Code-Free Startup

💻 Status

Acquired

⏱ Launched on

May 31, 2016

💵 Revenue

$250000+

The problem:

The landscape of code-free development tools is growing and changing quickly. While it’s possible to build powerful things with these tools, there aren’t a lot of good examples or paths to follow to build a project with them. Unlike the world of code, there aren’t any guides or tutorials to follow.

The idea:

Create a platform offering code-free tutorials. The platform would show founders with no technical experience the way to get their startup idea off the ground without needing to hire a development team or learn how to code.

Building:

I discovered Bubble in fall of 2015 and was instantly hooked. They were building out the strongest code-free platform available by far, so I started to use the platform to build out my idea (insert “meta” joke here). To even see if this was viable, I spent a weekend trying to clone Airbnb, a straightforward marketplace, but a great example of a web app that requires a lot of features (search, payments, user accounts, new listing creation, full database). After building a very shaky version of Airbnb completely without code, I had a feeling this would be viable. So I used Bubble to build the course platform, using Wistia for hosting and Stripe for subscriptions. I bought a microphone and began recording the tutorial on how to build Airbnb without code. After that tutorial was complete, I used the same template for the course page to build and record two smaller courses, which I made available without a membership. I set a price similar to what I saw on coding education platforms like Treehouse and OneMonth, and was ready to see if the idea had traction. Before launching, I sent out a forum post on the Bubble forum with a link to the Airbnb post, and it was immediately well received. It’s still one of the top forum posts, and seeing how quickly it got traction in the community gave me a strong indicator that this idea had legs.

Launching:

After building the product initially for a small group of Bubble users, I launched on Product Hunt and was overwhelmed by the response. 1000 upvotes, $3k in monthly revenue overnight – it was clear there was a need for the product. Looking back at previous product launches where I felt like I was rolling a large rock up a hill, this was refreshingly the opposite. I just needed to keep up with demand. After the launch, I spent the next 8 months building out content and focusing on sustainable growth.

Why it succeeded:

As much as luck played a factor, this project has been 200x more successful than any other site I’ve launched. I attempted to sum up some of my learnings on Reddit here when it crossed a revenue milestone, but to simplify greatly: the product succeeded largely due to timing and focusing on producing quality content.

It’s hard to re-create the luck involved in timing, but it’s not impossible. You need to spend time talking to people at the bleeding edge of tech, and you’ll see patterns emerge. The reason the code-free movement was compelling for me to join in the early days was that I was a terrible developer, and saw first-hand how tools like Bubble empowered me to build much more complex apps. So my advice would be: take a look at new technologies, whether it’s blockchain, AR/VR, code-free, combining design and development, etc, and see if there’s anything that gets you genuinely excited. If you find that spark, other people will too. There’s an opportunity there.

When making content for the site, I knew I needed to keep students busy learning, but also balance that they were likely startup founders that wanted to get their idea up and running as quickly as possible. I settled for a format that I still don’t know is 100% right, but seems to have worked a bit. I built in-depth tutorials that averaged around 6-10 hours of content each, which broken down into 10-20 minute lessons. By focusing on cloning existing startups like Airbnb, Uber, and Tinder, I had a clear goal: by the end of the course, you should be able to walk away knowing how to build an MVP of the app. This rough idea guided my decisions when building, selecting the tools, and recording 20 minutes of teaching at a time. The recording process was exhausting, but putting out thorough tutorials that were 10x more in-depth than anything out there was a differentiator for the site.

2018 update: the Code-Free Startup was acquired! 🎉Like any good startup founder, I wrote the whole story up on Medium: https://medium.com/@brentsum/a-new-home-for-code-free-startup-13f7fb6a87ce