The Impact of Democratising Technology for Startups

The Impact of Democratising Technology for Startups

Simon Jenner

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

No-code is here and it has clear benefits for founders but they are going to need to focus even harder on differentiation and customer value

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Think of the biggest brands in the world today and you could clone any of them in six weeks, at no cost, using no-code. 
My friend Xan Hong said that. It was an inflammatory statement, playing to the audience in our regular no-code event on ClubHouse. It’s not entirely accurate, but it’s close enough to the truth. 
For the uninitiated no-code is a phrase that has come to encompass a growing suite of platforms and tools that allow people without coding skills to build software. As the adverts tend to say “anyone can now be their own tech co-founder”.
No-code applications are way better than they have any right to be. They are secure, scalable and flexible enough to deliver almost any use case. We have already seen startups that launched using no-code with revenues north of $100m. We have seen no-code startups closing Series A. This is a serious trend and it’s here to stay. 
Of course when the sea changes those caught on the wrong side of the tide will become naysayers. Qualified developers have the most to lose and they are, of course, throwing rocks. This is futile. Cost and convenience always wins in the end and no-code is allowing people to get to market at one tenth of the time and money cost of code. 
No-surprise then that organisations like ours are getting swamped by startup founders looking to use no-code. They used to have one choice: walk the begging bowl around investors in the hope that someone would fund the c$100k build of their tech. That’s a horrible and soul destroying process that yields results at a rate of about 1 in 50 pitches. Now founders can hire an agency that can build their tech for less than $10k or learn to build it themselves in around 15 hours.
The average no-code startup gets trading in less than 16 weeks. The average coded startup gets there over a year later and when they arrive they will find their market swamped. 
Tragedy of the Commons
I’m a massive advocate for no-code but I know that sea changes are rarely only positive. When tyrannies fall uncertainty reigns. The introduction of the internet created opportunities for business and crime alike. The birth of the iPhone bought with it the “Steve Jobs Turtleneck”...
I’ve long said that the advent of no-code has parallels in the changes that occurred in the music industry between 2000 and 2010. The advent of digital production and distribution of recordings removed the barriers for artists that wanted to turn their creative ideas into a saleable product. In theory that meant the democratisation of music, smaller niche labels and more choice (at better prices) for customers.
At first artists like the Arctic Monkeys, Calvin Harris, Adele and Lily Allen were rocketed to fame. They were the first movers, the people that grasped the benefits of the new system before everyone else piled in. However, the reality of democratisation wasn’t all positive. For most musicians digital production and distribution introduced them to the Tragedy of the Commons. 
The community of artists, brands and bands that could sell music directly to the public was growing at exactly the same time as the value people put on music was falling. Making a living out of music became harder for everyone. Big stars were forced to get out on tour and make ticket sales work for them. New artists had a much tougher climb to the top. 
Startup founders are a lot like the indie bands of the 90’s and early 2000s. They nail businesses together in the garage and hope that Mr. Big will come along and give them a shot at fame. Right now they are living through their own democratisation. The democratisation of tech.
People who grasped no-code in 2020 were catapulted ahead with their growth strategy while more traditional coded startups dragged their feet. Soon though founders will find it much harder to be heard as the number of applications launching start to proliferate. 
Just like musicians, founders seem to think that the route to success is to copy the successful. This has never really been true. Sure Elvis had a good few look-a-likes in the 50’s but none of them was nearly as successful as ‘The King’. In 2020 Upwork became Elvis. In fact Upwork became an Elvis look-a-like convention. Our agency has been paid to create about 20 flavours of Upwork by various founders and businesses, there must be hundreds more out there. It will be tough for any of them to get traction.
Startups need to be differentiated to succeed and they need to show customers value that they can’t get elsewhere. No-code has made that 100 times harder. Imagine a world where any kid with a laptop can copy your ideas in less than 100 hours for about $50 and you have an idea of how tough ‘being unique’ will become. 
With this in mind we have started to focus more and more on the qualities that set the founders apart and make them, as people, unique. We are looking for individuals that can understand and represent communities and that wouldn’t otherwise have a voice. Like Simon Cowell we are pulling up our trousers and looking for founders with the ‘X-factor’. 
No-Code Ventures
Last month we launched No-Code Ventures as our industrialised no-code investment process. We launched it because we were watching bright founders with great ideas getting utterly ripped off and we didn’t like it.
The advent of no-code has created a boom in freelancers offering to build applications. The ability to “qualify” as an app builder after a few hours of practice has meant that competition for projects is high. This should be great for the customer as it pushes prices down in the race to the bottom.
However, many founder’s expectations as to the cost of an app build are far too low. Despite it being impossible to complete a project within their budget they will always find someone to take their money. At best what they get in return is a poorly configured template. At worst they get nothing. They certainly don’t get the differentiation their idea will require to succeed. Roughly three quarters of paid no-code projects disappoint their customers, most subsequently give up on their startup idea.
No-Code Ventures is targeted at finding founders with unique voices and ideas that don’t have the funds they need to succeed. We provide them enough capital to develop a differentiated minimum viable product. Those MVP that launch successfully are then put forward into an Angel round targeted at providing enough investment to allow the founders to survive and their business to grow. We offer extremely favourable terms and the support of a huge no-code founders community.
It’s free to join at and anyone, no-matter who they are and where they are from, is welcome.

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