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Rising with the no-code movement 🏄‍♂️| Makerpad

Listen Up IH - Episode 29

"Code or no-code, figure out the path of least resistance and start building"

👆 That's Ben Tossell's advice for Indie Hackers.

Ben is the Founder and CEO of Makerpad.

Makerpad is a content + community + course platform that teaches people how to build internet businesses without writing a single line of code.

Ben started Makerpad as a side project while working at Earnest Capital (now calm company fund).

That was back in November 2018.

Before Earnest Capital, Ben was the community manager at Product Hunt (PH).

During his time at PH, he came across hundreds of new projects every week.

People were making side projects for fun and learning.

And even for money!

That's when Ben became inspired to work on a side project of his own.

During his time at Product Hunt, he saw several no-code products launch such as Carrd, Bubble and Webflow.

Their success convinced him he could build side projects with no-code tools.

He just needed to learn how to use them.

That's when the idea for Makerpad was born.

Within the first year, Ben grew Makerpad to a $100,000/ARR business.

By August 2019 Ben was working on Markerpad full-time and the business was doing $200,000+/ARR.

**And earlier this year, in March 2021, Makerpad was acquired by the no-code tool Zapier.

It's ARR at the time of acquisition was $400,000+.**

This is Makerpad's story👇

Makerpad - The Product⚒

Makerpad is the leading platform for no-code education, with a community of over 17,000 people spanning all stages of the no-code learning journey.

Ben's vision is to teach everyone, everywhere how to build with no-code tools.

If you go on the Makerpad site you can find tutorials for specific use-cases such as designing an e-commerce store in Webflow or how to clone Uber using Bubble.

Some tutorials are free while others are behind a paywall ($249 annual and $600 lifetime plan).

Makerpad also features cohort-based courses such as No-Code Fundamentals and Automations at work..

The price for these courses range from $450 to $850.

The quality of the content and community allows Ben to charge premium pricing for access.

But Makerpad wasn't always the high-profile content platform that it is today. It's rooted in humble beginnings.

Humble Beginnings🔰

Makerpad started as Ben's side project.

He wanted to build apps but didn't know how to code. And he wasn't comfortable with spending 9 months learning.

He didn't want to a technical co-founder either.

This is how he describes it -

"...there are two parts to it - which are finding a technical cofounder or you learn to code and for me, I don’t want to spend nine months learning to code and then be able to make a shitty version of an app idea that I may have. When I was having new ideas every week..."

Ben had new product ideas every week, and they were mostly templated apps such as AirBnB for X, or Uber for Y.

So he started to dabble in no-code tools to build them out.

His products themselves didn't get much traction, but the videos and screencasts he put out building these apps generated a lot of interest from his audience.

That's when it struck him, that teaching no-code tools could be the business itself.

At the time he had left Product Hunt and hadn't joined Earnest Capital yet.

He was thinking of starting something of his own.

That's when he launched his project called newCo.

newCo - The Makerpad V11️⃣

newCo was essentially version 1 of Makerpad.

It was screencasts of Ben building no-code versions of popular apps.

The content was designed to help people build side projects without code. But it was a recurring revenue business with a monthly plan and a promise of a new tutorial every week.

Ben wasn't comfortable with that.

He felt stressed out about producing tutorials every week and felt "indebted" to his users to deliver value every month.

That's when he decided to change businesses.

He wanted to build things for the sake of building, and he wanted to build them whenever he wanted -

"...I don’t want to be on anyone else’s schedule. I want to be on my own. If I want to go off for two weeks, then I want to be able to do that..."

So he transformed newCo into Makerpad.

The positioning of Makerpad is that once you pay the annual fee, you get access to the entire back catalog.

It's not driven by the promise of future content at a regular schedule.

The moment you pay, value is delivered. Everything after that is a bonus!

The Acquisition🤝

After working on the project full time for 18 month, Makerpad got acqui-hired by Zapier.

And it all started with a Tweet that Airtable and Zapier were the top 2 tools used by Makerpad members.

To which entrepreneur Walter Chen replied that either one of them should buy Makerpad.

Zapier's CEO Wade Foster saw that tweet and got on a call with Ben, which eventually lead to the acquisition of Makerpad.

Zapier positions itself as the glue that binds all no-code tools together. You can automate workflows and connect different apps together to build functionality.

The acquisition means that Ben now reports to Wade, but he still gets to run Makerpad the way he wants to.

Airtable recently acquired Bayes - a data visualization tool. It helps Airtable enhance its own product offering.

The Zapier-Makerpad acquisition is part of a general trend of SaaS companies acquiring media companies, or more generally B2B companies acquiring B2C companies -

Acquiring these companies gives their buyers direct access to customers' attention.

The No-Code Movement🔥

The No-Code movement is the democratization of software development.

It puts the power of software into the hands of makers, designers, and product managers.

No-Code is here to stay.

But Ben doesn't think no-code tools are putting software developers out of business anytime soon.

Rather, they can both exist on the spectrum of software development.

The spectrum starts with no-Code, then moves to low-code, and eventually gets to code.

No-code is a great way to test out ideas quickly and build functional prototypes.

And if a project doesn't require complex processing, it can run entirely on a combination of no-code tools.

Makerpad itself has a completely no-code stack -

There will always be certain projects that will be impossible to build using no-code, that's where coding expertise will be needed.

So there is no "battle" between code and no-Code, rather it's the perfect separation of concerns:

  • No-code: Idea validation, basic features, and quick launch and iterations.
  • Code: Enhanced, complex features, and more robust product.

Advice for Indie Hackers🤗

Ben's advice to Indie Hackers is to focus on the path of least resistance for yourself.

If you're more comfortable with code then go with that, if not, then go with no-code.

But get started and build stuff -

"I think it’s to figure out what is the path of least resistance for them whether it’s code or no-code and I think that the things that the first thing you build will be crappy anyway."

And when you're starting, learn skills by building clones of the products you love -

"look at what is the site or the type of site you look already and how can you build the similar thing or 80% of that thing but for your own interest group. Just do that. It’s okay to like copy these things because that’s the best way you’re going to learn"


Lessons from Makerpad's story 👇

Insights📊

  • You are the product of your environment. Ben was surrounded by new tech products all day and eventually became a builder because of that.
  • High quality content sites and communities have great value. (learn to build a community from Rosie Sherry)
  • The no-code movement is in its early years of the hype cycle, it will stabilize with time and become an essential part of how startups are built.
  • Early adopters in the no-code space are people who do know how to code, and are aware of the pain of building development teams early on.
  • Broadly 3 applications of no-code tools - websites, mobile apps, SaaS apps.
  • Often just repositioning an existing product can work well. Ben did it with Makerpad and Nadav Keyson did it with Riverside.

Ideas💡

Inspiration🤩

  • Know what works for you and focus your business on that. Ben gave up the monthly recurring model because he wasn't comfortable with it.
  • Control your environment. Join the right communities that get you to take action. Ben was part of MakerHunt - an invite-only slack community for Product Hunt makers.
  • Build side projects. They are a great way to test ideas and see what sticks. Ben had multiple side projects before Makerpad.

Growth Channels📈

Total Traffic -

makerpad_traffic.png

Primary Channels - Direct and Search

makerpad-channels

  • Lot of direct traffic means their users are using the website every day to access the content.
  • All of its search traffic is organic, keywords that get them organic visits are their tutorials about using No-Code tools.

makerpad_SEO.png

Top Social Channel - Twitter

makerpad_Social


Related Trends📊

Google search trends for the term "no-code" -

  • Absolute numbers are less but rising.

no-code-google-trend.png

Related Opportunities💰

No-code related acquisition opportunities on microacquire.com -

Opportunity 1 -

  • Value Prop -No-code e-learning platform and community with 340+ no-code devs.
  • Users - 100-1000
  • Key Assets - Website+ Newsletter (1300 subs)
  • Revenue Last month - $3,000
  • Profit Last month - $2,200
  • ARR - $25K
  • Asking Price - "Open to Offers"

Opportunity 2 -

  • Value Prop - API and no-code tool to integrate waitlists on landing pages in less than 5 minutes. (Was #1 Product of the Day on Product Hunt)
  • Users - 100-1000
  • Key Assets - Website + Social Media Accounts
  • Revenue Last month - 0
  • Profit Last month - 0
  • ARR - $2K
  • Asking Price - $100K

Opportunity 3 -

  • Value Prop - no-code tutorials platform that offers guides on how to use no-code tools to build a business.
  • Users - 100-1000
  • Key Assets - Website + Social Media Accounts
  • Revenue Last month - 0
  • Profit Last month - 0
  • ARR - $50
  • Asking Price - "Open to Offers"

Links🔗


Thank you for reading🙏

Let me know what you thought of this post, just hit reply or drop a comment below.

ICYMI : Last week I wrote about the podcasting platform Riverside

Every week, I share the most actionable insights and inspiring tips from successful Indie Hackers FOR aspiring Indie Hackers

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Thanks to Seth King for editing this post.

Google trends chart courtesy undertheradar.io

Cheers,
Ayush

  1. 2

    In-depth story. No-code movement is getting stronger and it is becoming trending topic of every Dev conference.

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