Companies in the sector are on pace to raise at least $500 million in 2020
(this article originally appeared in TechCrunch and was written by Alex Wilhelm )
Startup buzz comes in waves, with a particular thesis or focus coming into vogue at certain times. Remember the short-lived boom in chat bots? That was good fun. And there was the ICO craze, which lead every startup you’ve heard of to consider the financing option for at least a weekend.
We’ve also endured the early-AI bubble, the blockchain rush and a cannabis-driven wave as well. Even subtheses can see spikes, such as the neobanking industry, say, or roboadvising. Hell, we saw minicrazes in insurtech marketplaces and OKR software this year alone.
Fads in startups are not new. Today, as venture investment tilts toward enterprise software, we’re in something of a SaaS craze. Inside of today’s SaaS surge, however, is a smaller trend that I want to explore more: no-code and low-code startups.
Largely, low-code and no-code refer to tools that allow nondevelopers to either employ little (low-code) to no code while either building logic inside of software, or full applications. Low/no-code development often features drag-and-drop interfaces (Techopedia, TechTarget), but not all low-code and no-code tools are used to build apps.
Defining the sector and its focus is difficult. PitchBook says low/no-code development platforms “expedite the creation of new applications with minimal coding requirements and offer tools for nonprogrammers.” A recent TechCrunch article by a couple of venture capitalists argued that low/no-code work is “not a category itself, but rather a shift in how users interface with software tools.”
A bit like how AI and fintech are squishy categories, low-code and no-code have a wide remit.
After talking to a number of entrepreneurs lately who built these capabilities into their startups’ applications, it appears that today founders expect the capabilities to more helpful for nondevelopers reordering logic inside apps for their own needs, instead of building whole-cloth applications.
Regardless of how you like to define the concept, what’s clear is how much optimism there is for no-code and low-code software. Just look around Twitter, or your favorite website.
This morning let’s talk about how the burgeoning software category fits into a key technology shibboleth so we can try to get our hands around how large in dollar-terms the low-code and no-code startup world is today.
Software and services that employ low-code and no-code capabilities bring with them the possibility of empowerment.
In a full-code only world, developers hold sway over what gets built, and how it is implemented. In a low-code, and no-code world, applications, at a minimum, become more moldable by more people. In an advanced low-code/no-code world, regular folks can build whole apps that they need, regardless of complexity.
Even a medium-advanced no-code world should allow you and me to create more tailored applications. Why can’t users have a page on their smartphone of business apps that they have tweaked to meet their own needs? Or, in time, a page of games they built themselves? (Former TechCrunch writer Kyle Russell’s startup Playbyte is working on the individual-led future of gaming right now.)
Power to the people; it’s a good concept, and to a large degree it’s what technology delivers. What was ten years ago reserved for the government becomes a regular business buy. From there, the consumer gets access to the same technology, and then it becomes ubiquitous. Electricity, computing power, connectivity, they all follow similar arcs.
Why wouldn’t application development, or software customization?
Today’s scale, tomorrow’s growth
It is not hard to find broad predictions of how large the low-code/no-code world will become. Forrester Consulting said it would reach $10 billion by 2020 (that’s now!) back in 2017. That same prediction put the industry at a revenue base of $21.2 billion by 2022, so we should be in the middle of a huge curve in low-code and no-code adoption. (Other predictions include the low-code/no-code market being worth $6 billion in 2018 and $52 billion in 2024!)
Initially I wanted to run some data on these startups to get a handle for how much money was flowing into their coffers. Expecting to dig up a curve that went up and to the right, I came up dry.
So, instead, here’s a semicomplete list of rounds from this year of startups that were described as low/no-code. It’s not exhaustive, of course. But I hope it provides a good feel for what’s being built and talked about in the space today:
- January 14, 2020: Google acquires no-code app development platform AppSheet.
- February 26, 2020: Unqork raises $51 million more to expand its no-code enterprise app development platform.
- February 27, 2020: London-based Gyana raises $3.9M for a no-code approach to data science.
- February 27, 2020: Process Street raises Accel-led $12M Series A for no-code workflow builder.
- March 10, 2020: YC-backed Snapboard is a no-code platform for building internal tools.
- March 10, 2020: London-based insurtech [no-code] startup INSTANDA raises $19.5 million.
- April 6, 2020: AppGyver launches Composer Pro, its new no-code editor.
- April 8, 2020: Tonkean raises $24 million to automate enterprise workflows.
- April 27, 2020: Codota picks up $12M for an AI platform that auto-completes developers’ code.
- June 16, 2020: No-code industrial robotics programming startup Wandelbots raises $30 million.
- June 4, 2020: Bryter raises $16M for a no-code platform for non-technical people to build enterprise automation apps.
- June 11, 2020: Enterprise automation platform JIFFY.ai raises $18 million Series A.
- June 20, 2020: Appway raises $37M, its first-ever funding, for financial customer management tools.
- July 7, 2020: MonkeyLearn raises $2.2M to build out its no-code AI text analysis service.
From this we can tell that at the very minimum, Q1 2020 VC totals for no-code/low-code startups were north of $80 million, though the real figure is likely far higher. In Q2 we can see at least $140 million in money, just among rounds that I was able to dig up this morning.
That puts low-code/no-code startups on pace to raise around $500 million at the very least in 2020. The real number is larger, and can swell sharply depending on how expansive your definition of the space is. That means that the startup world isn’t waiting for venture dollars to make their vision come true. The capital is already flowing in great quantity.
The next question is whether the startup and larger software world can make the no-code services of the world easy enough that lots of folks are willing to train themselves. The more power and capability that can be offered in exchange for learning a new way of interacting with software will likely help determine how much adoption is had, and how soon.