Not long ago, a colleague of mine said some nasty things about the no-code and minimum viable product (MVP) movements in front of me. And that bugged me. At first a little, then a lot.
It's no secret that I've been a pretty vocal proponent of no-code tools and minimum viable product development over the past two years. And that's because in those past two years, I've seen rapid advancements start to come together to create opportunity where opportunity didn't exist.
When wielded correctly, no-code tools and proper minimum viable product development can help a lot more people start and expand real businesses using real technology-without having to spend years learning to write good code or spend thousands of dollars for a marketing firm to validate market fit.
And it's becoming obvious that there's a vested and vocal group of people who don't want that to happen.
IBM or Bust?
Let's be clear: The net negatives of no code and MVP are overblown
I'm not coming at this from a position of startup hopes and unicorn dreams. For the record, I spent decades learning to write great code. I've built a profitable and growing business on a no-code platform (TeachingStartup.com). I launch MVPs several times a year to develop new features, products, and entire product lines--both for my companies and other companies. I'm talking from experience.
I'll defend no-code and MVP in a moment. Not a lot. You may not even notice it. Just enough to prove my point. What's more important is why the badmouthing of both movements upset me.
I don't have a thin skin. I couldn't care less about what anybody, successful or not, within earshot or not, says or thinks about any opinions I have one way or the other.
You want to do the let's-go-get-millions-in-dumb-money-investment-off-a-slick-deck startup thing? Go nuts. You don't like MVPs? Don't build them. You love NFTs? Invest your heart out. (Just don't invest more than you're prepared to lose. The parent in me has to say that.)
What I do have a problem with, a big problem, is a certain kind of universal slamming of no-code and MVP. It's just another example of people speaking poorly about anyone or anything that doesn't fit their worldview of entrepreneurship, because they're convinced that the way they did their startup is the only way to do a startup. If they've done a startup at all, and that's usually a big if.
I have to ask: What do they care whether or not no-code works? If they don't need it, and they really want to spend the time rebuilding infrastructure that has quickly become plug-and-play over the past few years, by all means, they should lock themselves in their lavishly postered work area and strap the code goggles on for months before they test the market.
Why is it so important that people know that they think all MVPs are garbage? Are we really drowning in inelegant and buggy new apps and are we really being forced to use free or cheap alternatives to bloated and expensive software? Were they expecting that new SaaS app from that new company to work as robustly as... I don't know, Salesforce or whatever they consider to be the epitome of great, hardened software? Is it IBM or bust for them?
Or more to the point: What kind of moat are they trying to build so that fewer people can get into the castle now that they're already in the castle? Are they really get-off-my-lawning anyone who has more passion for innovation than they have access to MIT courses and the comfort zone of someone else paying the bills while they learn their hexadecimal multiplication tables?
What's Old Is New Again
No-code and MVP are not flash-in-the-pan, trendy concepts. The first time I used a no-code tool was years ago when I wanted to test a new feature without having to spend weeks standing up a server, an environment, a database, and a front end for actual customers to actually use the tech. That test resulted in a 10 percent increase to my bottom line, so I built the tech for real. I did this a few more times before realizing I probably didn't even need to build the tech "for real."
The first time I built an MVP goes all the way back to the first time I wrote code that went to actual customers. In other words, I've been building MVPs since I've been professionally coding, I just hadn't been calling them MVPs until that term became a term.
And the sneaky thing is, the same is true for no-code.
Unless someone is writing low-level machine code--and more power to you if you are--we're all writing no-code. Today's no-code tools and platforms are just more powerful and more visual than yesterday's object-oriented code bases.
The next time someone takes a dig at you about your ideas, your methods, your means, or even your ends, remember this: Yeah, no-code is going to produce failures, lots of them. And MVPs are going to put those failures in front of more people more quickly.
But the old ways had a much better track record, right? Salesforce never has bugs. AWS never goes down. On-premise servers never get hacked.
Of course not. Those things have always happened. They just used to be less public and way more costly when they did.