Starting a Startup #2: No-Code Platforms for Startups

In continuation of the last article, I am writing a series of articles to describe what steps an entrepreneur would take to build a startup in 2021. In this article, I will be sharing some no-code platforms and tools for your startup to automate and run more efficiently.

The series is designed to help a few friends who are currently starting new businesses and want to leverage technology to build scalable solutions. Understand how no-code platforms and tools can help you accelerate your startup and catch a glimpse of how Greenhouse started ours!

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Building Products

As a startup founder, two skills truly matter: building products and selling.

Each of those skills covers a wide array of responsibilities, so do not take them literally.

When I speak of building a product, I mean that you need to have a sufficient understanding of UI, UX, programming, no-code tools, and whatever else is relevant to your particular industry/concept.

On the other side is sales. When referring to selling, I have a broad definition in mind, pretty much everything from selling to clients, marketing, recruiting, articulating a compelling vision internally, and raising money. Basically, under selling, I am parking a broad umbrella category that captures the most important people skills.

The combination of building great products and being good at selling is what results in great companies.

In today’s essay, I will focus on building a product, especially as a non-technical founder, since the process can be intimidating.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not mandatory to be technologists to build great tech products.

It sure does help, though, but for all non-technical founders out there, I will share a few insights and how to build a product through no-code tools.

No-Code Tools

What is No-Code?

In a nutshell, No Code refers to digital tools and platforms designed for non-technical makers to build software applications without writing a single line of code, only simple drag-and-drop tools.

“As creating things on the internet becomes more accessible, more people will become makers. It’s no longer limited to the <1% of engineers that can code resulting in an explosion of ideas from all kinds of people.”

Ryan Hoover, Founder of Product Hunt

Why No-Code Tools are Helpful for Startups?

As a startup ourselves, we know time is valuable.

No-code and low-code tools are useful methods to help you generate revenue without the need to write a single line of code. This makes doing work much easier for your coders, as well as still making it accessible to everyone else in your company.

No-code tools work with a Graphic User Interface (GUI) that gives you access to templates and drag-and-drop solutions to allow you to customize your project and make it extremely user-friendly.

No-Code Platforms

no-code platforms, no-code tools
Image source: pinverrr and bentossell

In a medium post from early 2019, Ryan Hoover shared the following list of popular no-code tools:

To explore more no-code platforms check out NocodeList.

No-code Stack

First, you need to figure out what is your no-code stack. Meaning, you need to play with different tools, pick the ones you like, and learn how to use them fairly well. Here you go mine:

  • Notion - as it allows me to create basic web pages and internal/external wiki pages.
  • Webflow - when a project starts maturing, I would typically convert the Notion pages to a better-looking, more responsive, and optimized website via webflow.
  • Zapier - to connect different tools and automate simple processes.
  • Slack - to communicate information internally. Also allowing you to integrate tools outside of Slack with no code needed.
  • Canva - for all design-related work and be easily shared with your other teammates for collaborative work.
*Source: All GIFs can be found at the Best no-code sales and marketing stack for 2020

Here you go a few examples of no-code tools that I have developed to test new ideas or to create efficiencies for Greenhouse:

Greenhouse’s First Careers Page

  1. Communicates who we are, why join us, and our interview process
  2. All open jobs are listed at the bottom.

Later on, as we got more resources and time, the page got moved to webflow. Today, it looks like this:

Greenhouse about landing page, no-code tools

While the second page looks much better, starting on Notion, we got the following benefits:

  • Figured out what exactly we want to communicate
  • Iterated on the copy a few times
  • Building the Notion page took 2 to 4 hours altogether, and started collecting job applications immediately.

Webflow, while still a no-code tool, it’s a few degrees more complex, so we gradually transitioned towards a better webpage without losing momentum.

Before: Notion Page

After: Webflow Page

Zapier Automation

We use Zapier to automate a bunch of things; here you go a few examples:

  • Every morning at 09:00 am, a Good Morning GIF is pushed to our Slack to greet the team and trigger employee engagement.
  • We automate GIFs to welcome new employees.
    Sometimes the memes are a bit creepy, but it’s fun for the entire team. 👇
  • We send automated birthday messages to our clients.

Step-by-Step Guide on Launching a No-Code Tool

Now that we have discussed different no-code tools and ways you can leverage them, here you go, my framework of building no-code prototypes:

  1. Start testing different no-code tools to find out which ones you understand and like working with.
  2. Identify what’s the objective of releasing your minimum viable product. What do you want to achieve?
    Remember that your number one priority is to learn from interactions with real users/clients and iterate where necessary.
    Here you go a few examples of what kind of prototypes you may decide to build via no-code tools:
  • A landing page that creates excitement and builds a waitlist - applicable when you are building a product that’s exciting but complex works well with B2C FinTech apps, e.g.,
  • Basic website to generate leads early on - applicable when the time to value is long. If you are building a product, that would require you to sit down and discuss the client's scope of work. Many B2B companies can leverage such an approach, e.g.,
  • To imitate a mature product on the surface - rumor has it that in the early days of FoodPanda, they had a great customer-facing website but a hoard of employees making calls and coordinating orders behind the curtains.
  • To curate valuable content and drive awareness about your product, e.g.,
  1. Build the first version on Notion to gather your thoughts and collect early feedback on the value proposition. Go out, meet people and show them what you have built on Notion, asking them to interact with the prototype and voice out what comes to their minds.
    After all, if people do not understand what you do, they won’t engage. Your priority is to figure out how to communicate your value proposition clearly.
  2. As the value proposition gets clearer, transition to a more stable platform like webflow/Shopify that will enable you to build a better-looking, responsive, SEO-optimized product and customer journey.
  3. Use templates where possible to speed up the work, unless you have a webflow/Shopify expert on your team; here you go a few great ones:
  1. Once you have an improved minimum viable product, focus on understanding better how people interact with your value proposition, what the bottlenecks are in the customer journey, what people are missing, and then start working towards creating further efficiencies through platforms like Zapier and Slack. A few examples of things you can do:
    * Send notifications to Slack regarding each new sign-up so that the team can discuss the inquiry and act on it fast.
    * Automate where possible the manual work between your CRM and webpage.
    * Embed Typeform to create a beautiful, contextualized, and personalized experience for users.
  2. Until you have a strong pull from the market, you will need to do most back-end work manually. Meaning, while your front-end product will look more mature, your back-end operations will be manual, with a few exceptions of processes you automate via zapier, retool, Typeform, and a few other solutions like that. Once you reach product-market-fit, you can start investing more in technology and tech talent. In the meantime, do your best to leverage no-code, low-code, and open-source platforms.

Key Takeaways

Walking away from No-Code Platforms for Startups, I hope you remember to:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the no-code movement.
  2. Develop your no-code stack.
  3. Start with a Notion page to get early feedback and clarity.
  4. Transition to a template via Webflow / Shopify.
  5. Automate where possible with tools like Zapier, Slack, Typeform, Retool.
  6. Do things that do not scale until you feel a strong market pull. In the meantime, leverage no-code, low-code, open-source platforms.
  7. Once you reach product-market fit, start investing in tech talent and more scalable solutions.

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive each post. If you are interested in learning how to put these frameworks into action on a detailed level, consider contacting our team at Greenhouse here.

This article was developed as a part of a series of articles on the topic of how startup companies expand globally. The series will go in this order:

“Steps to start a startup” was initially published in Viktor Kyosev’s (COO of Greenhouse) weekly newsletter, where he shares his views on the topic of startups, growth, and fast-growth markets:

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