Briefly introduce yourself
I’m Alex, working out of London in the UK. Before no-code I was a tech consultant at Accenture (I know!!) and then ran my own startup (Pluto) which I had to sell after the pandemic.
During my paternity leave I started building a few no code side projects, managed to sell two on Acquire.com and got a real taste for tools like Bubble.
The business allows anyone to quickly (and with no code) build their own ChatGPT that’s trained on their own content/documents. So anyone can have an AI assistant for their team or organisation.
Describe your career journey prior to discovering no-code
I studied Economics, mainly because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I kinda wish I studied computer science, but having been so immersed in no code, I’m not even sure I would want to study that any more, if I could go back in time.
At Accenture I was running small teams and eventually entire programmes, launching new digital services (apps, websites, etc.) for big FTSE100 companies. I started to get a real taste for technology at this stage.
At Pluto, I was the CEO and CTO and led on all our technology choices and managing our engineering team. This taught me so much more about building apps and backend services. But having to raise money ($1.5m) I also had to learn how to run a business, how to distribute your product and how to make money.
How did you discover no-code?
I first discovered no code properly on my paternity leave when I built a service that sent SMS alerts when the UK Passport Office had available appointments.
After Covid there was a mad scramble in the UK to renew passports and it became really difficult to get these appointments.
I heard from other new dads about how stressful it was to get a passport appointment. I knew that with a web scraper, I could easily check if appointments were available without having to constantly check the site.
I already had some experience building basic websites and working with APIs, so I just got started with Shopify and Zapier. I managed to build the first version of the product within a week. Looking back it had such a simple elegance to the product and tech stack.
At its peak it was doing $1,200+ revenue per day.
I was totally blown away by the income, in previous startups I knew how much work and time it took to generate that kind of revenue.
This early success made me determined to continue experimenting and tinkering with no-code. This all led me to discover Bubble, and since then, life has never been the same 🙂
Describe how no-code has changed your career trajectory
No code has allowed me to launch projects in days, completely myself with no funding. Before, I always thought a startup needed some funding and some engineers.
I do think some experience helps because no code is like coding, but in a different more human-readable language. It’s all highly logical and structured.
I’m curious to know what you think the pros and cons are of building with an in-house dev team using code vs building yourself with no-code?
There’s no easy answer, and for different products there will be different answers.
The maturity of the no code tools is incredible vs. even 2 years ago. You can build products that 10k+ users are using daily with a no code site builder and have no problems.
The downside with traditional code is I’ve found it slower to push new features and for anyone in your team to contribute. But, you have total flexibility.
With no code tools, you lose some control/customisation (but it’s rare), but the upside is you can move really quickly without having an expensive dev team.
How are you leveraging your previous skills and experience in your new career?
I think every role I’ve had helps me in different ways.
My consulting days taught me about process, presenting your ideas, working through problems and working with teams.
My Pluto startup days taught me how to raise investment, how to manage a company, how to build a quality product and how to market it.
And my side projects have taught me how much can be done on a tiny budget with a very small team.
All this has led to My AskAI and why it’s already taken off so much, even after just 1.5 months. I don’t think it would have been possible without my co-founder or my previous experiences.
Can you tell me a bit more about what gave you the idea for My AskAI, the complexity of the build, how much traction you have so far, and how you’ve gone about spreading the word?
The idea came about when OpenAI released an updated version of the embeddings API. It was one of those moments where you look at a new piece of technology and ideas come rushing in. You can do all these things you never though was possible.
The complexity of the build isn’t actually that high. The underlying tech is fairly simple, but the real challenge is from a product design standpoint. Ensuring you have a product that anyone can use even if they have no idea how all the AI models and APIs work behind the scenes.
Since launching in late Feb 2023, we’ve now got over 13k users signed up with $6k MRR. All the numbers are heading in the right direction and my co-founder and I are almost overwhelmed with the pace that it’s moving and how stretched we already are running the business.
In terms of marketing, so far it's just been Twitter, Product Hunt and AI tool directories. Nothing paid yet!
What were the biggest challenges to learning no-code and making the career change?
Controversially, I don’t think there are. I think it’s a mindset shift for people to think that they, as a non-coder, can actually build a website or an app or a backend service. It probably seems much harder than it is.
People who are interested should just start tinkering.
Don’t quit your job yet, but pursue a small idea you have, whatever it is, build it and launch. You’ll learn more in that process than the last year at your job!
What were your biggest lessons learned?
Two main things.
- It’s incredibly difficult to build a product that retains people. Virality and buzz can get people in the front door and maybe even initial revenue. But keeping a user for 6 or 12 months, is really really hard.
- Distribution is the biggest challenge any startup or side project faces.
What’s your plan for the next 5 years?
I want to keep building and growing My AskAI, the potential is enormous and we’ve only just got started.
What advice would you give to others hoping to change careers the way you did?
Just pick a small idea you have and build it.
Try hard to not worry about whether it will become anything, the process of building your first project is way more important than the outcome.