Note to readers: Hello world is a program developers run to check if a newly installed programming language is working alright. Startups and tech companies are continuously launching new software to run the real world. This column will attempt to be the "Hello World" for the real world.
Some 18 months ago, Hyderabad-based Madhuri Maram tried to build a platform to make it easier for companies to hire designers. But working with developers and several others turned out to be tougher than she’d imagined. So she decided to dive into the world of No Code.
“I have no background in coding and I can’t tell what the H in HTML is for. But I understand logic, workflows, and product. With No Code, in a few days, I had a site up and running,” recalls Maram, a 29-year-old design professional-turned-entrepreneur.
For the uninitiated, No Code platforms allow makers to create software using a drag and drop interface without having to dive deep into code.
Maram didn’t stop at that. With two others — Karthi Subbaraman and Arjun Phlox — she built a virtual school called Nocoloco to teach design, product, and No-Code. Close to 75 students have enrolled already. Maram also built Doggie Dreams, a site for people to adopt pets, and several other projects like D+P.
In Bengaluru, Sowmya Rao rigged up a complete working prototype of Smolcoach, a platform where individuals and businesses could set up classes. Think yoga classes and the likes. Rao has since then built a team and a more refined version of the site, moving away from No Code. But it was instrumental in getting her started.
It is not only Maram and Rao. Makers across the world are latching on to the trend and taking products from idea to launch in a few days with No Code. Early-stage startup SuperK has built tools for retailers using No Code apps and Google spreadsheets. No Code apps are also great for companies looking to build internal tools for their employees. LittleBlackBook, for instance, uses a No Code platform called Retool to create tools for internal use.
Notion, Glideapps, Webflow, Adalo, Appsmith, Bubble, Airtable, and Zapier are some of the popular platforms to build No/Low Code apps. To be sure, No Code doesn’t completely remove the need for code. "To scale applications, you'll need coding," says Maram.
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At its core, what most No Code platforms do is to give product makers a graphical user interface using which they can make applications. Think of it as Lego blocks. Some applications use an underlying database to store data on something as simple as a spreadsheet on Google Sheets. Between the user interface and the database, you can insert logic for the app to behave the way you want it to. It could be something as simple as showing logged in users a list of their direct reports in an app for teams.
The ecosystem for No Code apps is maturing fast. Venture capital firms such as Accel and Y-Combinator have started backing No Code startups. Webflow, for instance, raised $72 million from Accel in August last year at a valuation of $350-$400 million. New York based Unqork raised $51 million from investors including Goldman Sachs Group Inc to go global.
The company which makes it easy for other companies to build No/Low code applications counts big large corporations like Liberty Mutual and John Hancock Life Insurance co as customers. Webflow, Appsmith, CodeNinja, and several others have also successfully raised capital. In June, Spotto —a job matching platform for graduates built entirely on Adalo, was acquired. This is a first.
These days, advertisements selling coding courses are being shown to children and parents. They’re shown pictures of billionaires like Bill Gates or Elon Musk and told something to the effect that if they learn coding as children, they too, stand a chance to become like Bill Gates. And many parents and children seem to be falling for it. Learning how to code early can't hurt. But learning how to solve problems is a bigger skill and No Code platforms allow just that. The way things are trending, the next billion-dollar company might be a No Code app built by a teenager.
Jayadevan PK is a former technology journalist and recovering startup founder. He now works with Freshworks Inc as an evangelist, focusing on efforts around brand building. He’s also a commissioned author at HarperCollins.