Bubble Helps the Not-So-Code-Savy Create UIs and Websites with Ease
Back in the early days of the Internet, users created websites with services like Geocities, where writing lines and lines HTML was the norm. Nowadays, there are tons of services and platforms, like Bubble, that make the process more streamlined.
Bubble is a platform designed to create websites and other user-facing features without having to write a single line of code.
We spoke with Emmanuel Straschnov, Co-Founder of Bubble, to learn more about users’ experiences in creating websites with the platform, including how one user was able to recreate Twitter. Straschnov also went into detail on how the company was founded and what the company culture is like.
Colin Barry [CB]: Every startup has a story to tell. What is the story behind Bubble? How did the founding team come together?
Emmanuel Straschnov [ES]: Josh and I decided to partner after our first coffee meeting! It’s like getting married after one coffee date, and we’ve now been working together for more than 6 years. Josh had come up with the idea after spending quite some time in the startup scene in New York and everyone was asking him to be their tech co-founder to start a tech startup. He saw this as a big gap in the market and started working on a product to solve this. It wasn’t called Bubble back then, and it was only a prototype but he started looking for a co-founder. I graduated from Harvard Business School without a job in May 2012 and was looking for something in the technology field when a mutual friend put us in touch. We met in New York but at the time I already had a job offer expiring the day following our coffee chat. So at the end of our first meeting, we decided to start the company. I went back to Boston to sell my furniture and we started working together the following Monday.
CB: Say I work for an enterprise-level company, and we are going to start using Bubble, please explain to me how does the platform work?
Emmanuel Straschnov, Co-Founder of Bubble
ES: Our current market and focus are startups and smaller organizations, as they usually launch their businesses on the platform. We haven’t been focusing on enterprise quite yet, but we do have a few users at larger organizations who use Bubble to build internal and external-facing web apps.
The way it works is that you start with your design by building the user interface element by element, and then program it by assembling some workflows. So, if you were to build a marketplace and were working on the page where users submit an item to put on sale, you’d add the different inputs, picture uploaders, etc. that are used to describe the item, and then you have a button ‘save’. Then, the workflow you would build would say, in Bubble terms, ‘When the button save is clicked, create a new item in the database, send a confirmation email, change the page’. And we’ve pre-built these different actions so you don’t need any code to make it work. Once you’re done with the UI and the workflows, that’s it! Your app is already live and users can use it.
CB: I heard a story that a user essentially recreated Twitter with Bubble. How was that experience and what was the traction like on that?
ES: The user’s goal was to prove people that visual programming, and Bubble in particular, could build real things. Since many people and companies have made that promise over the years and weren’t able to deliver, the level of skepticism around the visual programming concept, and around the idea that anyone should be empowered to build software easily without technical training, is quite high. So building this Twitter clone was a great example of what you could do without code, especially since he did it in 4 days.
Traction-wise, he posted the links on a few developer forums, like HackerNews, which led to quite some reactions. People were skeptical at first, but then saw the end result and started embracing the revolution!
CB: Who are some of the typical users of Bubble? Would you be able to share any stories from them?
ES: We see two typical use cases on Bubble. We see people starting companies on Bubble, mostly tech startups and people building internal tools to better run their businesses, usually small or medium-sized businesses. What they have in common is they want to build a product that fits their need and launch it quickly. And that’s what Bubble allows them to do. Our users are usually not very technical but more business-focused. We do have a few coders on the platform, but it’s not the core of our user-base today.
And some of our users did very well with their Bubble-built startups. One fintech startup in San Francisco that was entirely built with Bubble launched on Bubble in 2014, raised $365M and they are still running on Bubble today.
One of the things I like the most about Bubble is that people also use the platform for not professional stuff. Once, when I was attending a Bubble meetup in Berlin, a user came up to me to tell me how Bubble helped him save his relationship. Apparently, he had a tradition with his girlfriend to give each other an Advent calendar in December, and in 2017 he forgot. On the night of November 30th, he put together a digital one as a Bubble app and his girlfriend could open it every day by tapping on an icon on her iPad! And this is actually what Bubble is really about, it’s a way to create the digital products you need to solve a problem, in professional and personal settings.
CB: What are the offices and company culture like at Bubble?
ES: We’re a small, tight-knit team of nine people in New York so our culture is very personal. I think one of the things that makes Bubble unique is how much we care about our customers. This actually goes back to our bootstrapping history. For more than six years, we’ve built the business by entirely bootstrapping it with revenue coming from customers. Building our company in this way has made us only care about the customer, as if they were our only interlocutors. We wouldn’t have been able to build the company like this if we had raised VC money because then we would need to worry about our investors, and they can have a very strong impact on your business. A lot of our users start companies on Bubble, which makes them very invested in the platform, and we see their successes with their startups as our successes since our company will be successful if they succeed!
CB: So, “Bubble” is a bit of an interesting name for a startup. Where and how did you come up with that name?
ES: Our company, and our brand, is all about empowerment. We wanted to find an easy and playful name for the company to represent that. At first, we had some push back about the name as people were saying “A tech Bubble?”, but over the years people don’t worry that much about it anymore and now our users call themselves “Bubblers”!
CB: There seems to be a rise of “no-code” platforms. Since you’re directly involved in this space, do you have any predictions for it?
ES: I think these platforms will take over software development and empower everyone to build software as Windows did with using computers in the 80s and 90s. It’s a similar evolution. Before Windows, people were typing code to use computers. After Windows, people were using a mouse and a visual interface to use computers. And the impact of that revolution has been incredible, that’s precisely what enabled the adoption of computers in every house, office, and school.
I see no-code platforms operating the same revolution with programming computers. People building software will not only be engineers, but also business executives, teachers, and doctors. And this is critical because going forward, creating automation is key for all tasks. Coders will still work in this new world, but they’ll add features to no-code platform and only write code when new things are needed. This may be the most exciting consequence of the rise of no-code platforms as engineers can stop working on low value-added tasks and focus on new problems. We don’t know what they’ll solve and that’s what is so exciting!