You know, for the longest time, when we started Zapier, no code wasn't a thing. Right? No code has really been a thing that as a “term” has existed since, what, 2018? 2017? Maybe it's fairly new and so we, you know, we started Zapier in 2011. And at the time, we sought out to solve what felt like a somewhat simple, but fairly pervasive problem, which is that there's all these new apps that are popping up left and right, and all the customers, all the end users of these tools, want them to work with everything else that they use.
Now almost a decade later and our job at the time was like, well, maybe if we just made it a little easier for the end user to be able to set up an integration between those tools that could be useful. And turned out over time, it's more than just useful because all these end providers, you know, the MailChimp, the Salesforce, the G Suite's of the world, it's really difficult for them to build a big ecosystem of integrations, it's just a hard thing to do. Even if you are a very successful business.
We realized that over time, Zapier had a much bigger value to play. It wasn't just helping with these like little simple one-off integrations, but it really acted as a bit of a workflow tool that helped folks connect these tools, but in a way that actually felt more like building workflows. It felt more like logic. It felt more like coding, in some sense. In some ways, even though most of the people who use Zapier don't know how to code, many of them don't know what APIs even are and so just the ability to help people connect the building blocks of the web together in a way that creates a thing has been something that I think when no code became a term and a thing, it was like, well, Zapier is the thing that provides all the logic for all these tools.
I think no code sometimes gets a bad take. Because people are like, “Oh, you can't build great things with no code.” I don't really think that's the point of it. I think no code is really about empowerment. It's about helping folks who have ideas who want to get a job done — be able to do that stuff.
They don't have to wait for engineering. They don't have to wait for IT to go make this stuff happen. They can use tools like Adalo, or Zapier, or a Webflow, or an Airtable, or what have you, to build the thing that works and solves the problem that they have.
To me, no code is all about helping that set of people make that happen. It's the sort of this democratization of building things that is really useful.
I don't really know the origins of it, to be honest. I think there was a lot of people calling it visual programming before that, or visual development and they even go back far enough and you start to get to things like Yahoo! Pipes, which is a precursor to Zapier, you also look at things like Dreamweaver, which was, you know, perhaps even a precursor to other things, and I'm sure there was stuff even before that, too.
As long as humans have been working on things, we've been trying to find better ways to do them and like with programming languages, always trying to move an abstraction layer up. And to me, no code is trying to move another abstraction layer up the stack to just make it that much easier for folks.
I'm doing the no dash code, but I hope I hope I'm not starting a flame war or anything… oh gosh I lost half my customers right there.
I think the exciting thing is you can start to see a lot more tech enabled businesses move a lot faster. There's so many businesses [...] you know, small restaurants, you think a small real estate agent, you think of an attorney or accountant or all these sorts of just service industry businesses or small mom and pop stores that have back office needs.
No code lets them run such an efficient shop, which is really important, even more so now than ever, because they have to find ways to be scrappy, and endure through some of these tough times. I think no code really is about putting the power in the people's hands to make things happen.
A lot of times it starts from the operation side of the house. It's these folks that, maybe they have a bunch of engineers that are hired, but those engineers are often deployed against the primary product that they're building. It's like “Hey, our job is to build this world class x. And that x is really what we want to be spending all of our time on.” However, to run the business, we need all these other things. We need a CRM. We need an invoicing tool. We need email marketing. We need project management. We need all these other things, and our engineers are not often helping make that stuff work better together.
Engineers are focused on the really hard problem of actually delivering a product to the end customers. And so that running of the business side of things often is where the operations folks start to come in and deploy a no code stack and make things more efficient, make it where every salesperson is a little better at their job, make it so that this thing that used to take all day or all week happens instantly.
I think you can just do more things, like you can do more things faster, cheaper, it's more available, you have more people that are capable of doing it. You can solve more different types of problems and enables everybody to go faster. So, to me, it's sort of like a superpower where you can just help more folks get things done. I think it enables a whole new set of knowledge work.
I think the more people that can build stuff is good for society. If the internet was sort of like a first wave of enablement, it's like, hey, some random person who learns how to code in the middle of Missouri, can now spin up a website and start making some money. No code, I think, just adds another order of magnitude, because now it's not about learning code. It's you just have to learn some simpler tools. And so it just adds a whole swath of people [who] now are able to do a whole set of new things.
I can tell you this, it feels like it will be a foundational shift in how work happens, and I feel pretty confident in that.
I don't know that that will ever happen... You know, actually, now that I think about it, it's possible that you would more people with active zaps than they would making PowerPoint presentations in a given week. So it depends on your definition of apps.
For colleges, it's less than five years.
For grade schools, less than 10 years.
Next year, less than a year.
I still think we have a while here — let's call it a decade.
Yeah, you could get like a TurboTax style thing in the decade.
I bet we'll see something in less than five years.
Less than five years.
That's interesting, because Obama was all about learn to code. I bet we will see something in the next four years if we haven't already.
We have a lot of customers that are part of the physical economy, I'll call it where, you know, the restaurant owners, they’re storefront owners or something like that, that predominantly do their business that way. And we had a customer, in Wisconsin, called 'The Ruby Tap', that had a wine bar. And basically overnight they had to close up shop, but that night that they built an online curbside pickup order style app that allowed people to drive by and pick up wine. They did it overnight and then started making money the next day, I think the next day, they'd said, “Hey, we have made like 50 bucks over Stripe in the first day,” or something like that.
And, to me, that kind of agility and innovation that no code provides to these types of small business owners is game changing. These are folks that had these tools not existed, they really, truly would have been dead in the water, like it's just no choice, just nothing, no option, other than to close up shop. But because tools like Adalo and Zapier exist, they have a fighting chance. They can use their own creativity, they can use their own intuition to try and keep their business afloat. To me, that's where I've seen a lot of creativity recently that has been uplifting for me.