Hey! What are you working on and what led you to building with no code? Have you got any previous experience of building sites/apps?
I’m a software company founder, former VP of Product, and ex-Googler, so I’ve had a lot of experience building products, but not coding them myself. I built the first version of our product at my company, Group Project, with a developer and data scientist. But after that first version, I saw a major feature update opportunity, and it was going to be time-consuming to build traditionally into our existing product. There’s always that startup urgency when you’re trying to ship something major early on — I had to find the right approach to keep us moving. I had the vision and the designs ready quickly, and just needed to implement the first version of the vision. I started experimenting with no-code, and was able to learn enough about the tool I used (bubble.is) build a complex new feature into a beta-able state in about two weeks. It’s a learning curve using a new no-code tool while you’re building, but I like learning through doing, and the process allows me to iterate the product pretty immediately when I get new feedback and insights from customers.
I’m coming from a non-technical but pretty tech-oriented background. I had to learn Java in high school (a wonderfully nerdy school), and am definitely a systems person. I’ve been leading products for a while, and have some experience leading engineers. I’ve had to be proficient in strategy for architecting products from scratch, but haven’t had to code it into existence myself. Similarly, I’m not a UX designer, but I’ve had to know what I’m talking about and do it myself a lot of the time. I think that groundwork is what made no-code make total sense to me as the path forward. As a product- and business-oriented generalist, I finally feel like I can speak my ideas into existence.
What platforms and tools have you used to build Group Project? How long did it take to build?
A lot of our product is coded (big props to our developer and data scientist), but in the realm of no-code, I’ve used Bubble. Operationally, we use a ton of other no-code tools to make things happen (Airtable, Notion, Zapier etc.). I love that the no-code movement is starting to reframe even that operational work we’ve done across tools into product. I’d have called that “operations” or “process” before, but really we’ve built a lot of small tech stacks to accomplish our vision and meet needs. Everyone on our team has been a product builder — just some are making our customer-facing products, and some are making our internal tools. We “process-ify” everything with these tools — and that’s really making products.
How have you gone about growing your user base? What has been most effective?
Group Project is ultimately about understanding what people can do at work, and helping them do that — whether it’s getting opportunities, understanding their own capabilities, getting the right support from others to grow, or finding jobs. We’re trying to sell into workplaces, and ultimately we’re hoping to improve people’s work — and their experience at work. We started out talking to executives at mid-size companies, since they have buying power and are often quite hungry for talent data, but we actually found that it was much easier to go straight to our true user, the employee. When we started talking to managers and teams directly about using our 1:1s tool that gathers this data, that was a breakthrough moment. That’s who really understood what this was about.
Have you monetised it yet and if so, what is your revenue model?
We charge managers and their teams a monthly subscription to use our 1:1s tool. If we can save managers an hour or two a week (often more) and help them get visibility in their teams, and we can help their reports get much better support in their day-to-day — we’ve earned our keep.
What has been the hardest part of building, growing or monetising Group Project?
Group Project began from my own experience as an employee — not feeling seen at work, and knowing that I had more capabilities to offer than I had the opportunity to express in my role. When I started the company, I was searching for a way to empower employees in that situation — and set up a mutually beneficial arrangement with companies who want their employees doing great work in roles and on projects that fit them. The hardest thing in building the company has been honing a huge vision, really an experience, into a tool that works and is purchasable and makes sense. First we proved that better data about people’s capabilities would be useful for companies — then we searched for that point of traction where we could bring workplaces onto the tools. Usually if I vaguely introduce what Group Project does, people respond positively — it’s a nice idea — but the hard part is making that positive vision into something a manager can buy and get value out of right away. Actually being able to test a lot of approaches with rapid build and iteration in no-code is so, so helpful in solving that puzzle.
Do you have any tips on building, growing or monetising a no code product/business?
No code can remove a lot of the logistics and obstacles to trying something out — but ultimately you still need a business. I think it’s an opportunity for founders to focus on WHAT their business is, and send all their energy into validating that and building it, and spend a little less time early on on the “HOW”. No-code makes the 80/20 rule so palpable, because the ramp up time to something serviceable is shorter than coding, but you can still make something very robust if you spend more time with it. Focus on the 20% that makes your idea a business or not, and get to 80% of the validation — then do the 80% build to make it perfect. Use every tool at your disposal — no-code, network, your strengths — whatever you’ve got — to focus as small as possible on validating the heart of your business. No code is so easy to build and iterate on — so use that to know you’re building the right thing, and build it as easily as you can.
And a bit more practically — use the community of no-coders! Slack channels and forums have helped me figure out so many parts of my build. It’s a very supportive community.
Where can we find out more about Group Project and connect with you?
Sally is the founder of Group Project, a software company that helps managers support their teams and understand what their people can do. Their tool for check-ins and 1:1s between managers and teams is in invite-only beta, and you can request to join at groupproject.co. Sally’s also a product consultant and advisor, usually building apps nimbly without code. She speaks about no-code, ethics in tech, and the human future of work. You can reach her at sallysimms.com.
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