Sasa Janicijevic is the founder and CEO of Codemap - the first freelance platform for no-code & automation- built using the no-code tool Bubble, that connects clients with vetted experts and agencies.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Coming from a life sciences background, can you share your story about what brought you to the nocode space and what you are doing now?
Absolutely, very happy to be able to do this interview with you guys. I have an MSc. in healthcare management with a spec in Pharma and was actually a management & strategy consultant working in a large life science health-data & consulting company for years before I made the switch to tech. In 2017, I quit my corporate job and moved back home from London. I had an idea for an innovative AI-driven job marketplace specifically for the life sciences industry.
Long story short - after 1.5 years of dealing with traditional development and tens of thousands of $ spent, we ended up with a sub-par platform that really wasn’t scalable or doing what it was supposed to do! Having designed every possible screen (300+) for that platform before even starting to work with the dev agency we selected, with every possible workflow being presented in those screens, basically a static prototype, the frustration of not being able to code myself and to realize the vision was really indescribable. Never had a feeling of being so powerless while knowing exactly what I wanted to achieve - sounds dramatic, but it really was like that. Altogether, I spent 2 years of my life on that, 24/7.
I already knew about no-code at that point, and then decided to take a closer look. Needless to say, considering the fact I am in no-code myself today, it was a complete revelation. I learned Bubble in a few months, did some freelance work with my partners, started a Bubble agency and built the marketplace, in well under a year:)
At this point, I am working on growing Codemap and our talent & client communities - we’re really happy with how things are going.
"Think about what you need now vs. what the product will evolve into and about related trade-offs in terms of time to market and having to rebuild or do a complete overhaul later".
We would like to know about your experience in using Bubble for Codemap. How much time did it take to develop, what were some of the limitations of Bubble that you came across while developing Codemap and how did you overcome them?
I can say we already knew Bubble well and had a dev team in our agency so we knew what we were getting into with Codemap.io. There were no surprises. While Bubble may have some glitches here and there, we haven’t really encountered any major roadblocks or similar to that - we built the marketplace pretty smoothly in about two months.
Also, we believe Bubble’s capabilities will also be well-aligned with our roadmap and scaling plans.
What is your growth strategy for Codemap? Codemap does not charge any fees/commissions from the experts or agencies, so how do you plan to monetize it?
Yes, as the first freelance marketplace in the no-code & automation space, we want to support all of the existing communities in creating more awareness about no-code among clients, experts, and anyone still not sure about or not having heard of no-code. We are really thankful for the incredible response we’ve had from the community so far, in less than 2 months since launching - 850+ expert and client sign ups, 90+ projects posted with new ones published daily, many ongoing scoping and proposal discussions, and well-over 20 successful hires completed.
As for monetization, bringing no-code & automation talent in front of clients is in the core of what we do and their skills and expertise are what Codemap is all about - I don’t think it’s fair to take commissions from people that are actually the reason we are able to exist and operate. We want to help both experts and agencies grow their businesses by flipping traditional models that are quite expensive and come down to public bidding, which generally results in eroding the prices drastically, demotivating experts, and in many cases leaving clients unhappy with the work that had been done.
Basically, we are a curated marketplace - every expert, agency and project on the platform is pre-vetted - we truly believe this creates value on both ends and drives satisfaction immensely. We are looking into different other monetization options right now, there are several we are considering, but we’re still in the process of validating the direction we want to go in.
Nocode offers new opportunities and, of course, new challenges both to developers and agencies undertaking no-code work. Tell us some of the unique problems that nocode agencies are facing today that are different from the agencies doing conventional development work?
I think the first thing is helping clients understand what it really is and how it works. Not just from the perspective of a finished product, but also how the app is hosted, what happens to the code etc.
While there are already tools out there that allow code exports and on-premise hosting, some don’t, and clients then need to see if it’s a fit for them. Many agencies may choose to not even necessarily (proactively) focus on the fact that they use no-code and they just build for clients way faster. That’s fine if there are no concerns based on what the client says they require and if everything is clear.
However, I think the first 2 points I mentioned still need to be confirmed with many clients, especially SMEs and corporate clients whose businesses are in more mature stages and have different needs relative to startups and individual founders. Other than that, in our agency work, we have not yet encountered any concerns specifically related to lack of capability to build a certain functionality or product type, even though we do know that no-code still has some limitations. But with the way things are going, I’m not sure these will stick around for long.
Can you share any interesting story that has happened to you since founding Codemap?
I got engaged haha:) Well, I think the whole experience has been amazing. Growing a marketplace and having the classic chicken-and-egg problem is so difficult and challenging but so rewarding. I am obsessed with the strategic side of pulling this off. We are just amazed with the “traffic” we already have on the platform. I’d say having over 30 organic signups on launch day with 2 jobs posted on the same day was a point where I was like: “Sh**.” Just the idea of people coming in on both ends and someone actually taking the time to post a project after seeing there are already some experts there on the first day was a success. Not to mention the several hires we had in the first week, that was THE early milestone for sure. I had a few beers with my team that launch night/ week haha.
"Currently, I see the biggest value of no-code and automation in the commercial-software space and at organizational-levels (e.g. CRM, ERP, CMS, PM etc.), which are massive markets on their own".
Entrepreneurship is committing oneself to a pretty long haul with a fair share of anguish and pains, disappointments and failures. What keeps you motivated?
Yep, it gets really tough if you are doing it full on. Generally, I just think you are either wired that way or you’re not. The vision is what keeps me motivated. The problem I am looking to solve is what keeps me obsessed. If I didn’t have that, I would no longer have the drive.
It’s exactly the reason why I left the corporate environment, it just wasn’t for me for the long haul. Not that I have anything against it though, I owe the company I worked for a lot because I believe it really gave me top-notch experience and training, and I got a chance to work with some really smart people. The company is IQVIA btw - if you need anything in life sciences...haha
As a nocode founder you have demonstrated a lot of trust in the nocode movement. How do you see this nocode phenomenon shaping up in short to medium terms?
We see so many different no-code tools and builders coming up, it’s just amazing. I think it will be getting even more granular and complex in terms of offering in the market in the next year as more tools emerge. I think that in 2021 no-code is going to start really becoming a mainstream thing in every sense of the word.
Amazon is already in there as of this year, other tech giants are moving in that direction, I just think it will become unavoidable and will overall drastically influence the evolution of the entire technology space/ job market moving forward, including the short and the mid term, but especially the long term.
Aside from some of the existing downsides that are still here, which I mentioned earlier, we just don’t see a valid counter-argument when taking into account the differentiating value that no-code brings. It just moves the needle so much. Of course, this does not mean that "traditional" development will go away or that enterprise-grade software with highly-complex architectures will necessarily be built on no-code - maybe at some point in the future. In any case, I think that the role of developers will evolve over time.
Currently, I see the biggest value of no-code and automation in the commercial-software space and at organizational-levels (e.g. CRM, ERP, CMS, PM etc.), which are massive markets on their own. Building products like that from scratch seems somewhat inefficient already, and might especially be so as no-code platforms start offering even more scalability. On top of that, there is already a shortage of developers relative to the rapidly-increasing market demand for new software, and no-code/ low-code looks like a very appealing choice to close it.
What are three things that you wish you knew before you started your entrepreneur journey and what you would have done differently had you known them before?
- I wish I’d known how difficult the traditional dev process is and that I had more technical knowledge to understand what I’m really paying for and getting under the hood
- Flexible part-time work of co-founders - unless things take off quickly, I think it’s bound to happen that people start growing apart from the business; I just don’t think it works, co-founders need to be obsessed and sold on the vision 110% and ready to put in at least 20 hours a week, regardless of whether they’re still part-time
- Completely eliminate any formalities/ admin distractions and related costs in the founding stage - like spending weeks on a logo, registering companies all over the world, trademarks etc.; in my opinion, the only goal should be - do research, get some early feedback, if it still makes sense all around - mock it up, build it, launch it and tell people about it, i.e. get to market yesterday - nothing else is more important than that from my point of view
Any advice for non-technical entrepreneurs who are quite enthusiastic about building products using no-code tools?
- Make sure you’re really creating value with the product, no matter how basic the MVP will be - do your research, know your audience, know your numbers (an old one, but I believe it’s very true)
- Think about what you need now vs. what the product will evolve into and about related trade-offs in terms of time to market and having to rebuild or do a complete overhaul later
- Find a good, “relentless” core team of people who are contributing and creating value from minute 1
- Try to avoid fundraising before you have users/ paying clients - you will likely spend months being partially away from the business and sending out cold emails, barely getting any VC meetings; when you do get them, the first questions will be “Traction?”, “Revenue?”; also, raising too soon could mean a big chunk of your equity going to investors due to the early-stage risk, while you have no idea how much more you will need to raise, on what valuations, and what dilution will look like; with no-code, it’s awesome that you can now skip the pre-seed fundraising (at a minimum) and build your MVP for peanuts with no-code
- Don’t kill your current income stream (no matter what it is) before you start making at least some revenue on the business
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