David Adkin is the Co-Founder of Adalo, a platform that makes creating mobile apps as easy as putting together a slide deck.

In this conversation, Ben and David discuss:

- Adalo's origins - Selling to makers and creators- Creating a guiding principle and constrains in no-code"

David Adkin - Adalo - Spotlight PodcastTue, 9/29 3:44PM • 33:41

people, code, build, business, ux designer, design, piece, maker, company, product, space, airbnb, constraints, spacex, side, entrepreneur, real, problem, bit, experiences

David Adkin, Ben Tossell

00:00Hey everybody, it's Ben here, founder of make fat, a platform teaching individuals and companies how to build custom software workflows and tools without writing code. This show explores the people behind the no code tools and the stories of folks using them to automate work and launch companies. Okay, so today I have David, come to the show.

00:23Hey, thanks for having me.

00:25Um, yeah, why don't you run us through a sort of quick intro about yourself? And I know I bet you guys what was it a year ago in Vegas for one of them called? New called foundry?

00:42Yes, that's right. Founding Father I've taught forgot about that. Yeah, we were I also got really bad food poisoning right after that. So never no more Vegas buffets. No more Vegas hotel buffets ever. Anyway, so yes, yeah, we were actually called foundry at the time. Happy that we made the commitment to do the name switch, there was just a lot of other foundries and, you know, in existence and other kind of tech foundry names. So that was a little bit difficult. People were not even emailing the correct people. So anyways, we ended up switching to a dalo, which, as some people might know, as is named as an homage to Ada Lovelace. She was the first true computer programmer, people say so, you know, we believe that the no code movement is now making billions more coders, I actually come from, like more of a design background, I started in architecture and my masters of architecture. And then, so I also don't know how to code. I'm the, you know, one of the founders that was, you know, they're making this product for me a little bit, for sure. So, I, you know, I saw the, the kind of trend of design tools, prototyping tools starting to get extremely realistic. And that was partially on my side of things. Hey, how can how can we just can't take all those, like wonderful things, but, you know, apply it to actually creating, you know, true apps, and then got connected with Jeremy, he was out in California at the time I was in St. Louis. Didn't know each other. Another takeaway from events aside from never eat the Vegas buffets is you don't know who who you meet will be extremely important. Glad that she connected us and then started working together, Ben joined on as well. And here we are today, a little background, he also gets asked about $1. General as well. So a little background, as well, as a lot of you might know, to know, code app builder, we work across all devices. So that's, you know, on iOS and Android and the actual apple and, you know, play stores, and then as well as on the web. So trying to allow your experience to go wherever your users want it to go. I would say our experience is trying to be as kind of truly drag and drop as possible, in a more visual way, kind of a lot like the prototyping tools due today. If you like that kind of that visual style really helps you, you know, come up with whatever you're trying to work on, but also gives you the flexibility to make it unique and yours. That's a Yeah, a little bit about $1. And what we're doing

03:32with them, I also did not know that it was like, I don't want to say Lovelace. So that's something I've read today. Yeah, you get involved in the school. You did a master's in Stephen Harper, did you then start looking at designing tools for prototyping?


03:53Oh, yeah. How did then the concepts come around?

03:59Yeah. So I, towards my end of time in architecture, I started to get really excited about the power of design, power of taking an idea that's a concept. And you know, you have a problem, and you come up with a concept for a solution, and how do I actually make that a real thing. And I felt like I was getting educated like that in school, but that that kind of skill set could should and could apply to a lot of other things. So that kind of led me to wanting to try design in a different field. So I got connected to a startup in St. Louis. At the time, I convinced them that I could do UX design, even though I had no idea what I was doing. And then kind of Yeah, kind of I mean, they also didn't have like, not that it was really that long ago, but you know, they didn't even have boot camps or you know, schools didn't have UX design either. So it was a little bit easier than to convince people. So started doing UX design for quite a while at that company. And then really was like the first like design hire they had as well. So I was able to do all the other fun part, I was able to see design from a lot of different aspects there. I think it was really that passion for I'm really, you know, I really want to help people like have ideas be able to like make them reality. So it was the combination of seeing this trend in the prototyping tools get easier. And then my other colleague at the time, Ben, who's another one of the co founders, you know, we had always talked about, hey, how can we help people who have ideas, you know, bring them to life? And then that's kind of how a dalo, you know, was was started out to some extent, we also had, you know, I had tried to learn how to code at the time, there was the big argument where like, if you're a UX designer, and you don't know how to code and you're not a true UX designer, so people would yell at me for for not being a real UX designer, I even said to myself one day like, it feels like there's not a point learning this because like, prototyping is getting so realistic that like, aren't we just going to make it real at some point? So I even remember, like thinking back on that didn't realize that, then I would be like one of the people to like, help out with this movement. So yeah, that's a little bit of how, how that started on my end. And then, you know, definitely from a dollars origins, super important to know, Jeremy's side of things from, you know, he comes, he comes at it, from the developer side of things, he saw the development languages getting more and more automated, you know, that layer of abstraction keeps rising higher and higher with coding. And I think, you know, no code is another layer of abstraction on top of it, but coding languages are getting, you know, more efficient in that aspects. So, I think it was a combination of, of dev trends and design trends kind of converging. We've had some attempts previously, with no code, I feel like before, we called it no code. And it was hard for some of those products to, you know, really flourish just given. You know, there wasn't really standardized UX practices, we didn't really know what we're supposed to do there. There wasn't a coding what languages weren't quite advanced enough to allow the power that we're seeing today. So I think it's also been just a nice timing for us. For for some of those factors, I think why we're really seeing no code, you know, flourish now.

07:36Yeah, I think it's interesting you saying, the coding languages and the abstractions of coding. And that piece is like, getting easier and easier. There's like, ways you could have this thing looks having shortcuts in code. And let's say you're saying about the prototyping tools, design tools. And you're saying, well, we basically made a look with how can we just have it be balanced? Yeah, yeah, it's one of those things. You think, surely one point is that mix feels like the two worlds are coming closer together, which is what we both know that could exist, because taking the visual cues from the visual side, but pairing it with the power of the coding stuff on the other side. And actually, it's funny that you say about you join that startup was UX designer, like 30 years ago, that that wasn't a thing. Either. It was a thing or making something feel real. It wasn't like, as advances. And then I heard somewhere on the podcast or something where they were talking about how on data scientists wasn't the thing, whether you have to design the thing. So when, in this current moment, this this whole nakos stuff going to be new coders, we can receive guarantee the attendance and it's like, this is a thing. And I think it's very obvious for the people who have figured out that it's insane, and you don't realize the power of it. Because I managed to build something to do that before. So Philbin stole from 2000 people who would like now Look, I told you this was that's what was probably with data scientists. And here's something fun to see in the workplace. cabling integrations operating Center. This is your first Yeah, you didn't see that. That sort of convergence.

09:43Yeah. Yes. It's weird to Yeah, to think like, yeah, you will need either like one. It'll be interesting to see what Yeah, is that like a full position or is that like another skill set that you kind of have and maybe it's a little you know, mixture of both right? Especially As it starts to infiltrate its way into more organizations, right? I mean, you have, for example, let's take designers right there designers on the marketing side, the designers on the product side of things. So there might be no coders that maybe different departments as well, or maybe you have, you know, a champion of it, who's all about doing that, at that specific company, you know, I think we'll see, business consultants start to actually switch towards that type of thing, instead of just providing you with, hey, here's a plan of what you should do actually implementing some of those efficiency gains, you know, in real time, will kind of be, you know, incredible to watch, I think the the, the companies that start to embrace it, more and more are just gonna move faster and faster. You know, it's really, and that's both, like companies from that are starting up for the first time now, as well, as I think, you know, like, it's like, their whole product is based on it, as well, as companies that, you know, already have existing business, maybe even probably even outside of the tech space, and are just, you know, I think maybe it was you had mentioned it, they're like the tech enabled businesses and stuff like that, you know, really, how can you what are the other sides of your business that you know, you can bring no code to to solve something. So excited to

11:20see that stuff? Yeah, me too. But we're in such a small area of what we're covering now. It seems like the tech Twitter is a group of tech Twitter, people who are no, no code tech, Twitter? Yes. Actually, there's certainly people who are just basically he runs a real estate company, who is very profitable, if those are processes that you do at work and all that stuff. And just a thought of a way, you know, automated. I've actually worked firms looking for us is almost unheard of for them, or it just opens their eyes a bit more. And it's just, it's like the whole education piece. I mean, that's for Yeah, yeah. Straight to education. To show the person, big thing, this is good. Do this. You know what, this is actually a good thing that you could do. Yeah, but do you see that? I mean, Alan, for me, I think looks like more on the side, like you said before of helping people build their ideas. Is it more on the entrepreneurial, mega side of things? I was Yeah. Is that a decision for? Or is it hoping that maybe you think that businesses have been stopped spinning up their mini products, using things without, you know, what you think

12:40you don't really know what, how far your idea will go, whether it's just a small little thing, or whether that thing is going to flourish into you know, real venture that you know, becomes something that's really big, you know, more of like an entrepreneur, maybe like, always has that intention. And you know, even on the company side of things, right, when you are trying to come up with a new, you know, solution to a problem you have, and that ends up being some sort of app that is a good solution to that thing, you might test that thing, but then realize, like, Okay, this is a great and scalable for just these, you know, either 30 internal people that are doing this process, or wait a second, you know, we tested this with a group of customers. And now I think we need to scale it more. So we do see that people want to be able to like, easily build something very quickly to test it out. But then also want to scale that their use case might only have the small 30 people, and that's great, or, or it might end up being like, you know, 10s of thousands of people that need that solution. So we want you to be able to feel confident in going into whatever that problem, you have to move that way. So I think yeah, I mean, definitely at the moment, more of our $1 users are the entrepreneur or the small business, or even like the freelancers, who are, you know, the no code agencies and freelancers, we're making things for small businesses, right. But we think that this was going to move into enterprise as well, in in in kind of a lot of the stuff that we're talking about. So making sure that you know, we have the features they need as well to scale from like integration,

14:26when I thought that maybe it was obviously or, like the maker type, the entrepreneur, or wannabe entrepreneur. Because I was that person to write. That's how I started using no code before make that like, I was building for myself and then having a business on top of it meant that I could, I had an excuse to build a new thing every day or every couple of days because like a membership so that I could just like building this as long as I showed them how I was doing But it's like, I've seen a ton of businesses or people talk about that almost being one of the worst customers to have. Because it tends to be the type that perhaps one want to do things cheaply, or they're just a bit more frugal, and then people who like spending rather than their own. So I've thought about that a lot. And part of me was like, Oh, is that? Is that a real thing that I'm thinking, but I think the conclusion I've gotten to is, I think that everyone on this, there's an entrepreneurial spirit, and people in a lot more people than there is like, the more than we think it's just having these things and showing off that you build an Airbnb clone, or like a marketplace type app, it shows these people have that spirit and till maybe they do this other thing in names, to build things that actually try to find these maker types, who want to be builders, even if they only currently work at a company, or the ultimate Southern thing is actually a really important step to acknowledge and saying, but you can be, you don't have to be trying to build Uber. Building probably on getting to build that. That's completely honest, it probably won't be doing the amount of Airbnb is not the mechanics of how a marketplace works. It's that it's Airbnb. And it's all the people connected to it and everything else.

16:40So I think

16:44how this whole creative economy will come around the world. Will we see more people doing gig based work? Okay, that works. And also, you've got three side projects on the go, because then bring you 2000 $3,000 a month? It's a small newsletter. No, no good business even. I think, I think that's what we're building for. But I'd love to have that. But what you?

17:08Yeah, no, I definitely think you know, what I think like, it's not a like a binary choice between like, are you like, mate, like little makers or enterprise right there on both sides of those, you know, they have like, You're, you're saying the entrepreneurial spirit, right, whether that's like to fix the problem in my company or two, you know, fixing a little side hustle thing and making some money on the side. So I definitely kind of see that aspect. You know, kind of playing out, as well, in the no code space,

17:39it's difficult, then I think about it, because it's like, does the language of make how you come across attract all of those people without making mindset wrongs. But also, there is no word for that type of person to say entrepreneur, so there's one person who's from the builders business, if you talk, Macomb not only really rings true in the tech, startup world, I think I've only ever used it because I worked at product called people who built made products. creator could be a painter, musician, anything. So it's like, I think there was actually he didn't sharded the state of them was at the state of makers report or something they did, like big reports. I know he's very good with products, figuring out how to talk to customers. So it's really interesting that one of his on the hero of this report, it had the word creators, but it would give me like seconds and creators makers, there's entrepreneurs like this this same, also including yours have wonder what if you thought there isn't a word that encapsulates that? Or? I think for me, actually, the the one thing that seems to lie underneath all of that is being curious to solve things. So by curiosity led me into their code stuff. And that didn't mean to commit pushes it further, can I add this thing? can I build this other thing? So that the natural curiosity definitely was helpful, but it's difficult to pinpoint on someone I think, the word design,

19:25right, like that design process, some people think, well, that's like, has to be beautiful and aesthetically pleasing and all these things, right. But that process of like, taking something from nothing, and bringing it to real life is the same and we call it different things, right? Like in business, it's problem solvers. Or in you know, art school, like in like, an education. It's like creative people, you know, it's like, we have like the creative process, right? Like, it's like, we're entrepreneurs, right? Like, it's all about, I have an idea for x, I'm experiencing some sort of problem and would like to build something to fix that problem. I think that process is all the same. And I think we're all starting to learn it better. I know like in the no code space, the solution ends up being something that is a digital product, right? There are other manifestations of this and, you know, other areas, but it's, uh, yeah, there's not a good word for, you know, even the design process. The same underlying thing is there, but we're a little bit struggling, which I mean, I'm at least glad that the term I know we're all like, Oh, he's no code the right term. And as well, that debate, which is part of like, what the future is no code, like little series about but I, you know, I saw sweet the other day that I really liked her was just like, Well, I'm glad we least like have a name so that we can like find each other. So I definitely, like, agree with that sentiment of like, you know, we're like, we're all finding each other now and helping each other out and being part of this community. So excited to see, you know, where it goes,

20:55Yeah, you've done this. Once Is it a report book? Was was a series called?

21:02Yeah, yeah. So the future is no code. Yes, I was a little bit of a bad naming thing, too. It's like a book and miniseries as well. With the videos and that kind of stuff. It was all about, I had a little bit of an existential crisis, when I was like, I tried to answer questions and be an expert about it to some extent of like, well, there's like, all these little parts, like, you know, I'd like to hear what everyone else has to say. And then maybe, like, you know, combine them all and put them into one piece. So that pieces out from like, you being able to look at all the different answers. I've been working recently on trying to actually like, pull out the threads and the strings between them and seeing like, what the averages of everybody's answers were, there was a type form that we sent out that went out to everybody who could submit it as well. So we got a ton of responses on that. So maybe by the time this podcast out, or very soon, kind of towards the end of June, we're gonna be having like a little conclusion report on that. About You know, what is no code? What is it gonna mean for the future? What are what are what is everyone predicting will happen in it? So excited for? Or the like, final piece of that thing to kind of go out and see how it how you know?

22:09Yeah, I'm gonna be telcos will be out. Since I'm in jalama. So what have you seen in that data from the experts that why does community have like, what have been some things that surprised you? But what people think people talking about, or their opinions on his own space? Everything? jumps everyone?

22:33Yeah, let's see. Um, I think one thing that I had, like, you know, I've been like reading over these things and thinking about stuff. And like one thing that I've kind of recently, just thought of, I think it kind of came up, I think naturally a little bit with like, also like SpaceX has been in the news with some of their launches and stuff like that. And I've just been, like, realizing just kind of how perfect of an example, in kind of three ways. So the first is like, there, they started with a with a guiding principle that, like, their rockets had to be reusable. So they had a so much constraints at the beginning, right? That's like, How am I supposed to do that, like, everything has to be able to be reused for us to like, accomplish our huge goal. And that's sort of similar with no code right now, you can't do everything with no code platforms. Maybe at least not with one, no code platform, you can piece them together, but they're a little, there's still constraints in our space, right? If you're a true developer, you know, you can, you can make it so one, there's these these constraints that you're up against. That forced us, I think, to be more creative. And then kind of the second thing that I've seen is, you know, you have to start small with an MVP, then because of that, and then evolve. I know that like that guiding principle has been there for a while in the tech space, but I think no code really forces that to happen, like truly have to start small with your idea with some of those constraints, and then build it over time. And you saw it with SpaceX with like, they started with, like, these teeny little rockets that didn't really go anywhere, and, but they wanted to make sure that they were, you know, reusable, when they came down. So starting small, but then, now that they've gotten past that point, their iteration process and I think it can be the same with no code, right, like your iteration process for changing things when you get user feedback, or when you win, when, you know, God forbid, something happens, like, you know, the pandemic, and a lot of the things in the news today that you need to switch really quickly, you know, you're able to actually do that because of that rapid you know, that rapid iteration is naturally part of no code. And then I think the final thing about that metaphor to me that's been in my head recently is like, it's a really like, it's still it's getting more mainstream, but it's a big thing. Make whatever you want without without know how to code. There are a lot of people, there are a lot of doubters, you know, just like they're alive. I think doubters at the beginning with SpaceX being like, we're gonna go to Mars and like, we're gonna live there, and people are like, You're crazy. And, you know, I think there's still some of that in the no code space with people outside of it, that are like, yeah, that's, like, it's still not quite gonna be a possible thing. And I think that we're all trying to, like, work together as a community to, you know, help each other out from, like, a product perspective and, and make these things work together to accomplish something that, you know, five years ago would have seemed impossible, but now is becoming a little bit of reality. So, maybe that wasn't the best answer some of your question, but it's, it's like that, that kind of like, has come up recently, in my mind, as like, why I'm so excited about the space. And, you know, it's nice to see an example of that's like, played out successfully so far. I think for for the no code space. So

26:06yeah, I think there's something touching on there is. It's not that people in this space don't realize, constraints. I think there's some negativity and like, you couldn't do anything. So yeah, that's fine. Like, do that, with anything in the early stages of that, or anything? Like the point is, we're testing to see what we can do and see it before we push it. And then that's the like, that ignites the next phase. So what can we do next? And what's this? What's this? What's this piece? And as I keep thinking of, like, people who always, you see this a lot, were saying, some of the some would say, Okay, well, abelton be really gonna have to do this. But what can it handle? Me it could scale to like, 100,000 users that enroll a million users a day or something? I don't know. I mean, I'm sure they want to, but it might not. But also, let's start with 10 users, they get to 10. Get up, get to 1000. And then like, things don't just happen like that, when when Airbnb first launched their platform, that platform would not have scaled to what it is today, like things change over time. And people think that because we are in this nuclear space, that was stupid to me, don't think about that. But a lot of previous to the fact that, okay, this thing that we built, may not have a million users a second. But I'm not continent building from again, nothing, nothing. Anyone added builds the business rules. Unless it maybe isn't your school newsletter, so they kill actually, or popping or what may become of in five years time or something. So I think people just need to be like, yeah, it's just whatever the drapes are worried about going the

28:01other way? stuff. Yeah.

28:05Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think it's natural to and like, I'm glad people are thinking that way. Like, you should be aspirational. Right. So and just again, just like SpaceX is what is and was aspirational. Like, we're gonna like chill on Mars, right. So that doesn't mean that you're not like aspirational. When you just focus really small. First on, like you said, getting your first customer, it's like, get one person who's really using it, you know, like, not just like, oh, download it, whatever, it's like, whatever, and then get a few people that are like, that are, you know, actually, who are experienced whatever problem you had, and now have, you've created some thing that allows them to fix whatever that problem was, and, and then talk with them and then get more of those. So the huge benefit is, like, these things right now are so much more cost effective that like, it's fine if like, you only have 100 active users, like forever, right? Like, you did it, like there that like niche solution now, like really solves that, that that like niche problem, right? Like at the moment, right? Like, it's that's not even remotely possible for current SAS companies, they have to have a platform that works for a ton of different use cases. So and their back their product backlog with features that are so far down the line. And, you know, they can't get to everything. And they have to make it kind of like generally work for everybody. And then maybe then not everyone's really happy because it's just generally working for them. Or maybe the people who have the most money at the top who are like really telling them what features they need, then they're happy, right? But, you know, I think the power of this like smaller niche, even subset niche audience, and I think that as these noac as these products that are built on no code scale, You know, I think they're gonna have this superpower where they're able to like build versions of their, of their product that works for all these different niche audiences. So you're, you're not having to be general, because you're able to spin up another version of that that, you know only has features a, b, g and h. And that works perfectly for that really small subset niche. And then another one has a B, you know, Z and Y features, right. And that works perfectly for that subset. And that's not possible today. I shouldn't say that's not possible. It's very difficult today for traditional SAS companies to do that, right in terms of resource allocation. So I think I was listening to Dave corrals podcast,

30:45he talked about, like, coming up with ideas and all these things, actually, the experiences you go through in life, whether it's a job, or something happened when you tried to build something one time didn't quite work. But about something another time, you figure out what you like, and what you don't really take all the pieces at some point. And it does sort of click you think, Oh, yeah, I like building with no code. People have said, How do I build them? How did you build them? Okay, so while I'm speak, to tell them, I mean, I didn't invent membership businesses. I didn't invent the screens. screencast in business, I didn't invent like just posting the cool thing on Twitter, that people would share, like, some of these things that don't exist, seemingly small pieces, when you combine them. And that niche has finally do or you found them all, it just hits the right, the right people at the right time. There's an imposter for

31:40all these unique

31:42creations of businesses, actually, I think we'll just see so many more of these. So you see all our people just having substance. I now have probably far too many, but even just needing someone to funds and email, newsletter business that they can just have, okay, so people, if they want to pretend people, it's 10 people who are probably paying them, they're still like, I think we want to do an ls, like, we want to see examples of your perspectives on things at home, like things down them are all from the learnings of experiences you've had. So the way you think about it, or the way you look at a problem when you're writing, but it is a combination of all of those experiences. So with no curve, I think that enables you to do that. But in a different way to express it like building this. I feel this way. Why? Because I could. And because that's how people like that's okay, we're allowed to do those sorts of things. So it's going to be really interesting. But yeah, thanks so much for coming on today. It would be great. And when you tell the people where they can find you.

32:55Yeah, so $1 $1 dot com. It's a DA ello. And then the future is no code is up on our site. You can also just Google The future is no code $1 fusional sure, you'll find it Google searching for the report and stuff like that. So if you're just getting into it, or if you're also an expert and want to see where all the other experts think it's going. I hope the conclusion piece lives up to the hype and thanks for having me.

33:25Yeah. All right, kids. Thanks so much for listening. You can find us online at maker pad.co or on Twitter at make pad we'd love to hear if you enjoyed this episode. What we should do next.


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