One Hundred and Four Days and Ten Thousand Dollars

One Hundred and Four Days and Ten Thousand Dollars

Simon Jenner

Sunday, 16 May 2021

The average time it takes to develop and launch a no-code startup is surprisingly short, but it can seam like eons to a founder.

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Every founder that arrives at our door is on a ticking clock. They are running out of time. They’re not trading but they are spending money. Whether they want to get to a profitable cash flow position or they want to raise investment they know they need to get there quickly. In startup parlance they have a ‘runway’: the length of time they can survive before they have burnt out their cash reserves. 
Almost everyone asks us if we can build their software in days. They don’t ask about weeks or months. They ask about days. When you put that into the context of traditional software development its laughably naive. But with no-code? It’s almost possible. We can sometimes build an MVP in hours, let alone days. However, the average no-code startup takes 104 days to get live. So what’s the delay? 
You Don’t Know What You Want
About one in twenty founders provide us with anything nearing a usable set of requirements. Mostly we get a paragraph or two that tells us they plan to launch an international securities trading platform and that it probably needs a customer dashboard, a sign up form and it needs to work with AI. That’s very important. There will be lots of the AIs.
We’re blinking fast, so it takes roughly two weeks for us to lead a founder through a series of questions that extract the scope of their project. Alternatively we have to work that time into the project itself to iterate from loose requirements to something nearing an operable product. We don’t mind this. It’s part of working with founders. The most important job for us is in managing expectations (which is tough when that runway is racing past the windows).  
That’s Not an MVP
Then there’s the problem with the definition of the term minimum viable product (MVP). Eric Reese made the phrase hip in his book ‘The Lean Startup’. He described it as the version of a product that required the least amount of build, but that would still provide valid measurements and learning. Later he put is more simply: ‘It’s an early prototype that is designed to test to see whether customers will engage or purchase.’
Everyone asks for an MVP but almost no-one actually wants an MVP, they want to build their finished product. We’ve seen people arrive with a specification that would baffle NASA and ask if we can build it in by the end of the month for $500 because, you know, it’s an MVP. Once we have descoped the booster rockets and agreed a more realistic budget (the average ‘MVP’ costs $9,305 by the way) we can get started on a build that is likely to take something like eight weeks. 
We’ve burnt about ten weeks by now. So where does the other month go? To answer that I need to tell you an old joke…
The Alligator Joke
There’s this millionaire that just loves alligators. She has a swimming pool full of them. One night she throws a party and for a bit of entertainment she tells her guests, “Anyone who can swim a length in my swimming pool without getting eaten can have one million dollars and my Ferrari!”
Well, at first the guests are hesitant, then to everyone’s surprise one girl leaps in and swims a length like Michael Phelps. As she steps unscathed from the pool our millionaire is flabbergasted and immediately fishes her car keys out of her pocket. Our swimmer shoves her hand aside and says, “Screw your car and money lady, I just want to know who pushed me in!”
Founders are like the partygoers and they see their customers as Alligators. Sometimes they need a push to get out and engage with them. It’s quite common for founders to spend a month or more asking for changes that won’t affect the outcome of their launch at all. One guy delayed because the shadow on his application’s header wasn’t quite right. Madness.
Oddly, despite the end of the runway racing towards them founders can be very wary of actually launching their business. Courage saves a lot of money!
Data is Our Friend 
Hundreds of no-code founders provide us with a brilliant lens to understand exactly what a modern technology startup looks like. Some get live in days for less than $1,000. Some spend nine months and $100,000 to finish their no-code project. It’s horses for courses but we can derive an average from it: 
104 days and about $10,000. That’s what it takes to launch an average digital startup with no-code. 

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