On January 26, the “No Code startup” Stacker announced a cool $1.7 million seed round. Initialized Capital led the round, with participation from Y Combinator, Pioneer Fund, and Makerpad. Stacker helps companies by creating digital tools and applications that you don’t need an army of devs to implement. They make use of Airtable and Google Sheets to build work optimization tools and applications they claim anyone can use.
The announcement came with a swath of press materials, including a promotional video from Initialized Capital’s outspoken co-founder Garry Tan. Tan introduced his YouTube audience to Stacker co-founder Michael Skelly, who excitedly shared the fact that 500 different companies are using their service since it was released. Contracts with those customers have provided Stacker an annual recurring revenue to $1 million.
Stacker eyes small and quickly growing businesses
Stacker’s early success is not at all hard to understand. Their business model seems to help SMBs and startups launch customer-facing apps in a far more timely manner than the industry standard. Making use of a company’s existing data from sources like Google Sheets both speeds up and democratizes the development process. Non-tech teams don’t have to wait for engineering to take notes and get back to them - with Stacker, non-tech can press ahead by themselves, and leave devs to more technical matters.
“We all saw these companies spending tens of thousands every month and taking six months to even launch a simple app,” said Michael Skelly. “We allow them to launch something in just a few minutes, for a tiny fraction of the cost.”
The implications of Stacker’s business model could be great for smaller entrepreneurs. The service gives SMBs more of a fighting chance against Leviathan tech companies, which can afford to bring the development process in-house and churn out apps at a clip that their small competitors could never hope to match. Rather than start from scratch, test, retool, and test again (a process where months can very easily turn into years), the little guy now has a shortcut to get products onto the marketplace, then rework their products as issues arise.
For years, VCs have had an obsession with startups focusing on work optimization and easy application building. AppSheet, founded in 2014, is a competitor that joined the scene early, along with Appy Pie and Nintex to name only a few.
Stacker has had to fight to carve out its small space in the crowded market. In 2019 alone, the more established AppSheet raked in $4.4 million with 6,600 customers, and brought in $19.3 million more in funding, according to LATKA Magazine. Even Airtable, one of the databases that Stacker runs on, offers services that directly compete with Stacker. Thus, there is always the possibility that Airtable or another larger company could try to hire away Stacker’s 12-person distributed team while the company is still young.
When TechCrunch brought up this possibility to the CEO, Skelly cockily predicted that Stacker would own Airtable within 5 years, not the other way around.
According to Garry Tan, Stacker distinguishes itself from other no code companies through multi-user functionality. Stacker’s multi-user spreadsheet logs who is accessing what data and when, a simple but deft solution to data sharing that allows for a better workflow.
For an example of Stacker in action, Skelly detailed how Stacker has recently helped Project N95. The non-profit, which helps healthcare and essential workers get adequate PPE, used Stacker’s software to quickly build an application that connected PPE suppliers to businesses and organizations in need of equipment. Project N95 was also able to help connect volunteers with the organizations that needed them most by using a Stacker-made application that updated that info on a daily basis.
Where does No Code go from here?
Halfway through his interview with Skelly, Garry Tan paraphrased Marc Andreessen’s prognosis that "Software is eating the world.”
“If software is eating the world, how do you play in that world if you can’t write software itself?” Tan asked. “[Stacker’s] contribution is: You don’t have to.”
In 2021, we are finally settling into the idea that teams of co-workers are stationed all over the world, on different continents and in different time zones. With that complicated situation comes a dual need for simplicity and for employees to take work into their own hands. Removing the most complicated aspects of coding from the mix seems like a fine way to respond to that challenge.
Skelly is an advocate for such simplicity. “Use the minimum amount of tech possible to solve a problem,” he says.