When most people learn that a project requires coding, they recoil in fear – at least those of us without technical backgrounds. Visionaries often have the ideas but don’t have the technical chops to execute. Bubble is a visual programming language that requires no prior coding knowledge that allows you to program what you want with a simple to use point and click web-based interface. The startup currently has 100K users — and growing – and this web app offers a look into the future of coding. Still skeptical? Recently, a Bubble user cloned Twitter ($1.46B raised, large portion of that spent on engineering) without typing a single line of code in under a week! Now it’s your turn; how will you use it?
AlleyWatch chatted with cofounder Emmanuel Straschnov about the company and how it all began.
Tell us about the product or service.
Bubble is a visual programming language that enables everyone to build a fully functional web app without typing code. We think that using code is for the 20th century. Instead of teaching everyone how to code, we should reinvent how software is built. That’s what Bubble is. Using Bubble, people have built marketplaces, social network, CRMs, etc., without code. The advantage is that business people can now build the product themselves, for a fraction of the time of traditional coding.
In addition to the visual interface, Bubble also hosts all applications on its cloud. Once an app is built, Bubble handles the technical infrastructure behind the scene automatically. In a word, anyone can now create, deploy and run a web-based software without a technical training.
Bubble has been launched 5 years ago and we’ve been working on the product very intensively since then. We have today more than 100,000 users and thousands of businesses are using Bubble for the entire IT operations.
There are a few tools out there to create sites and apps without code. Bubble differs from these tools in the sense that Bubble is a programming tool (even if it’s without code). What you can build on Bubble is extremely customizable (you design your site to the pixel and build workflows action-by-action). We do not have templates, and you have full control over your site’s appearance, database and flow of processes.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
Currently, we target startups and small businesses considering building their solutions in-house or through outsourcing. Eventually, our goal is to define a new programming standard. We want Bubble to become the by-default solution when someone needs to build a website, an app, etc. Therefore, our eventual market is the software industry as a whole, which is gigantic. I won’t try to give a number on this one…
What is the business model?
Bubble is free to use, accessing the editor is totally free. As Bubble hosts all apps on its cloud platform, we charge on server usage. We follow a fairly traditional SaaS model. Users buy a plan with some given features for an app, and they can add capacity and storage as needed when their app scales. Bubble also has a marketplace where users can build and sell plugins.
What inspired the business?
Josh came up with this idea after a combination of 2 main experiences: He was in New York and everyone, literally everyone, was asking him to be a tech cofounder to start a technology-enabled startup. The second experience was when we had used SharePoint while at a corporate and created something that non-technical employees could use to build custom stuff. Watching them build things was very rewarding and he felt we could do even better for general purpose programming.
Josh started what wasn’t called Bubble at the time late 2011, and I joined a few months later.
Where do you see engineering moving to if people can build sites without code using a solution like yours?
Our goal is to empower business and product people to build their software themselves. But this doesn’t mean engineers will be out of the process. As soon as a businessperson will need a new feature (for instance a visual element on the page that is not available, an optimization algorithm, etc.), an engineer will build it as a plugin so that it can be used in the Bubble Editor. That’s one of the advantages of Bubble. Its interface creates this common language that will make the interaction between business people and engineer smoother. It is much easier to communicate about a specific action in a workflow, or an element on a page, rather than describing about the entire application.
This change of workflow may actually be the biggest impact Bubble can have: engineers will only work on new problems, and for other, simple things, instead of reinventing the wheel, business people will be able to do that themselves very quickly. That’s going to free a lot of engineering capacity to tackle great problems!
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
We exceeded 100,000 builders on the platform last month, and reached 10 millions page views in August 2017. But that’s just the beginning. Our goal for the next 6 months is to become a new standard for low-code programming. Product-wise, this means improving scalability and performance and having a great native app solution. Our technical roadmap is actually public; you can check it out at bubble.is/roadmap.
What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?
We’ve taken our time before launching publicly. We posted Bubble on ProductHunt after more than 3 years, while most people do this much earlier. Everbody told us we were waiting too long, but I believe this actually was the right thing to do. That enabled us to make the best of the opportunity and converted extremely well. Now that does not mean don’t try to get users, there is a different between seeking a large audience and putting your product in the hands of early adopters.
If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why?
Michael Bloomberg, for what he’s done over the last few decades. From starting of the first tech-enabled media companies to promoting New York’s tech ecosystem.
Why did you launch in New York?
This was mostly a personal thing. Josh lived in New York, and I joined him here after school. New York is a fantastic place to launch a tech business because of the diversity of the audience. This is particularly true for a product like Bubble, which at first wasn’t targeting engineers, but instead business people. There are much more of them in New York than in Silicon Valley, for instance. Today our audience is global, but we found our first paying customers at tech-cofounders meetups. New York was the best place to launch our product.
Where is your favorite fall destination in the city?
The Cloisters, for the view and the museum.