Don’t underestimate low-code when building startups


It was a weekend in October, my friends and I were doing what we did every weekend; frantically coding. One of our side-projects had been gaining traction for almost a year by this point and we were migrating our old WordPress site onto a custom-built PERN (PostgreSQL, Express, React and Node.js.) stack deployed in Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Our idea had gone viral on ProductHunt and we were starting to see copycats popping up with slick sites that provided more functionality than ours. Our reasoning went, that if we rebuilt our stack in React we would have full control over our UI and could build complex features that kept us relevant.

The problem was building a PERN stack was taking ages and it seemed like we had to jump through progressively more complicated challenges just to reach basic features we already had in WordPress. More concerning was the speed at which the copycats, now full-fledged competitors, were developing.

We couldn’t understand how one particular competitor seemed to be dropping features at a lightning-fast pace. As far as we could tell they had a small non-technical team and were prefunding. With a bit of investigation, we discovered that the competitor was a massive advocate of ‘low-code’ and had built their site on a platform called Bubble.io.

I briefly looked at Bubble.io and it looked great, but I didn’t realise its full potential until much later. The thing was we had invested so much time into our PERN stack so we decided to double down and carry on. That was a mistake. While we were stuck trying to rebuild the wheel, our competitors were able to focus on building features that users wanted and they steadily took market share away from us. Ultimately, our project lost momentum and died.

A while later some friends got in touch and asked if I wanted to help their startup. They had been running a concierge MVP and were already generating revenue. Now they wanted to use technology to scale up their company. Traumatised by my prior experience and being the most experienced coder on their team I decided we should seriously investigate using Bubble.io to build their first digital product.

Using Bubble.io turned out to be a massive success. My experience building a PERN stack meant that I picked up Bubble incredible quickly. After experimenting a bit we decided to use a Bubble template and we were able to launch a revenue-generating MVP within a couple of days.

Bubble is so powerful because it gives developers the ability for technical customization while abstracting the complexity of common features. For example, you get user authentication and responsive interfaces out-of-the-box. But say you need to call a custom API or want a complex relational database structure then you can do that too!

In my opinion, Bubble is perfect for small digital startups. It allows you to move quickly enough to outpace your competition while giving you the flexibility to be innovative. Although it was sad that my project died to learn this it was a great experience and a testament to the effectiveness of using the ‘low code’ approach.