Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello, my name is Jesus Vargas, and I am the founder of LowCode Agency. We are a unique app building agency using no/low code tools to develop apps faster and at a fraction of the price of “traditional” apps.
Our flagship product is a custom made app, built using no/low code tools, for 2.5k USD in 2-3 weeks. For more complex apps, we can go up to 4-6k USD when users require features like notifications, maps, ratings, and reviews, etc.
Our clients get an amazing app that is simple to use, simple to manage, and simple to make changes down the road. It is built exactly for them and for their needs. Since we are leveraging no/low code tools to build these apps, we deliver apps consistently 80% cheaper than a traditional app development agency, and 70% faster.
Even though the road has been long, since our rebrand to LowCode Agency in March 2020, we have been growing double digits every month, and we are on track to do $150,000 in sales in our first year.44
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I have always considered myself an entrepreneur, and have started quite a few businesses. For many years, I had a business called Legal Cloud Solutions. We were 100% focused on the legal industry, helping lawyers systemize their operations through custom made software. We felt that there was a huge opportunity in the market, looking at how manual all of their processes are. We found out that lawyers are old school and they do not like changes!
On top of that, I had a technical partner that did the actual coding. Even though I had a full understanding of the processes, built the flows, and can read code; I’m still not a developer, so could not build the actual product. That was always a challenge with my partner and we drifted off.
One lazy day, browsing Product Hunt, I came across a tool called Glide apps. The tagline was “create an app from a Google Sheet”, and that piqued my interest. I definitely could do that! I opened up my account and started playing around. In 3 hours, I had built an app for a solar panel business I have where I could track my proposals and clients (something like a mini CRM).
I immediately fell in love. I spent hours and sleepless nights learning how to build apps with this tool. Finally, I didn’t need a technical partner to build all the apps I had in mind!
That same week, I had lunch with a friend that owns a bunch of Airbnb properties. He was looking for a solution to spend less time answering calls and texts from his guests. “Are you willing to pay 1k for a personalized app that has all of your house information, rules, tours, and extra services you provide for your guests?” Absolutely, was his answer. I had my first client. Time to start building!
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Probably the most important part of the app building process is translating an idea (might be vague or super specific) into a user flow that feels natural in an app. Since my first client was an AirBnB owner, I focused on that niche. I launched cancuntour.app, where we built apps specifically for vacation rental property owners and hotels. Through an app, we allowed them to give the guest a way to start experiencing the destination and their trip even before touching the sand with their feet.
Probably the best decision was to hire early. Hiring has allowed me to focus on growth instead of building apps.
We grew quickly in the hospitality industry. Our apps were used by over 2,000 hotel rooms and vacation rental properties. However, we plateaued at that number.
Since I told everyone about my newfound ability to make apps, other opportunities in other verticals arrived. One of the largest homebuilders in the US reached out. They needed an easy way to keep track of orders from their different product lines in their mills. I built an app for them on a weekend. The project manager was ecstatic, they had previously hired a development agency that had built them an app that was not working. They had spent 5 figures and months of app building. This was validation for me!
I quickly rebranded from Legal Cloud to LowCode Agency, built a quick landing page using Carrd, set up my Stripe account, and opened the digital doors… a few days before COVID lockdown.
Describe the process of launching the business.
It is funny how timing plays a great part in the make or break of a business. In my case, I was lucky enough to be a part of Glide (the tool we use to build apps) since the beginning. This gave me the advantage of getting to know the platform inside and out, as well as becoming one of the few Glide Apps Certified Expert.
Timing again played a huge role because of COVID. My (until that point) main business, a solar panel installation company, got double punched by COVID and by new federal regulations against renewables in Mexico. That meant I had a lot of free time that allowed me to go deep into the app building process and do a proper website, copy, business plan, legal stuff, and set up the company with the right foundations to grow.
I knew/felt that this time, after so many failed businesses, I was on the right track. Time was short, and my savings were rapidly dropping. Oh, did I mention my wife was 6 months pregnant with our first child? The first decisions you make about your bootstrapped business have only 2 outcomes; either growth or death. I did a lot of research and worked for 15 hours straight, every single day (lockdown, right?); which industries had pain points that could be fixed with an app?
I sent out dozens of emails, interviewed people, built the app, and sent a personalized recording to hundreds of decision-makers. While some campaigns were successful, some others flopped massively. I remember feeling really good about an app for churches, I sent over 300 emails and didn’t get 1 response. It was brutal, but I tried different industries until we found some traction.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
In our case, being featured by Glide as one of their Certified Experts has been a great way to get customers. We got really lucky when American Express decided to sponsor one of our apps, and we got some press there as well. We are at that stage, where we are looking to grow our business with outbound sales and we have been trying different channels. Unlike a SaaS, our customer persona is not that well defined, so it has been hit and miss with some strategies.
Document everything in your day and delegate to someone else, or automate that process with something like Zapier. Actually, try to automate one task every week. Give yourself time to think and try new things.
We tried Facebook ads and it was a huge mistake. We ended up spending $50 per lead, and none converted! We have been publishing content in our blog, to get ranked in Google as part of our SEO effort. I’m a huge believer in SEO and even though it’s a long term effort, it probably has the best ROI. We just started using an automated solution with LinkedIn Sales Navigator to connect with specific players in some industries that we get a lot of volumes. We’ve heard good things about Reddit ads, and will probably try them before the end of the year.
Copy of the Facebook ad… that didn’t work
I’m active in social media, not with the business accounts but with my personal accounts. I am active in several Facebook groups about side businesses and business in general, and, commonly, other members ask for suggestions about app building companies. I’m always open to coaching and suggest the best tools for people trying to get their first app built, even if the type of apps we build are not the right fit for them. We’ve all heard some terrible stories about dev agencies that don’t deliver the app, deliver a sloppy job, or want to charge exorbitant amounts of money for changes. We are extremely clear and transparent with our clients, and word of mouth represents around 50-60% of our new customers.
Our next step is working with newsletter and podcast producers in niches where we know there’s a need for custom made apps, as well as Facebook groups of entrepreneurs and business owners.
New ad for next campaign
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Our gross margins are around 60%. Since we haven’t found the right marketing strategy, we’re spending too much money on paid customer acquisition with bad results, and that’s our immediate next goal.
Customer lifetime value is pretty straightforward right now: the price of one app. However, we’re working with partners to provide our clients a full service where we not only build the app but maintain it as well as manage 3rd party integrations such as website, analytics, text & email notifications, etc. That would create a second revenue income for us, which would allow us to grow faster.
Another huge challenge is growth. We recently hired our 5th employee! Delegating is the most important decision of a founder. I have been working hard on setting up SOP for our sales and development processes. That way, when we onboard a new hire, they know what has to be done, and how it should be done. That way we all know what’s expected from us and our teammates have absolute freedom in terms of when and how they want to work. We are using Asana to track everything, and it has worked pretty well for us, however soon we’ll have to use a proper CRM when we hire our first salesperson.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Probably the best decision was to hire early. I hired a virtual assistant when I started the company, and pretty soon I hired my first developer. I knew him and I couldn’t let him go. Recently, I hired a designer and a freelance sales/lead gen position. Hiring has allowed me to focus on growth instead of building apps.
Something very helpful has been that I’m quite active in Twitter and the no-code community. I have a very active YouTube channel where I post free tutorials, as well as an appwhere I post these videos and users can ask me questions about Glide. I think of it as investing, in the long run, I plan to have the largest collection of Glide videos on YouTube, which I think will be massive in terms of customer acquisition.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- Glide apps(obviously) We build all our apps using Glide!
- Asana. We wanted to move to ClickUp and found it extremely complex to use. Asana is fantastic and allows us to keep track of all of our projects, and we even use it as a mini CRM, until we find the right product for a sales funnel.
- PandaDoc. We use this tool to send out our proposals and collect payments with…
- Google for Business (now Workspace).
- Calendly. This is one of the best tools ever invented, we even have a subdomain for our Calendly since we use it almost every day with our clients.
- CloudApp. We spend a lot of hours documenting apps for our clients. There’s nothing better than to record for them a quick video with a how-to guide.
- Buffer to share in our social media profiles blog posts and news.
- Integromat and Zapier to automate repetitive tasks.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Long reads are my favorite. One of my recent findings is Polina Marinova’s The Profile, a Sunday newsletter with the best long reads of the week featuring business people, artists, politicians, and more. Since I’m a sucker for biographies, some books that I really loved are Shoe Dog by Phil Knight (founder of Nike) as well as Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is Shaping our Future.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
You have to put in 200%. Competition is fierce and global. If you’re in this for the long run, invest your time wisely and be consistent.
My advice would be to find your niche. Be the best at it, and clients will find you. Finding your niche is fundamental since you will end up being one of the most knowledgeable persons in said industry, giving you a huge advantage over a generalist.
Delegate and automate when possible. Document everything in your day and delegate to someone else, or automate that process with something like Zapier. Actually, try to automate one task every week. Give yourself time to think and try new things.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We could definitely get some help with getting more qualified leads!
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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