The issues that come with establishing a successful business these days are relying too much on expert developers, high salaries that have to be provided, and giving a huge amount of time to properly set up, test, and share a working model with the target audience. Businesses small or big have to depend on developer expertise especially when they have a website, application, or an online store to build.
Tech giants including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter have come into existence, designed products and built large conglomerates with help of developers and the skills they possess. But a lot of people do not possess a technical background and the required knowledge to turn their business model into a useful product like a website or a web application. They need a solution similar to WordPress software, the most popular website builder like the Bubble app. It enables its users to create SaaS platforms in the form of production-ready web apps without needing to type a single line of code. Through Bubble.io entrepreneurs do not need expert developers to build a functional web application or Bubble app using the platform’s click and drag functions.
“I realized there was this huge mismatch between the number of engineers and the number of people who wanted to found companies,” Josh Haas, co-founder of Bubble.io said. “A lot of people want to build a digital startup, but don’t always have the technical expertise to create their product.”
Emmanuel Straschnov, Josh Haas, and a decisive coffee meeting
Emmanuel Straschnov, the co-founder of Bubble, born in Paris, always had quite a fascination with computer science and mathematics. During his childhood, Straschnov spent hours on coding applications such as MS-DOS . His abilities allowed him to enroll at the renowned and one of the most selective institutions in Paris, called École Polytechnique. Once in college, he developed a business-centric mind and went to China to work as a management consultant in Shanghai for almost three years.
In 2010, Straschnov applied and got accepted into the prestigious Harvard Business School for MBA which he completed in 2012. As part of the summer internship program, he chose to go with the luxury and fashion brand Prada and served as a special assistant to its CEO for a short while living in New York. Straschnov deduced by working with some seriously talented designers that the entrepreneurial endeavor he was interested in was something tech-driven. In May 2012, Straschnov did not land any job that he wanted but he kept looking in the technology field for an opportunity to catch his attention.
Josh Haas the co-founder and co-CEO of Bubble is the one who first came up with the idea of building Bubble.io, a no-code tool and platform to allow everyone to create apps, software, websites, etc. He was a philosophy major at Harvard and lived in New York. 25-year old Haas knew how to code as he taught himself Visual Basic to create video games and custom AI components in his childhood. But as he grew up, his philosophical approach about success took a backseat and made way for his practical projects.
He worked at Bridgewater Associates but hedge fund management did not appeal to him. During his time as a manager there, Haas created a tool using SharePoint that helped non-tech employees to utilize and build custom software. This became the start of a platform for general-purpose programming which would later be known as Bubble. This idea intrigued him to use his technical skills and excel in his. He ended up creating his profile on techfounder.com (now, CofounderLabs) where all kinds of entrepreneurs who wanted to hire someone with technical expertise found a co-founder to work with. Haas ended up receiving thousands of messages from people who wanted to partner with him on various projects but he was waiting to find anything that interested him.
Writing code is a necessary evil programmers do to accomplish those goals, just like spending money is a necessary evil to obtain goods and services.
Code is costly upfront because it takes time to write. But it’s even more costly down the line, because then you have to maintain it… when you change things, or when the external environment changes, it often breaks. Worse, any future code you write has to be compatible with your old code! – Josh Haas
At one point, Haas joined Jody Apap whom he met through Techfounder.com to build a program that could assign keywords to images for search engines online to read, catalog, and make the job of keyword loggers easy. That is how the “KeywordSmart” tool was created in 2011 a combination of thesaurus and checklist to help pro photographers organize images appropriately within libraries. After a year, helping out Apap and seeing that KeywordSmart (despite being a useful tool) had a small market and no naturally existing community . The number of businesses that connected with KeywordSmart as a paid client did not seem to grow. Haas ultimately decided to leave his partner in 2012 with a new thoughtful idea.
What if there were a platform where someone like Jody could build their startup without an engineer?
After KeywordSmart, Haas made up his mind about creating a tool to help people like his former partner Jody Apap (who do not have much technical knowledge) to build their ideas without learning how to code. He was looking for a co-founder that would jump on board with his idea but things moved fast after he met Straschnov through a mutual friend. The two of them met on a Thursday afternoon and opened up about their ambitions. By the end of their first coffee and after 3 hours of discussion, Haas and Straschnov decided to start their own company, Bubble. Straschnov recalls that he had a job offer expiring the very next day so it was pure luck that after their three-hour conversation, they reached an agreement to create something more than a website builder. Empowering people through technology has always been an ambition of both the Bubble co-founders which ultimately brought them together.
Due to the expiring job offer, Straschnov wasted no time in returning to Boston, sold his furniture, to start working with Haas by the next Monday. Haas already had a workflow and data tab system in the prototype which is still being used in Bubble. “Most of this is stuff that already exists, eighty percent of consumer websites probably look like Airbnb. They have most of the same components: an action to sign a user up, a calendar of events, an action to charge a credit card, one to send an email, et cetera.” – Josh Haas
“You have to be an engineer to start Airbnb but I would say Airbnb is not an engineering business, it’s a hospitality business,” Straschnov said. “The talent pool of people that can build this stuff is very limited and I’m sure there are many people who are very talented people who could maybe even build a better Airbnb.” – Emmanuel Straschnov
Competitors, Market Growth, Investors, and Partners
The API economy is growing and so are no-code platforms like Bubble and similar tools like Airtable and Webflow. But what makes Bubble so different from other alternatives is its fundamental principle.
The financial journey has been anything but easy for the two co-founders since the very beginning. The duo remembers how they used to pitch Bubble no code funding to some potential customers almost everywhere for example coffee shops, entrepreneurial meetups, and some networking events held in New York.
The three things that Straschnov feels helped Bubble are:
- The decision to bootstrap the company in the very beginning. Although it took Haas and Straschnov 7 years to bootstrap the company, it helped them to refocus on the product and build an extensive community. Bootstrap use allowed Bubble co-founders to worry less about various KPIs and benchmarks to see how advanced the apps built on the platform were and how satisfied the users were.
- Bubble kept adding on several features and tools that were directly requested from the users on the forum. This allowed the company to provide its users with everything they needed to build an application on their own without having to code. At first, the focus was on simplifying the onboarding process and give users more freedom to build instead of templates.
- One of the main reasons why Bubble has found the kind of success that other no-code platforms hope for is due to their primary focus being on a non-technical user base instead of developers. Many think of this as a mistake but non-technical users can see the amazing capability behind Bubble. That is how this company earned a considerate, loyal, and engaged user base.
Our goal with Bubble is no more code. We want to let people accomplish their goals — building amazing products and apps — while writing as little code as humanly possible. We will probably never reach code 0. But we’re going to push as close to the limit as we can.” – Josh Haas
“The early demos were tough,” Emmanuel admitted. “Users expect to be able to do anything that they can see in other web apps, so we didn’t want to launch too soon; it felt necessary to take years to develop the product’s functionality.”
Bubble caters to more than 200,000 users across the world , who use the platform to build web-apps and functions which would otherwise have required a dedicated team. Many of these entrepreneurs use Bubble to create their MVPs to not only test their product but in many cases drive investment.
When Bubble was launched most people relied on WordPress to build their website which still required a wordpress developer or an external plugin if they were looking to build a web based app for their customers. The limitations applied to more advanced tools like Wix and Squarespace which allowed people to build a capable website without knowing HTML and/or CSS but still required dedicated or certified developers or teams to help if they required a function not pre-built into the platform.
“The most important goal for us was to build a tool that could do anything. We wanted a platform powerful enough to build the next Facebook or Airbnb.”
“One of the things that bother us personally is that the cash is flowing to a lot of ideas that are all targeting making the life of well-off urban 20-somethings easier,” Haas said, “Don’t get me wrong, I would use these services, but is that the most important thing our economy can be doing?” – Josh Haas
Over time entrepreneurs built some really interesting apps via bubble, here are a few that really stood out
- Racezoo, an app to help people find and participate in foot races in Sweden.
- A clone project of Twitter that took just four days for completion.
- A crowdfunding website called Ripple where people could raise money to have their favorite bands play private shows.
- Some other apps built on Bubble moved on to capture the attention of venture capital. For example, Plato later got accepted into Y Combinator.
A total of 230,000 apps were created using Bubble and up to 270,000 visual developers were connected with the platform’s community (affectionately called Bubblers) by 2018. Along the way, Bubble expanded and now 1,082,047 Bubblers are active in the community.
Bubble No Code Funding
From 2017 to 2019, Bubble was self-financed and work was based on organically received community feedback that unlocked new levels of growth for operations. By the time the two co-founders began to think of fundraising, Bubble app already had up to 250,000 users and a million-dollar annual revenue.
In June 2019, Bubble got financial support from venture funds but it was not before the seed round when angel investors also became a part of its journey. This year Bubble became a unicorn startup by raising $100 million. This visual programming language and no-code platform is currently an early-stage venture which has amassed a total of $106.3 million. As of August 12, the benchmark valuation of this company is $635 Million. What started on a coffee table between two like-minded entrepreneurs has successfully raised hundreds of millions of dollars through the support of more than 22 investors. Now the platform has up to 1 million users from around the world
Seed - $6 Million
Bubble.io’s seed round was announced in July 2019, when SignalFire led an investment of $6.25 million as the lead investor. Neo and some other seed round participants represented funds with large-scale communities of entrepreneurs. The list of participants included Nas and the founders of the unicorns Warby Parker, Okta, MuleSoft, Harry’s, Flatiron Health, Allbirds, etc. it was later announced that New York-based investors BoxGroup and ThirdKind were also a part of Bubble’s seed funding round.
Series A - $100 Million
The last valuation of Bubble came up as $500 million by the end of its very successful Series A funding round that took place in July 2021. The most recent addition to the growing list of Bubble’s investors is Ryan Hinkle of Insight Partners who led $100 Million in Series A. Hinkle has been the managing director of Insight Partners and happens to be among the first few investors who have backed Bubble since 2014. Other worth-mentioning investors include Third Kind Venture Capital, Betawork, and SignalFire. Some notable angel investors who made this funding round successful are the founders of Datadog, Hootsuite, and Peloton.
7 years of tinkering with a product to make it perfect for large-scale use has been one of the biggest advantages that Emmanuel Straschnov and Josh Haas ever got their hands on. Once prepared, the platform met with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on people who were out of jobs and craving to learn new and useful skills to work-from-home. This paved way for an unparalleled rise in Bubble app creation and usage. Consequently, the company revenues tripled in value within a year. Bubble has a rating of 73.65 on the Oddup score, a cumulative metric that represents the overall health of an organisation including the potential chances of success for a startup.
The company remains as focused today on these new companies as it has always been. “[We’re] not trying to move upmarket just yet — we are trying to do the same thing that AWS and Stripe did five years ago - Emmanuel Straschnov
As of now, the Bubble app has established three tiers with a range of pricing for customers depending on their requirements. The basic tier is free and the other professional ones cost between $25 and $475 per month. For enterprises, the rates are different but Bubble also offers special rates to students.
What the Future Holds for Bubble App?
Co-founders Straschnov and Haas have been prioritizing the educational aspect of Bubble for a long time. Now they hope to invest in education using the capital raised in the recent funding rounds. The company wants to make more content to guide non-technical people to understand the process and concept of building web apps. Bubble would now collaborate with universities to have more students make the most out of Bubble.io funding. Straschnov also intends to hire more technical talent to perfect the Bubble app as they move forward in its particular niche(s) as the market for no-code platforms keeps on expanding across finance, SAAS, education and gaming industries..
“I am biased as this is related to what I’m working on, but I see the democratization of software creation as one of the key forces in the tech space right now, which has implications on how people work…”
“In other words, software creation is going to be less and less for engineers and people with a BS in Computer Science, but more and more a skill like using Microsoft Office.” – Emmanuel Straschnov