The concept of “Low-code” has grown increasingly more popular in the last few years, but an overly-crowded market and lack of exposure can cost startups thousands of dollars and months of runway. Platform Venture Studio is an inspiration for early-stage startups and VC studios on how leveraging the right ‘Low-code’ tools can save resources and drastically increase output.
How often have you heard the term ‘Low-code’ used to describe software in the last few years? If you are like me, you have seen a plethora of different development tools emerge claiming to fall into that category, all advertising their game-changing formula to turn every man, woman or child into a web-developer with the snap of their fingers.
Since ‘No-code’ and ‘Low-code’ tools are often misinterpreted as one and the same, it can be daunting to dig through the weeds of such a saturated market to find the product that best fits your company. Many founders assume that their choices are limited to No-code drag and drop tools (Wix or Squarespace to name two) or a Full-stack (100% custom-coded) app that requires a team of engineers. This lack of exposure results in wasting valuable time and resources on over-engineering their apps and hiring large teams of developers.
Don’t get me wrong, choosing the correct tech-stack and hiring the right engineers is one of the most important decisions a startup has to make. However, making that decision too early can doom a startup before your product is live. Many first-time and non-technical founders don’t realize that there is a sweet-spot between these two extremes, and that this sweet spot can save them thousands of dollars and months of development time.
This sweet spot is hiring a low-code developer.
The state of low-code today
The question that founders need to ask themselves is “How can I get the MAP into the hands of my users as quickly and efficiently as possible?”. For context, we define MAP as the minimally awesome version of your product that functions properly and provides a proper “WOW” moment to your users (See our other article ‘Minimum Awesome Product’).
Low-code tools are often dismissed because of scalability worries or technical limitations. This is yet another instance where a lack of proper exposure can cost you greatly. In the last few years, popular low-code web-development products like Bubble and Webflow have received series funding and support, resulting in significant improvements to functionality, scalability and compatibility with other products. While the talent pool for these products is not as saturated as that of full-stack engineers, the community is growing at an exciting rate as these products continue to improve.
Since the concept of hiring a full-time low-code developer is still foreign to most studios, the founder will assume that choosing a low-code platform will mean doing most of the development themselves. The industry benchmark for a low-code developer’s salary is still being defined, but the current average is about 17% less than the average salary for a full-stack engineer (~$108k vs ~$128k). There is also no competition for efficiency of build. At the time of writing, I am one of two low-code developers a Platform Venture Studio, and I have launched five companies in the last six months. As far as saving money and time, there is no denying that low-code is the way to go.
Leveraging the right tools
Another common misconception with using low-code tools is being married to using just one at any given time. Different products have different strengths; knowing when to combine the strengths of both will help supercharge production of your app. At Platform, we combine two of the most powerful low-code tools on the market, Webflow and Bubble.
1. Build your website in Webflow
Regardless of your product, a website is essential for generating early CAC and educating your users. What is often an afterthought can be streamlined and optimized using Webflow, a low-code web-development software. We use Webflow primarily for landing pages and other websites that don’t require the complicated functionality of an app.
A site in Webflow can be designed, built and launched in less than a week, with simple data analytics software added in using Google Analytics, Segment or any other popular analytics tool. Once this is live, your growth marketing team can work on optimizing that experience for users and improving your customer acquisition pipeline. You can generate blog content, enable eCommerce, and even onboard early users that are interested in your product. Webflow even offers the ability to export the site’s code if you want to transition to a more traditional tech-stack.
2. Build your app in Bubble
If your product goal is to build an advanced web-app, it makes sense that Webflow may not be the most convenient way to achieve the core function of your product. Bubble gives the developer full control over the passage of data and the backend logic using their built-in workflows. This means that you can fully customize how the user moves throughout your app, set permissions on user data, and trigger events on a button click just to name a few.
Since Bubble is a low-code tool, 99% of development can be done without writing a line of code. However, with Bubble’s ‘API Connector’ you can plug in thousands of different outside programs to improve the functionality and strength of your app. For example, one of our newest companies, Sprinkle, leverages a Google Sheets API to access thousands of candidate data. Without the need for all of this data to be saved locally, the performance of the app is significantly improved and the app can support thousands of users on the app at any given time. Lastly, Sprinkle's beautiful website is hosted on Webflow, making it the poster child for low-code efficiency.
If your hesitations lie in performance and long term scalability, you have no reason not to consider low code.
The Road to MAP
Low-code development isn’t just faster. There is a reason we strive to deliver an MAP instead of an MVP. With the time and money saved on development, your company can devote more of those resources to improving CAC, growing users and identifying product-market-fit, all while real users are testing and using your app.
Low-code development is the most efficient way to streamline development and get your product into the hands of the people you want using it. Not only will you save money, but you will gain better insights and validation to make your product the best that it can be.