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🧠 Y Combinator Founder Secrets

The founder of Bubble-killer Noloco shares what YC is really like

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Case Study

How Darragh built Noloco

Think you could build the next Webflow or Bubble?

Seems like a huge mountain to climb. But if you take it step by step, it’s not as challenging as it may seem.

Darragh tells us the story of how he built Noloco, a Y Combinator company that’s raised over $1.5m to date.

Getting the startup bug 🤖

Darragh started as a computer science student at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland (as you can tell by the Irish name…).

It was here that he found his passion for building startups. He joined the Entrepreneurial Society where he became their go-to web developer and joined the committee.

During his time in Trinity, he met Simon, his future co-founder for Noloco. We’ll get back to that later.

His first startup was a dating app called Wink. He got into a Student Startup Accelerator and was awarded €10,000 to work on the project over the summer.

Unfortunately, that one didn’t work.

“That didn't really go anywhere. I learned firsthand that no matter how great the product is, you really need to find out how to distribute it. That’s the key to the problem.”

Becoming a Software Engineer 🦾

After college, Darragh got a job at Hubspot as a Software Engineer. He then moved over to become the 8th employee at Inscribe, the Irish startup that had gone through Y Combinator two summers before he joined.

This sparked the belief that he might too be able to apply one day.

A lot of entrepreneurs believe that they are born to work for themselves. But, why not work for a couple of years, get the experience and learn what problems big companies face? Darragh did that.

Then COVID hit. He started to have more calls with Simon (who was now living in London) about building a startup.

“We had a spreadsheet of ideas. Sometimes you meet someone and you just think, this would be a compatible person to build with.

I was the engineer, he was the business mind. We then kind of landed on something that was really interesting to both of us which was creating custom apps."

Setting the vision 💼

The goal was to build what they dubbed the greatest web app builder of all time”.

Webflow dominated the website space and was very user-friendly but Bubble was helping people build any kind of web app. But importantly the user experience was not at the same level.

So Darragh and Simon set out to fill this gap with Noloco, a flexible web app builder like Bubble, but with an amazing Webflow-like user experience.

“So, I mean, in reality, we didn't go about it the way you're meant to go about it. You know, I had a lot of spare time and I started building things that I found enjoyable”.

Getting into Y Combinator ✌️

Y Combinator is the world’s greatest startup accelerator. If anyone tells you otherwise, they’re wrong - sorry!

They’ve produced startups like Stripe, Airbnb and many thousands more. It’s an incredible feat to be accepted and the funding and network can be a huge boost.

“It really just entails kind of three calls a week of an hour or two each day. You know, ranging from big talks from people like Patrick and John Collison from Stripe or, you know, Wade Foster from Zapper on how to work remotely”.

What helped Darragh was the fact that two of his friends had been in Y Combinator as well as the company he had worked for previously, Inscribe.

Your network is everything and so building that as an entrepreneur is important. If your friends can do it, so can you.

Darragh and Simon took the $120,000 (it’s since been increased to $500,000) from YC and ran with it.

Darragh recommends most startups apply to YC. Even if you don’t get in, it’s a good ‘litmus’ test for your vision and where you are.

They then went on to raise $1.4M in VC money, hired a team of developers and knuckled down. The core problem to solve from that funding was the engineering challenge of creating a web app builder.

“Just to sort of earmark, whatever amount you do raise should last you about two years at the very least. Particularly, we didn't know it yet, but the climate was changing dramatically and the fundraising environment was getting tougher and tougher”.

Noloco in 2024 🔮

Noloco is focused on a product-led growth strategy where customers can self-serve. Naturally, onboarding is a top priority and making sure the user experience is flawless.

On the content side, they’re working with content creators to create content around Noloco as well as tutorials to get users up to speed as quickly as possible.

Finally, they want to double down on their partner program.

“We see this as a really important channel. Attracting more partners and creating content around Noloco”.

Launch Week 🚀

Recently, Darragh has trialled a new concept called “Launch Week”.

Essentially, every day for a week you launch a groundbreaking new feature aimed at transforming how your users use the platform.

Each day Darragh would send out an email update with the launch. Here are some of the updates:

1️⃣ Build Mode 2.0

“The most significant update to the Noloco App Builder since its inception in July 2022. After two years of continuous innovation and adding incredible features, we redesigned our build mode from the ground up”.

2️⃣ Data Tables 2.0

“A redesign of our Data Tables. The new Data Tables allow you to view, manage, and manipulate your app data in a speedy spreadsheet-like table”.

3️⃣ New Customization Options

“A brand new top-nav option, a fancy Notice component (which I'm seeing in almost every app) and the ability to pick from Google Maps addresses on our address field”.

4️⃣ Document Automation

“Noloco now has a direct integration with DocsAutomator. This lets you turn your Noloco data Into PDF — using Google Docs. It couldn't be simpler to get started, and it's already being used by so many of our customers”.

5️⃣ Noloco Academy

“Last but not least, we announced the release of the Noloco Academy, a new place for users old and new to learn about Noloco in a guided fashion, and a path to become an expert”.

Thank you Darragh for taking the time to speak with us.

If you are interested in testing out Noloco - check it out here and use code “IDEAHUB” to get 30% off.

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