeAreNoCode is an online bootcamp for entrepreneurs that combines the teaching of traditional skills that accelerators show founders, such as how to build a pitch deck, structure financials and raise capital, with the hard skills of front-end development using no -code programs.[xi] Located in Nigeria, nocodeAcademy aims to help entrepreneurs create their first startup. The tagline for its courses is “Build anything you can dream of without writing code or spending high budget hiring a developer”.[xii] Makerpad teaches entrepreneurs to save time and increase their efficiency by building no-code projects.[xiii] It generated $200K in revenue in less than a year and was created using multiple no-code tools. Startup Recipes teaches entrepreneurs how to build MVPs by suggesting the combination of no-code tools needed for that startup idea.[xiv]

Communities are forming. Founded in 2019, No-Code Founders is a community for founders who don’t code.[xv] Another community, No-Code Family, is a no-code review platform specifically for founders. Founders can read and write reviews and find hundreds of curated no-code tools.[xvi] Just Ship It Club helps people set up a side hustle using no code in two weeks, through a community of like-minded people and weekly ask-me-anything sessions.[xvii] While HuggyStudio is an academy offering no-code education to entrepreneurs, it also offers a community to help connect entrepreneurs with each other through weekly check-ins.[xviii]

More AI will improve sophistication and ease-of-use. With image-generating tools like DALL-E-2 and Imagen on the horizon, which create realistic images and art from a text description in natural language, we can expect to see major breakthroughs with no-code design tools, whether it’s for developing marketing campaigns, PowerPoint slides, games, or avatars. One artist is using DALL-E to create augmented reality filters for social apps.[xix] Already text-generating tools like GPT-3 are changing the game for writers.[xx] As AI continues to progress, these tools should get even smarter and easier to use.

Why It Matters

No-code tools have the potential for deep impact on businesses. In our industry, they are already fueling the launch of new fintech startups.[xxi] Beyond expecting a new wave of rapidly built and deployed competitors, there are several areas where companies could be experimenting with this emerging tool kit:

Accelerating intrapreneurship. As companies look for new business ideas from within the organization, no-code tools offer a golden opportunity to give the broadest possible range of employees the means to experiment with new services. 146 employees from across the company submitted demos for Fidelity’s first No-Code Challenge, showcasing the possibilities for quick no-code prototyping.[xxii] Moreover, as the range of no-code tools continues to diversify, we can more easily explore how companies might make a play in entirely new domains; example, there are already no-code tools for augmented reality (AR) and data science. Is this where our next metaverse play will launch?

Expanding talent search. Already we’re beginning to see job boards helping companies find no-code expertise, such as Nucode, with over 7000 makers and experts.[xxiii] As companies begin to use no-code tools in more ways, it will be in their interest to think about strategies for interviewing candidates who have some experience with these applications. In addition, Learning and Development efforts should include upskilling employees on no-code technology.

Modernizing co-creation. Companies are looking for new ways to put customers at the forefront when it comes to product design. Just last month, Microsoft put out a call for IT professionals to join its Windows Customer Connection Program and engage directly with Windows engineers to discuss current and yet-to-be-released products.[xxiv] No-code tools can take programs like this a step further, going beyond IT professionals to allow anyone to actively design what they would want to use.

Signals To Watch

No-code accelerators focused on diversity. No-code tool Bubble, mentioned above, recently launched Immerse, a 10-week very early-stage accelerator for non-technical Black founders.[xxv] CodeFree App Launch offers a 12-week No-Code App Accelerator to help female founders launch their innovative app ideas and build tech startups.[xxvi] Expect to see more accelerators focused on no-code as a way to open new paths to increased diversity in entrepreneurship.

No-code interview guidance and corporate training. Many of us in the software engineering world are familiar with the book Cracking the Coding Interview. Prepare to see some alternatives popping up for no-code. From the interviewer perspective, traditional developers often have formal education in coding, so it can be much easier to evaluate a coding candidate vs a no-code candidate whose background may be much more varied. We may therefore begin to see more guidance for interviewers as well. In addition, look out for expanded corporate training, as these tools take on a larger role in the enterprise.

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All Microsoft references used with permission from Microsoft
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