205. What the No Code Revolution is and why it matters

business strategy development digital transformation entrepreneurship innovation mobile apps non-technical founder product management tech terms explained tech trends May 29, 2024


No code tools have opened opportunities up for innovators, and especially for non-technical founders.

But, they have their limits, and not everybody thinks that they’re a great idea.

Listen to this episode to learn what the No Code revolution is and when No code tools are a must have, and when they should be avoided.

In this episode you will learn:

  • Why successful wealthy corporates choose to use No Code tools instead of building custom software
  • When a start-up founder should use No Code tools, and when to avoid them
  • What No Code tools to use to build an app or an e-learning business
  • Why investors are wary of No Code tools


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Episode Transcript

Hello smart people!

How are you today?

I am recording this for you from Bahrain! The sun is shining, the sky is blue and I can see the Arabian Sea sparkling out of my window.

I am very glad to be here.

I am in Bahrain because I am teaching at a course on entrepreneurship and No Code tools at an accelerator here and I am mentoring 23 start-up teams.

And, because I always want to bring you along with me, I am going to share some of the key lessons I am teaching in my course.

Today’s lesson on No Code tools is obviously relevant to the founders and corporate innovators who listen to this podcast, and it is also important for investors and people who work with them, like lawyers and bankers.

The No Code revolution has really changed innovation for the early stages, and for non-technical founders. It means that more people with ideas can enter the market, and make their ideas come to life.

So this means more opportunity for innovation and for investment returns, but a more active market also means more start-up failures. But that’s a good thing. That is capitalism.

Let’s start with what happens without no code tools.

To build software products like mobile apps and websites, you have to design a prototype, and then write code to make that design become a living thing that works and captures data.

So, you would have designers making a prototype and testing it, and then, after that, you would have back end and front end developers writing code to make it live.

This means you have to recruit and pay highly trained professionals right from the start.

This is the process that the apps on your phone have gone through, and it is the process that I led my team through when in my last company we built our consumer app.

Today, there are tools which allow a non-technical person to build an app themselves, without writing code, and they are literally called No Code or Low Code tools.

This sounds wonderful, but it has several caveats.

In this lesson I’m going to explain what No Code tools can do and when it is the right time to use them and why.

I’m also going to give you a couple of tool examples for specific use cases.

Then I’m going to tell you when not to use them, and what they can’t do.

First, let’s begin with some definitions. What are No Code tools? They are tools that you can get online that allow you to automate a process or build a product without any code.

Many of you already use No Code tools every day without knowing that you do so.

For example, if you use scheduling software like Calendly, you are using a No Code tool. Calendly builds an automation process for you: you connect it to your calendar, and allow people to book times to have a meeting with you.

In the programming world, this is called a Workflow. A Workflow is a process to do something.

You can write workflows in code, or you can get a ready made workflow, like Calendly, and adjust it to your needs.

If you’ve taken online courses, the company providing them would have probably used No Code tools like Kajabi or Thinkific to present their course to you.

Some of you might have used Wix or Squarespace to build a website for yourself, or for your business.

If you want to sell products online, then Shopify is a great No Code tool that millions of people use for e-commerce.

So you see, even if you’ve never heard the term No Code tools, you are actually aware of them.

Businesses that use No Code tools fall into two broad categories: early stage innovation projects and business whose primary offering isn’t technology.

I’ll show you why this is.

No code tools are perfect for early stage innovators, because they allow you to test an idea without spending a lot of money upfront on it. For example, if the cost of developing a custom made product is $100,000 (which is not abnormal, and is often higher), this might mean that you literally cannot even test your product idea, unless you raise money or rob a bank.

I have been watching Money Heist on Netflix, and I can tell you that learning to use No Code tools is much easier than running a heist.

No code tools will allow you to build a product and test it, with just a few hundred dollars investment and a lot of elbow grease.

For example, if you wanted to make an app, I suggest you use Bubble or Glide to make your first web app to test demand.

Also, if your business’s main value add to the world is not technology, and customising your website isn’t super important, then No Code tools are a great option.

For example, the main products of my business are education programs and executive coaching. It’s a very people oriented business. The way I add value to the world is by teaching you new concepts to help you succeed in the Digital Age.

As long as you get the knowledge and confidence you need to work with tech clients, or build a venture, I don’t really care what sort of medium you get it through. Some of you get it through my podcast, others take Tech for Non-Techies online courses, yet others talk to me live on Zoom, and today I’m doing in person sessions with my students in Bahrain.

I don’t need to make custom made software for Tech for Non-Techies, because my clients do not pay me for technology. They pay me for knowledge. And for this, the existing no code tools are good enough.

And, I could actually build custom software. I know how to do it, and how to hire the right people to help me. It wouldn’t be that hard for me, but I choose not to do this, because it wouldn’t be a good investment of my time and money.

No code tools are not only for broke start-up founders who don’t know anything about tech.

Very large and wealthy corporates also use no code tools, for the same reasons as I do. For example, L’Oreal, the global beauty company, uses Bubble. What does L’Oreal sell? Skincare and beauty products.

I’m a big fan of Lancome mascara and I don’t care if L’Oreal used custom software to build it.

So if you work in a corporate with deep pockets, and you want to try a new innovation project, my advice would be to use no code tools first, test the concept and then see if it’s worth spending money on custom software.

The wonderful thing about No Code tools is that you can create something more quickly and cheaply than with traditional design and coding skills, and then test an idea.

But, there is no free lunch in this world, and No code tools also have their drawbacks.

Drawback number 1: If your main product is held in a No Code tool, your business depends on another company. If that company shuts down, or has a software glitch, you will have serious problems.

Also, No Code tools aren’t cheap for this very reason. If your business depends on their infrastructure, they are going to make sure that you pay for it.

Drawback number 2: No Code tools are not customisable.

It’s like going to buy a suit off the rack, instead of going to a tailor.

Yes, you can get something decent off the rack, but there is a reason why tailors still exist, and why the tailors on Savile Row in London charge a fortune for a suit, even in our age of mass manufacturing.

Having something tailor made for you is just better.

It’s exactly the same in software.

And drawback number 3 is that investors usually don’t want tech founders to scale using No Code tools.

Smart investors typically want founders to test their idea with No Code tools, but once the idea is formulated, they want custom software. This is true for companies where having custom made technology is central to your business, which is not the case for all types of start-ups. 

For example, if you’re building an e-learning company, you can build it on No Code tools, reach scale and people will really want to fund you. 

The No Code revolution has some very fanatical fans. And I have met some people who genuinely believe that Bubble is going to change the face of entrepreneurship globally.

I do not think so, and generally, I don’t think that’s a healthy attitude about any tool.

You know when you’re cooking, you want to use the right tool for the right operation. Sure, some tools are more useful than others, and you probably can’t cook much without a knife.

But, just like with cooking, the success of the outcome depends on the person using the tools, not the tools themselves.

You can have a terrible chef with excellent tools.

Tomorrow, I’m teaching my second session of the No Code course, and I’m going to tell my students to start by thinking through their concepts first. Whom are you solving the problem for and why?

Based on that, I’m going to tell them to write out the features their product needs to have, and draw what the product would look like by hand on a piece of paper. Start analogue, not digital.

Only once my students have done that, will we move on to how to make something and which tools to use.

The tools are always secondary. Your logic, your human intuition, and your knowledge of the customer always comes first.

Technology works for you, not the other way round.

If you found this episode useful, make sure to subscribe to this podcast, and to leave a rating and a review. When you do that, you really help other smart people like you discover my lessons, and learn vital skills to help them succeed in the Digital Age.

So please do leave a rating and a review for this show.

Thank you very much in advance.

And now, I am going to go for a swim in the rooftop pool under the glorious Arabian sun.

Have a fabulous day, and I shall be back in your delightful smart ears next week.



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