We decided to find out how real no-code developers act and live. We chatted about the specifics of no-code production with a startup founder and zero-coder from the United States, Aleksandr Manokhin. He talks to us about his path to no-code dev, self-mastering, difficulties, stereotypes, and why no-code is the best decision for a startup.
- Aleksandr Manokhin is startup founder, the no-code world conquistador.
- He lives and works in California.
- He was a product manager.
- After the first meeting with no-code, Aleksandr opened a no-code development studio. "Hi no code" came to life.
Aleksandr, how did you get your first meeting with "no-code," and what did you think?
I first met the no-code in June 2021. My friend Kirill Samokhin worked with no-code courses, and we touched on this topic. I had no idea what I could do with no-code. I thought this was the level of Tilda (a website builder). I had an idea for a startup — a platform for selecting traffic managers. Kirill told me that I could make an MVP of this project in a couple of days using no-code tools. I was excited.
How did you start with a no-code tool, and for which project?
I had a startup idea and started doing MVP for it, as I said above. Kirill advised me to use several no-code tools, Tilda + Collabza + Integromat. It was just necessary to configure the reception and output of data. I learned the tools myself in a week and made an MVP in a weekend. After that, I got inspired by no-code and imagined how many incredible products people can test with a quick MPV build! Therefore, I left my idea of a platform for selecting traffic managers and made a no-code development studio with a partner.
After that, I created an app for sharing thanks every day. They can be saved, viewed, and shared in the feed. Also, there is a function of following a person to track his thanks.
Aleksandr, do you have technical education? Or education in another area?
No, I don't. I wanted to learn Python. I thought I would love the code, but I never did. Now I am a 4th-year student with a degree in Product Manager at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation.
Was it difficult for you to implement no-code into your work and make it your primary tool? How long did it take?
No, it was straightforward. I figured it out in a week with the first tool for the first project (a platform for targeting specialists). It took me only two weekends to create it. Studying no-code tools remains a fascinating process for me. If I had more than 24 hours a day, I would learn new tools every day.
Implementing no-code as the primary tool for me means building my no-code studio. In this regard, it was challenging to start. There was no experience, cases, sources of leads. But soon, clients began to come from freelance, and all became much easier.
Aleksandr, you have already launched 30+ startups. What is crucial for a startup to succeed?
There are many factors involved. The risks of failure will always be high because a startup is a new business model. But a founder can reduce some risks. Here is a list of the main things for that:
It should be initially large and with a good money turnover in your startup's niche. You can make the best and most valuable product, but you don't scale to a unicorn if the market is limited. The first thing to evaluate is SOM (Serviceable & Obtainable Market), the amount of market you can capture.
Product and idea
The product must be distinguishable from existing needs, solutions, or jobs. The job here means a job for which a consumer hires a product. The decision must be better in the most critical decision parameters, or it has an unfair advantage. A startup has to do something differently.
Time and place
It is essential to find an idea for which the market is already ready. Speed is crucially important. If you find a market and a statement that consumers need today, you need to make an MVP and test the idea as quickly as possible, up to a month.
Hypothesis testing speed
After several iterations, the startup idea will likely be completely different from the initial one. A successful business model is often born at 3-5 pivots (changes of an idea). So again, it's vital to test MVPs and new ideas very quickly. No-code allows that!
How does no-code help you solve startup survival challenges?
No-code is fast and cheap. Usually, devs assemble MVP in 2-3 months, with no-code — in 2-3 weeks maximum. No code means no bugs to run the project as usual (depends on a no-code platform). The founder develops MVP 5 times faster and saves his time and resources. The founder spends much less money on development. MVP on no-code is five times cheaper.
Aleksandr, you opened a whole studio to develop no-code apps; how did you come to this decision?
After developing an MVP for my startup, I realized that I wanted to help startups make MVPs. A friend suggested that I create a studio, and he became my partner. I burnt out from 6 months of hiring as a Product Manager. I wanted five times more income and complete freedom in decision-making. Therefore, the first criteria for switching to no-code was an interest in this technology and projects that I can do using it easily and quickly. The second was a financial benefit. Since childhood, I dreamed of making my products, but I was pissed off by the code and the result only after a long time. I need to create products and do them quickly and efficiently. With no-code, I got a vast internal resource, and I didn't have any doubt that I needed to quit my job and build my own no-code development business.
How many completed cases do you already have in your studio?
We have already made 5 cases. We are finalizing two of them; they are ready for tests. The other three are entirely completed.
What was your first commercial no-code MVP?
My first project was an affirmation viewer. The customer is the owner of a marketing agency in Mexico. He wanted to copy the existing Mantra affirmation app, where you can select beautiful backgrounds, music, and collections of affirmations by topic (money, success, love, so on). They are on the main screen, and you can easily switch them with a tap. Also, you can add your affirmations. We completed the client's task successfully. We began our no-code dev studio with this project.
What was the most interesting case for you?
It was our second project, codenamed Uber for Airplanes. The client is a robotics developer based in New York. His hobby is piloting private jets. He noticed that it is difficult for pilots to fly the required 2000 hours to a new level because one flight costs about $ 500-1500 with fuel and aircraft rental. He came up with the idea to share the plane, like in the BlaBlaCar service. Get a flight with fellow travelers to pay only a part of the flight costs. For this, we wrote an app.
The pilot uploads his documents to the app, the administrator confirms them, and the registration for the flight is published at a specific date and time. The passenger enters the desired departure point and the boarding point, selects the dates, sees all available flights. The passenger leaves a request for a flight in the app, and the pilot can accept or reject it. Upon confirmation of the flight by the pilot, the passenger can make an advance payment for the flight. On the day of departure, the passenger pays the entire fee. The pilot also pays his share. There is a payment functionality via Apple Pay and Google Pay. There are functions for writing a flight review, making an assessment for a flight, saving flight history, and messaging with a pilot.
Also, I was interested in working on the Fletch project. The client is a teacher at a college in Boston, USA. She noticed that it is difficult for applicants to choose a college without understanding its teaching staff, group atmosphere, and learning comfort. The app allowed real college students to register in a unified system and give advice to applicants. There are three types of consultation: Zoom meeting, college tour, and actual meeting. You can pay for the consultation through the PayPal plug-in. Within the system, a student sees all his assigned meets, history of meets and can correspond with applicants. The student can receive email notifications about a new consultation booking and new messages. The applicant can leave a review about the student. In this project, we made the full version of the app for computers, the mobile version of the app, and the entire design.
And which case became a challenge for you?
The most challenging case is Twiine, an app for selecting places to go for a date or a meeting, according to the interests of 2 partners. Both partners put their interests into the app. The app matches them with places they would be interested in going together. It was a difficult task to make the onboarding as simple as possible (quickly and conveniently enter your interests and share with a partner), match by invite and email, and implement the function of matching the interests of 2 users. We solved the problem with the help of Adalo. Adalo does not have a very powerful and functional backend, but you can build simple logic. We managed on edge. For example, in the case of this MVP, it will be necessary to add several partners, compile their interests, select places for everyone in the future. We definitely won't do this on Adalo; we need a turn to AppMaster.io.
Do your clients know that you make them no-code apps? Code without code? :) Is it magic for them? What are their reactions?
Yes, of course, they do. Usually, these clients have researched in advance and purposefully searched for no-code developers and tools. They like that no-code is very fast. But most people in the US perceive no-code as magic. Even though California is the world IT capital, it is not enough here.
What are the most common requests from customers?
I live in the USA and usually work with foreign clients or Americans. Most often, startups come with a request to make an MVP quickly. The tasks are entirely different: marketplaces, aggregators, dating services, platforms, listings of establishments, even "Uber" / "BlaBlaCar" for aircraft. Each startup with a unique feature request.
How easy is it for you to implement these requests at the current level of no-code development?
Easy for now because MVP should be simple and with one main feature. But very quickly, such projects start to grow, and they need new features that can only be done on more complex no-code pro-level platforms like AppMaster.io. It is infrequent for startups to come with such complex ideas that cannot yet be done on no-code. There were only two of them in my practice.
What no-code tools and platforms do you use in your work at the current time? What do you like about them?
In the first projects, we used Adalo for 90%. Adalo is the most straightforward tool in terms of layout: everything is easily moved, deleted, replaced. But Adalo doesn't have a powerful backend (only things like filtering, search, conditions). A bit of a crutch, but you can get out and run on it. You can do PWA with it and upload the native version to the side.
We did a couple of projects on Bubble and modified existing ones. We rarely use it because it works better for the web. You can't make a native application on it. There are many integrations, but everything is more complex than in Adalo.
Startups mostly have requests for native apps, but these platforms don't have code uploading.
Are there any no-code tools that you tried but gave up?
We tried Flutter Flow. I had high hopes for this service because there is the uploading of flutter code, and you can make your custom actions. Well, the design system was well thought out there. We used it for two weeks but stopped because there was no way to make several simple functions — for example, search by keyword, filtering, visibility of objects under conditions.
The portfolio of your studio on the site contains works made on Adalo. Do you always have enough Adalo functionality?
So far, there is enough functionality because we are still working with startups and small checks. But now, we want to start working with founders of small businesses and companies. There will be many restrictions when working with them, and the functionality of the same Adalo will not be enough. In the last project on selecting places, it will be necessary to use AppMaster.io for the backend because such complex logic cannot be built on other platforms.
The portfolio of your studio on the site contains works made on Bubble. Do you always have enough Bubble functionality?
Bubble is only suitable for web services and PWAs. Bubble won't work for native apps.
You create fully functional MVPs in 2 weeks for your customers. It's fast! Did you get a project to create a no-code application not only for testing the hypothesis but also with the finished product's positioning?
We made an application for a business coach. The client needed to write articles, post videos, and podcasts for students. Under each type of content, there should be comments and responses, messenger functions, and a calendar of events. Our client had a clear statement of work and design vision. The difficulty was in the high demands for design. On Adalo, for example, there is no design system and pixels, so it was challenging to adapt the customer's design needs on this no-code platform. The size can be set only for the rectangle and only if you put it to the edge of the screen and measure the distance. It was a very dreary process. We redid everything several times. Finally, we did it and published the app on AppStore.
Can those no-code platforms you have tried ensure the creation and operation of a full-fledged application, a finished product?
With Adalo and Bubble, building and maintaining a complete product is possible. The question is what product and the number of users. If this is a startup, then no-code is not a permanent solution (except for such professional platforms as AppMaster.io).
The goal of a startup is to develop, increase functionality, the number of users, orders, so on. You can start on a simple no-code platform, and then you need more. Suppose this is a small product that solves a simple problem for a small number of users (for example, an application for a restaurant or a cleaning service). In that case, no-code can be a full-fledged product because there is no ambition for thousands of users and constant development.
What is the general lack of no-code platforms and tools?
In general, they are all limited by user bandwidth and possible functionality. Almost all products on the market are not a permanent solution.
We know that you have tried our platform, AppMaster.io. Could you open the curtain a little — what are you doing on AppMaster.io?
Now I am recruiting a team that I will train to work on AppMaster.io. These should be people with a mathematical background and a basis in programming. There isn't enough staff working on no-code. I want to create my courses, an internal no-code pro-level training school.
We plan to collect all sorts of complex things with complex logic and backend on AppMaster.io. The idea is to increase the check by 10 times and make more complex products for large audiences of users. I want to grow our studio with the help of your pro no-code platform and a new pool of trained specialists. I am also looking for marketers who will do cold marketing for my studio and school. If you are interested, write to me directly on Telegram @AlexPobeditel.
What advantages of our platform have you already noticed? And what immediately caught your eye as a powerful feature?
At first glance, I was surprised that AppMaster.io has:
- the ability to create a robust backend with complex logic;
- bandwidth for an unlimited number of users;
- connection with any front with integration through endpoints (like Adalo, Bubble — an ideal combination).
I got the "wow" effect precisely from constructing complex logic and the possibility of integration with other frontend services!
According to your experience of communicating with founders, what do they often do not know or fully understand about no-code and, thereby, limit their scope of possibilities?
They just do not know no-code :))) They go to develop MVP to developers, spend months, test the idea, it turns out to be useless, and that's all, curtain fall... Also, they don't know that no-code is no longer just Tilda but robust services on which you can do almost anything, especially on pro platforms.
Aleksandr, what is your no-code dream project?
My dream project is a startup factory! I want to collect two startups per week with no-code and test them on the market. I have many ideas, and I want to break into this area of startup production. I need firstly to build the processes in the studio and establish the flow of customers. I am actively working on this.
Also, I am working on my internal project of a notebook of valuable contacts. When you meet a new person, you create a connection, write down what the person does, how the person can be helpful, note skills and interests. You can attach insights from meetings with the person, make appointments, and set reminders about them on your phone — one contact and much essential information about it. The app helps to keep in touch and warm connections with people. But this is no longer a dream, just an application on the shelf; I will launch it soon :)
Do you see the future of no-code?
In 3 years, no-code will take at least 20% of development. Already, no-code has eaten a good deal at the expense of website builders and online stores. Furthermore, in no code we trust.
Alex, thank you for your honest and transparent story about no-code. We wish your studio "Hi no code" maximum check growth! We will be happy to help you with our pro-level no-code platform, AppMaster.io. If you want to know more about how Alex survives in the United States and builds a no-code dev studio there, read his blog on LinkedIn.
Get free 2 months of the Professional Plan of AppMaster.io with the HI-NO-CODE promo code (use it until 04/15/2022).