Listen Up IH - Episode 29
👆 That's Ben Tossell's advice for Indie Hackers.
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.
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 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.
Some tutorials are free while others are behind a paywall ($249 annual and $600 lifetime plan).
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.
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 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!
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 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:
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 👇
Google search trends for the term "no-code" -
No-code related acquisition opportunities on microacquire.com -
Thank you for reading🙏
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ICYMI : Last week I wrote about the podcasting platform Riverside
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Thanks to Seth King for editing this post.
Google trends chart courtesy undertheradar.io