How to develop an MVP with Bubble.io

How to develop an MVP with bubble.io

This episode brought me a lot of joy. At this time I’m interviewing David Rosenberg who is the founder of Budget Referee. He is building the first MVP version of its application within bubble.io.  As I’m a big fan of bubble and of personal finance, I was very delighted to have a chance to speak with him.

We will cover the challenges of developing a digital product with no software development background and how low-code enabled him to start his journey.

Enjoy this episode and learn not only how to develop a digital product with low code but also how to start getting the first users on board.

If you have feedback or ideas on which topics need to be covered at this podcast – you are more than welcome to get in touch with me.

You can find more information on www.lowcode-founders.com, or you can drop me a message at sarah@biberei.de

Enjoy and keep on building new digital products. 

Sarah 

Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/lowcodefounders

Transcript of the episode: How to develop an MVP with Bubble.io

David

When I started looking for an alternative to the complicated development, I mean we’re talking, you know, lambda function behind AWS and our languages and other things that didn’t work, and I was looking for a simple solution. I started out with very simple forms like Formstack, Google Forms. And by coincidence, I had worked with a person in Turkey who was very, very smart, which is a good thing. They could read manuals, which I can’t. And they actually suggested Bubble as a good alternative for me. So it wasn’t that I knew about low code and compared all the low code alternatives. It was that the person that seemed like they could do the functionality. It looked and investigated themselves recommended Bubble. And I did my due diligence and figured looking into it, looking at reviews and it really seemed like a good way to go. So it was more a referral by someone who could assist me in the process.

Sarah

Hello and welcome to a new episode of the Low Code Founders Podcast. My name is Sarah from the Biberei, and I’m the host of this podcast, and today we have a new guest with us. It’s David. David is the founder of the application called Budget Referee and it’s a whole-souled budgeting app that helps to manage personal finance. As you can imagine, this application was purely developed with low code. And I’m very interested to hear David’s journey and also what he can share from his insight of low code. So welcome. David.

David

Great, thank you Sarah. So appreciative and grateful to be on your podcast?

Sarah

All right, David tell us a little bit about your application. So what was your goal? And when did you start? And how did you start? So what was your motivation?

David

Sure. So I go back about 40 years as a bookkeeper, one of my first jobs. And back then it was actually before Excel. And I was always struck with how people viewed their budget differently based on their situation, the personality, the income. Many, many things went into it. And it was fascinating for me and since I’ve kind of worked in corporations with budgets, departmental budgets, government installations and I really loved budgets. So with household budgets, I know there’s a problem. It’s either someone who is not budget savvy doesn’t like to do it or someone who is married to their opposite. So I know there’s a need and I had been spectacularly failing in my ability to bring it to market using developers, traditional requirements sprints. And to that end, I actually started on this journey, I would say over 20 years ago. Speaking to developers, sometimes they were from Russia, talking about Prologue, SQL, all kinds of languages and eventually running out of money came to Bubble as a way to get to market, which I haven’t quite done. I’m almost there, but it’s really quite a long journey and I hope that my lessons will help other people in their no code journey.

Sarah

So your idea that you had 20 years ago if I understood that correctly?

Sarah

Help me a little bit, you said,people can see their budgets differently. So what do you mean?

David

I’ll give you a great example. I enjoy playing golf and it was a volunteer golf tournament the other day, I was speaking to someone who was an accountant type who it was frustrating for them that people didn’t understand the way accounting works and then the extreme is just in and out. So it’s kind of like a language that some people speak and understand in a particular way, but not everyone at all sees things the same way. So it’s a very misunderstood word. And it’s kind of been a little bit hijacked by banks and institutions about what budgeting should be. So, in my estimation, there’s almost 30 million people in the US that have stress issues over budgeting. And my approach is to be very, very general in getting to know them so that we can give ongoing advice that fits their situation, how they interpret it, what they need, what their level of interest is. So it’s kind of like I am, what I would say is a lateral thinker where I see the big picture and jump around. So that’s why no code solution is good because it’s easier to have a conversation with the developer back and forth as opposed to writing requirements. And even if they follow him, it’s not what you thought. So it’s a very fast iteration, which is one of the great things of low code. And I just also want to say that I had to work with Bubble developers because I just don’t have that ability to even use it myself to develop it. I just don’t have it, my brain doesn’t work that way.

Sarah

So when you were in a situation where you tried it with normal programmers from around the world and you choose bubble then later. So how did you choose your local platform? Because currently I I hear a lot from people there are so many different platforms out there and it seems like every minute um there’s a new platform coming up. So how did you choose? So what kind of criterias you use to choose which platform fits the best for your situation?

David

Great, great. Well, when I started looking for an alternative to the complicated development, I mean we’re talking lambda function behind AWS and our languages and other things that didn’t work. And I was looking for a simple solution. I started out with very simple forms like Form Stack, Google Forms. And by coincidence I had worked with a person in Turkey who was very, very smart, which is a good thing. They could read manuals, which I can’t and they actually suggested Bubble as a good alternative for me. So it wasn’t that I knew about low code and compared all the low code alternatives? It was that the person that seemed like they could do the functionality, looked and investigated themselves recommended Bubble. And I did my due diligence and figure looking into it, looking at reviews and it really seemed like a good way to go. So it was more a referral by someone who could assist me in the process.

Sarah

And this person also helped to develop the application within bubble or did you choose some other developers to do it?

David

A little bit of both. They were a new person to Bubble. They had done very basic database work. In the process, I brought in a couple of experts who had worked with Bubble 3-5 years. Some of the low codes have a lot of idiosyncrasies where it’s not in a manual what could go wrong or some best practices and so we brought in a couple of levels of people, one was a front end expert who really helped issues, you know, spacing and colors and things that this person didn’t know. So we kind of filled it in as needed and occasionally we ran into problems with loading and calculations and processing and we would bring in the expert to look at what it was and they could either suggest a solution or suggest a solution that maybe would work, maybe didn’t let’s try it. So it was kind of a team effort to get as far down the road as we could with Bubble.

Sarah

How long did it take you so far from starting with Bubble until now. So what kind of estimation? In terms of time?

David

Probably about 10 months. I’m unique in that I am probably trying to work on the world’s most complicated software that Bubble or low code may or may not be able to do. But what it has done is give me a high visibility MVP That will then help me launch to the next step which is an enterprise platform with partners. So it’s actually serving a purpose as well. So I’m not sure the final outcome of the no code solution but ideally I would like to use it as a high fidelity MVP to get to market and prove the concept while we are working simultaneously, a much much more complex API enterprise level software.

Sarah

That’s actually my next question. Whether you use some external APIs for example to gather external data or also because you do some a lot of calculations you said do they all take place within Bubble or did you place it somewhere else to have a better performance?

David

Well that’s a good question and I’m sorry that I’m probably not smart enough to give you a good answer. In Bubble we are not satisfied with the way that we did the calculations. In other words what’s on the client side. What’s on the service side if we used an external engine and I believe that there’s plenty of room for improvement on that process, Both for security and for speed. And again, um, kind of the opposite of an engineer. So it was hard for me as a and also mentioned here, Sarah, I’m definitely an attention deficit disorder. I was diagnosed probably in the last few years, so probably later in life, which makes me very, very creative, very, very persistent but unable to understand the nuts and bolts of the engineering options, even if they’re apparent to someone else. So I kind of am coming here as a non technical founder, not a person who actually works in the low code itself.

Sarah

Yeah, but I think that’s just, I guess the most people in my audience are non-technical founders. So I think, Yeah, you’re in the same group, but I think you are a good role model or a good example, how some nontechnical has an idea, has a vision for so many years and still keeps on fighting. And unfortunately the audience can’t see, but I can see the, you know, you’re, you’re fighting in your seat of the fire in your eyes and it’s very

David

Definitely have the habit of taking the hard way, not the easy way and I don’t do instructions very well. So what I do appreciate about the low code is it really gives me visibility into the process And by that, I can then uh say no, I didn’t mean that or more of this, or I misspoke when you do traditional development, you end up having to do 35, 10, 20 pages of requirements for sprint and there’s negotiation back and forth on, we can do that, we can’t. So in that process I kind of lost track of the vision and the potential of this and low code has kind of given me something to work from with the ability to look into the relatedness of the calculations where otherwise I couldn’t see it. So I would recommend it for people like myself that are creative visionary founders that have not been able to work with developers. I’ve actually run out of money, I’ve had investors and we’ve spent it and then we’ve got more investment money, we spent it again. And so low code is a pretty cheap way to do this. You know, the servers are around $30 a month versus over 400 for an enterprise, AWS server, which we had. So the cost to get in it and get going is relatively a fraction of the price for development. And ultimately, yes, you would take what you’ve done in low code and integrate it into other APIs with other middleware or institutions.

Sarah

Yeah, yeah. And maybe one point you said you can interact with the developers and have a better discussion on which what you really want and saying this also from a perspective of being a developer because I do Bubble at each and every day as a developer. Either for myself or for clients mostly and also for developers, it’s better to have a better discussion with clients because no developer wants to do something which later ends being deleted. This is really frustrated, I really see that especially with with one of my projects and I had in the last month there was someone else, a non technical founder and he also had a very great vision and idea and due to the fact that I was developing it, we had like weekly calls but not that much like an hour or something and it was still growing and we both kind of developed an idea how the product should look like and that’s actually the best way to develop software, to have ongoing conversations. And he was also able, while I was still developing to do some first dimas to customers to the target group, get feedback and I got the feedback and kind of develop it the next day and this is, this is really that agility and and you know all those lean development is all about. I think that yeah, I think that not only no put is good when it comes to you have your minimal budget and you have no technical aspect ease but also if you need to have very fast feedback from the market, because I think in the future this term becomes even more important because money, it’s often a problem, but it’s, that’s not the only problem. Well, we often don’t have this flexibility to adapt to your environment to do changes. And I think there are no quotes that are really the thing and I think it’s getting more more important in the future.

David

I believe that it’s a great thing because it’s kind of like taking the left brain and the right brain of the world and putting them together because people, you have accountants and developers and engineers. And on the other side, you’ve got other people with ideas and there is a gap in the communication between them. I was fortunate because my developer in Turkey was able to understand my brain and the way it worked. So if I said something to her 10 times, I would say it differently each time. But she understood that. So there’s a need for that uh, mutual communication and understanding.

Sarah

Absolutely. So you haven’t developed it yet. Did you already start getting first customer feedback and yes, how did he do that?

David

 We have right now, we’ve got about 25 or so bugs that keep perpetuating. In other words, one thing gets fixed, something else breaks and other thing gets fixed. Two things break. So what we’ve done is put that development on hold for now until we kind of look at the full picture of the enterprise then I potentially would go back to bubble developers to say, can you fix the critical things that we could get to market? What has happened is that when we’ve done the user testing, it is not quite performing like we need, we don’t have all the pieces in. So it’s almost like having the car ready but the key broke the ignition and you’ve now got to call a locksmith to get it out. So we’re in a little bit of a stall gear with most of it done and ready. But but it’s not quite 100% where we think we can have, even go to market with a free MVP quite yet. So that and that’s due to, you know, where it is, which is fine because in this time we’re actually looking at the enterprise picture and go back to Bubble. So yeah, we’re not quite there yet. But we did have people test it, try it, give us feedback. But unfortunately it’s still in the kind of bug issues like they can’t get through everything because of the complexity that were demanding of the system, which, you know, I’m probably to blame.

Sarah

And how did you get those first users to test your system? Because it’s what I see when I’m talking with clients. It’s one thing to develop a product, it’s another thing to market it and find customers where clients are using it. So how did you find your first users?

David

Well, since this has been going on for so long. Before Covid I went to quite a few networking events. These were in person events where you meet people, what do you do, What do you do you explain it? All that that’s fascinating. And at the time I would ask them, would they be interested in being a beta tester? So I had a large list of people over 100 that wanted to be beta testers. When push came to shove, there were far fewer. But with all the workshops I did, I did have a number of people that would serve the purpose. I also get quite a bit of mentoring. In the United States there is the small business organization has a service corps of retired executives and their subject matter experts. So they would often volunteer to go through this as well to give feedback whether it was from a marketing standpoint, the UI, the engineering, the target customer, what have you. So luckily lately people have kind of seen my persistence and say, wow, I’ve never seen anyone as persistent as you. I’d like to help you if I can. So they’ve been very patient and uh, necessary for my journey in this. So they’ve tested it, tried it and uh, that’s kind of how we got the beginning customers.

Sarah

Yeah, I think that’s a general tip. Maybe we can give to the audience, to nothing about better testers once you have the product ready to go. But while I think about it, why you are developing it from the very first stage. It’s often underestimated the effort you have to take to find those uses better users and also to kind of think of the first marketing concept. Um, I

David

Did have one family locally to me that was the perfect target customer And they literally did the application probably four times over and over from scratch each time they would do it. We find issues, we fix it. They were a couple, they had, they wanted to be on the same page with money. But I could tell that they spoke different languages. And it was a typical situation where when they had a conversation, they had a little bit different motivations even though they wanted to try to fix it. And so they saw what we’re doing is very, very useful and I’m very appreciative for them going through the effort over and over again. So one other thing I just want to mention here, Sarah, from marketing advice I got, we would go to market with a free version because the expectation of the user would be less. And it would also help us get more data to prove the market demand or theories if we went out of the gate and and charged for the expectations would be much higher and we would probably be chasing our tails with issues that did or did not work as we expect because I’m not again someone who sits at the computer and can fix everything. So that’s kind of something I’d recommend that if someone has a great idea, go with no credit card, 30 days, free trial and you can limit the subscriptions. But if you’re trying something totally new with low code, that would be a way to do it. Then you can also spin it to other iterations later.

Sarah

Yeah. And maybe one point to add, I agree that you can start with free version, but you have to be aware that you’re not testing the willingness to pay for this product. Before I started my own business I was employed by several companies and I was doing kind of the same thing, right? I was developing digital products and find customers, business development stuff, all these kind of things. And then we did a mistake that um, we gave it for free for too long and then we kind of, you know, we didn’t run out of money because we were in a big organization, but we had some, yeah, internal pressure to show, hey there, you can make money with that. Right? So it’s not for fun. And yeah. And then we went to the customers and said “okay, thank you so much for using digital service and all the feed that you gave us but now we have to charge you this, this and that”. And it was kind of a strange situation, let’s call it this way. You have to find the balance between getting people on the platform because otherwise you cannot get feedback and cannot improve it versus also charge a little bit right so that you can see whether there there is a market also not only people using it for free but also people willing to pay something for the product ourselves.

David

A very very good point. I would say that in previous versions of the software we would integrate with what’s called an aggregator that we’re holding account data and we can then pull that from the database and in the bubble version we would not have that. So the concept was that once they did the initial input that’s the majority of the work done and then they would have it for a short time. But I totally agree with you. That’s a very good point.

Sarah

Yeah. We were coming to an end of this episode. Are there some general tips? I mean you’re already shared some of your insights and your learnings but what would you tell yourself 10 months ago before you start your journey with no code or low code?

David

Well one of the things I found out recently is in the United States, there’s been many new APIs, in other words, I’m learning about how many of them there are and so what I would recommend especially for the non technical founders is whatever your software area is. Look at the providers and often they will have APIs on their website that you can access. In other words you can just register and see them. And it will give you a broader picture about how to speak the language so that you can make sure that you’re on the right track. So in my case it has to do with the table names. The gets the pushes, the how I would describe how the calculations occur. But the APIs give you the patterns that you can use as a nontechnical person to communicate to the developer. What’s a lookup list under what would be a join for databases. In other words it’s a better way to speak about what you want the developer to do and not being disciplined in any kind of engineering or programming. Again, as a non technical developer, the APIs are like a gold mine where I look through them I discover oh this is how you do it in a less complicated way. So that would probably be the best advice I would give my field is finance, so I look at the middleware companies that might issue a credit card or HR companies that might do a benefit or do a batch load of an HR system. And so I’m learning, I know I’m not good at it, but I’m learning to get closer to putting things in good order. And then from there I have people that will help me get that in better order. So that’s what the APIs is for, probably the best recommendation I would say is register in your area for APIs and look at it and then I hope you understand it better.

Sarah

Yeah and and maybe some point to add I think people is perfect for integrating APIs and if you have no yeah it’s really, really great actually I’m clearly doing a tutorial for where we certainly APIs to how to integrate this a bubble but mobile we say it’s a shared later and I think if you have no idea about APIs and you want to start with it. I recommend you have a look at the Spotify API and play around with it because that’s very easy and you can make our cem things to just learn. I mean it’s not you don’t have to have the intention of  doing an application whether to sell or something just to play around and get an idea how api APIs work. I can definitely recommend this.

David

I would  be very interested after this call to talk with you at another time a week or two and just get your opinion looking at the backend and what you see because you would see things that I have no idea of and I’d like just to get up the gauge as to how far away we are in the journey. So I’ll be in touch on that separate from this.

Sarah

Absolutely, absolutely. Maybe Jenna was speaking for the audience are getting asked about in the last weeks quite frequently so I’m always happy to have a look at it.

begin services are also just being asked lately about performances and loading times and there I often see that um, people without a software development background may not understand why the performance is not that bad because they

just do the data operations, put a lot of JavaScript plugins on the website and then they say, this no code tool is shit because the performance is bad. No, it’s not a tool unfortunately it’s the way it’s developed and but this is flexible and this is another, I think I really like about um low court and then bubble and yeah, very much is that you can change it also very easily. So once the structure then you can change it.

David

I do have one question on that just for my information. Is it easy to change the tables and the Field names? In other words, if I said take these 10 tables and these 50 field names, can they be easily updated? Does it feed throughout the system or is it tough?

Sarah

So if you use the internal Bubble database, I assume you do then it’s very easy and it’s a big thing if you normally work with X in the databases because it is not that easy, but you can change field names and they will automatically change wherever you use them. And so on every world floor on every user interface, but maybe we stop at least for the recording here. Otherwise, maybe if people are getting confused about it. So that is episode David, thank you so much for sharing your insights and um it was a pleasure to have you here and learn about your journey.

David

I just want to say thank you so much. This is my first podcast or believe that in the next year I’ll be on many. So thank you so much for kind of breaking the ice with me and get through the stage fright. You made it very easy.

Sarah

Sure, sure, thank you so much. And for the audience, if you want to share your own story with no code on your own entrepreneurial journey just write me a message and then you can share your insight as well. So thank you sir. Thank you very much. Bye bye

David

bye