“The New Startup: No Code, No Problem”
WIRED, May 19, 2020
By Clive Thompson
Now you don’t need to know any programming to launch a company. We’ve been approaching this moment for years.
Dani Bell was a British copywriter who hankered for her own marketing startup. Like many founders today, though, she faced a roadblock. She couldn’t code.
Normally, an entrepreneur in that situation would need to spend money, and maybe even raise it, to hire developers. But Bell did something different: She bolted together software from various online services.
Bell used a point-and-click tool called Webflow to build her site and a client-management tool to let customers order services. Airtable, an online spreadsheet, let her store details about each job. And she glued many of these pieces together by cleverly using Zapier, a service that uses if-then logic to let one online app trigger another. (Whenever Bell creates a new task for one of her contractors, for example, Zapier automatically generates a Google doc for it, then pings her on Slack when the work is done.) Nineteen months later, her company—Scribly.io—had around 23 clients and was doing $25,000 a month in recurring business.
In essence, Bell built a startup without writing a line of code. She did it all herself, aided by advice from folks building the same scrappy systems. Sure, it’s a bit of a Rube Goldberg machine. “They’re a patchwork,” Bell admits. But overall, it’s “good enough, and usually good enough is perfectly OK.” In the long run, she might get big enough to hire a coder to make a custom system. But, for now, it works.
Behold the trend known as “no code” (or “low code”). In the past few years there’s been a flowering of tools like those Bell used, all aimed at the nonprogramming masses.
About the Author:
Clive Thompson is a WIRED contributing editor. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.