The article below is taken from SaaS Mag Issue 3. To order your free copy, click here.
Bubble is a visual programming language that empowers the next generation of startups and software creators by making programming web-apps accessible to anyone. In 2019, Bubble was at the point in product development that its users were building full-fledged software applications and rarely running into any limitations. This clear indicator of potential growth provided the foundation for an eventual raise of $6.25M led by venture capital funds SignalFire and Neo.
On Bubble, non-technical people can build web apps without any coding knowledge. It enables users to build products similar to Facebook, Twitter, and Airbnb in less than a week. Bubble was bootstrapped for 7 years before raising more than $6M from top investors and angels like the founders of Warby Parker, Allbirds, Mulesoft, Okta, Flatiron Health, Nas and Eric Ries. Bubble has been built to support and host the next startup unicorn, as it follows its vision of changing the way technology-driven innovation is created.
In 2019, the world population is 7.7 billion people, of which only approximately 25 million are software developers. It is astounding that only 0.32% of our world population can say software development is within their skillsets. With the increasing demand and interest in technology-driven innovation, this is far too small a subset of people that are equipped to respond to this growing need in the marketplace. Bubble empowers non-technical founders and entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to life by giving them the ability to build tech products with-out making the costly investment in learning to code. Furthermore, Bubble removes the reliance on costly freelancers, finding technical co-founders, or hiring engineering teams. By removing the barriers that typically come with building software-powered businesses, Bubble is enabling nontechnical individuals to gain equal footing in the digital world and actively contribute to developing the technology that is moving humanity forward. Bubble makes this possible by seamlessly generating the code underneath the designs and workflows that its users create, allowing them to program applications in their web-browsers without having to write a single line of code. This allows users to focus completely on the ideas and projects they are passionate about, rather than allocating time and resources learning to code or sourcing engineering talent.
The idea that became Bubble came from the personal experiences of its co-founder, Josh Haas, who was widely sought after by entrepreneurs to join their ventures as their technical co-founder. He saw the limitations that nontechnical people experience to build companies, and recognized the general shortage of engineering talent available. Previously, while at Bridgewater, he used SharePoint to create a tool that non-technical colleagues could use to build custom software. This not only gave him some practical experience for building Bubble, but he also recognized how rewarding it was for nontechnical individuals when empowered to build their own tools. There was an apparent need to develop a solution that makes developing easier and removes the reliance on an engineer. Josh began fleshing out the idea of this no-code programming tool starting in December 2011. In May 2012, while searching for a co-founder himself, a mutual friend connected Josh to Emmanuel Straschnov, who was preparing to graduate from Harvard Business School and had an exploding job offer he planned to accept. They met in a New York City coffee shop to discuss Josh’s vision for this programming tool and the future of software development. Emmanual entered the coffee shop thinking perhaps he would work with Josh on something else in the future, but after a 3-hour conversation, Emmanuel saw the real potential of Josh’s vision. So, he declined the job offer, joined Josh in this new venture, and Bubble was officially founded. After a single coffee, and 7 years later, Bubble has turned into a successful product with dedicated users all around the globe.
Bootstrapped to Funded
Since launching in 2012, Bubble bootstrapped its creation and growth for the 7 years leading up to raising its first venture funding round in April 2019. While boot-strapping, Bubble launched to its users in 2015. It quickly became a community-driven company, as Bubble’s team actively interact-ed with its users and built their feedback into its product roadmap. In the early days after launching, Josh and Emmanuel were inundated with questions from users about their ability to build specific sites and functionality on top of Bubble. Since Bubble was still early in its own development, the founders often had to say no. But as time went on, gradually the “nos’’ became “yeses”, and the Founders began to reach a point where the product was successful with a wider and growing audience. Josh and Emmanuel knew once they were saying yes more often than not, then they would be ready to take the next step and begin fundraising.
The challenge Bubble faced with raising venture funding was that when a company accepts out-side investment, those investors expect to see a return on their investment that requires growth and scale. Had Bubble raised capital earlier on, they would have had to focus on getting as many users as fast as possible for a product that was not as complete as the founders thought it could be. By waiting, Josh and Emmanual were able to build and showcase enough of their vision to dispel any skepticism users or investors might have had. In 2019, Bubble was at the point in product development that its users were building full-fledged software applications and rarely running into any limitations. This clear indicator of potential growth provided the foundation for an eventual raise of $6.25M led by venture capital funds SignalFire and Neo. The additional capital is being used to invest in growing Bubble’s headcount and attracting additional users to its platform.
Today, Bubble has approximately 300,000 users and hosts 250,273 user applications. 35% of Bubble users are coming from startup backgrounds, including founders building their businesses on top of Bubble, and employees driving company development and growth. 47% of Bubble users are exploring the tool and using it to test initial ideas or build an MVP. The rest of Bubble’s user base is made up of SMEs, enterprise employees, institutions, and Bubble agencies who build with Bubble on behalf of clients. Bubblers are creating a wide array of consumer-facing sites, including marketplaces, job boards, and social media platforms, as well as internal tools, such as employee education, event management, and dashboards.
As a bootstrapped company, Bubble’s growth came primarily from its very active and loyal community forum. The forum serves as the primary area to ask and answer questions regarding Bubble. Because Bubble is an open-ended platform where a person can build almost anything that comes to mind, the platform comes with a bit of a learning curve.
Bubble and its users embrace this by providing consistent support for each other through the forum. Having such a strong and active community plus a dedicated customer success team, allows Bubble to support its 300,000 users on a day-to-day basis. The activity from the forum also brings great SEO traffic to the Bubble site, serving as an integral customer acquisition channel. Bubble continues to support the forum, and has plans to build and grow its online and in-person communities around the world, further supporting its users in their local communities. Moving forward, these local tech communities will also serve as a channel for Bubble to find nontechnical entrepreneurs looking to build and launch their own businesses. To do so, Bubble is building relationships with entrepreneurial hubs, such as incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces, and schools.
The Future of Bubble
With its platform and visual programming tool, Bubble is working to replace the traditional development stack, and lead the new way technology is going to be developed. Tactically, Bubble is working to develop its ecosystem to include coders who can extend the platform via a growing library of plugins. Additionally, Bubble sees an opportunity to push the platform beyond web-apps, and move into native app development. Galvanized by the ideal that individuals any-where can create businesses to solve problems, Bubble is driving the democratization of entrepreneurship regardless of technical resources.