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The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows an increase in the number of new businesses launched in the U.S. from 1994 until 2015. While, as the Bureau indicates, the state of the overall economy has a big role in boosting or slowing entrepreneurial initiatives, for technology startups, according to CB Insights, it is thanks to the rise of open source technology and cloud-based tools that significantly more startups are launched every year.
Just a few years ago, building a software entailed starting everything from scratch. Today, numerous tools at low to no cost allow you to launch a solution that would have cost you tens of thousands of dollars a decade ago. Funding has become more like a growth, not a launch medium. Today, anyone can turn ideas into fundable solutions by leveraging tools and investing time. Here are useful no-code tools that can help you at different stages of the startup journey from idea to traction.
- Finding Problems Worth Solving (Ideas)
Ideas are nothing more than educated guesses also known as hypotheses. Your main job as an entrepreneur is to make and test wise hypotheses at every stage of the startup journey. Before the implementation of lean startup principles, many entrepreneurs used to raise and invest significant resources under the assumption that their hypotheses are validated. Some startups have made it to IPO with no sufficient proof or organic growth potential which contributed significantly to the dot-com crash.
Today, combined with continuous customer interaction, a tool like the Business Model Canvas can help you map, assess and test business models quickly. It helps you improve focus and clarity about the value proposition of your solution, how you should solve the problem and who you need to get it done.
- Building A Prototype
Prototypes will not get you too far, but you can’t go far enough without them. This means speed is important. Spending weeks and thousands of dollars creating or designing a prototype is, in most cases, a wasted investment. Focus on translating user feedback into paper, design or functional prototypes to quickly test your hypotheses and build the next stage under more certainty and on a stronger foundation.
There are many prototyping tools that can help you get the job done. Here are two.
Before the rise of design and prototyping tools, people used to write and draw on a whiteboard or a sheet of paper. Balsamiq is a wireframing tool that simulates that experience. A wireframe is the skeleton of your web or mobile app. It helps you quickly define the concepts, layouts and content of the pages before you turn them into designs.
InVision is a design product that not only offers all the tools you will need to turn your vision into a prototype but also gives you the ability to collaborate with others like team members and users.
- Building an MVP
A minimum viable product (MVP) is the smallest solution you can build that delivers customer value and allows you to test the riskiest assumption(s). In software, an MVP doesn’t always have to be a functional product. For instance, a concierge MVP entails delivering a solution as a customized service to quickly understand customer needs while identifying what needs to be automated through software.
To build a functional MVP without or before writing code, just like software development, you need a stack. For a no-code MVP, the stack is made up of different tools that when integrated can develop into a solution that gets the job done. For instance, Carrd, Airtable and Zapier can be combined in many ways to launch different ideas. Furthermore, pre-built themes from a site like Envato can be customized and turned into functional solutions with many features especially when you integrate plugins as needed.
The main prerequisite for building a viable no-code MVP is familiarity with tools and what those tools can do. Once you define your stack, the rest is a matter of figuring out how they can work together. Keep in mind that customer support teams from those companies can help you customize and use their tools as you need.
- Building Advanced Product Versions
Just a few years ago, no-code cloud-based tools could not take you beyond creating a simple non-scalable functional MVP. Today, thanks to a platform like Bubble, you can scale your startup without writing code. For instance, the automated micropayment platform Qoins was built with Bubble.
No matter the tool you decide to use to scale your venture, beware of technical debt. It’s important to prioritize testing and speed in the beginning over quality and scalability, however, with traction, it can be more expensive in the long run to grow with a broken product than rebuild with scalability in mind even if it takes time and money that you may feel you don’t need to invest at that time. Technical debt is the cost incurred from deciding to grow with a shortcut instead of building on strong foundations.
- Marketing Your MVP
Starting with awareness and lead generation. Leverage platforms that include communities eager to discover new ideas and join new ventures like Product Hunt and BetaList. Of course, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are a great place to start building traction.
Tools like Hotjar, RightMessage, Sumo and Google Analytics can help you better understand your users while a tool like Unbounce made it easy to test new hypotheses and boost conversions. Finally, use Buffer and MeetEdgar for social media scheduling and to keep your audience engaged.
Code is not the secret to success in startups. In other words, while no-code tools enabled entrepreneurs with different backgrounds and skills to launch technology startup ventures, the development or quality of software products will not necessarily make your startup a success. Business success depends on the persistence and consistency of the founders. Longevity is a differentiator and only those who enjoy the process and build for the future succeed.
April 6, 2019 at 06:04PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs