Introduction

Emmanuel is a founder of Bubble, a visual programming language that lets anyone build software without needing to code. Bubblers have used Bubble to build personal projects, internal tools and even YC-backed startups that have raised millions of dollars. Originally from France, Emmanuel studied Mathematics in France at Ecole Polytechnique before heading to China to work in Shanghai as a management consultant. He started Bubble after graduating from Harvard Business School with an MBA.

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Devathon has built software for companies backed by the world’s leading investors like Betaworks, Greylock, Andreessen Horowitz, Accel, KPCB, Lightspeed and many more.

In an exclusive interview with Devathon, Bubble Founder Emmanuel Straschnov traces his journey so far and his plans for the years ahead.

When did you first discover your entrepreneurial spirit and how is your entrepreneurial career developing so far?

I started selling some little software I built when I was 13. It was way before the web was something you would program for. It was for MS-DOS, and it was helping my classmates learning German vocabulary. I discovered then the excitement of creating something with a computer and getting people to use it (and pay!). It was a pretty short entrepreneurial endeavor: for 15 years after this, I was pretty happy discovering Chinese culture working there, and while the spirit was entrepreneurial, as it was a very different culture for me, it wasn’t until I graduated from business school that I decided to join Joshua Haas, now my business partner, who had started a venture. It wasn’t called Bubble, but the mission was already the same as it is today. I guess my desire to get back to entrepreneurship was very strong, because we decided to partner on our first coffee!

Since then, we’ve been running the business together, entirely self-financed for a few years, without many users, but they were extremely engaged. We started “recruiting” users at tech meetups in New York. With the startup wave, everybody was looking for a tech co-founder, and there were plenty of co-founder-dating meetups. We went there and told people that while we couldn’t be their tech co-founders, they could use Bubble, as it would allow them to build the whole thing themselves. We had a few skeptical responses, but a few teams decided to try it, and they stuck with us for more than a year! The following year (2013) we did a pilot at Harvard Business School, which I had just graduated from. Their first year entrepreneurship class required students to build something under a very tight budget, and Bubble was a good solution for this. It got us a few more users, some of whom now use Bubble to professionally build apps for corporations.

In October 2015, we launched publicly on ProductHunt. It went beyond what we’d imagined: we got more than 3,000 users in two weeks, and today, two years later, a lot of daily traffic still comes from PH. We have more than 250,000 users, and several thousand’s of companies use us for their entire IT, without the need of engineers.

What motivated you to get started with Bubble?

Josh came up with this idea through a combination of two main factors:
He was in New York, and everyone, literally everyone, was asking him to be their tech co-founder to start a business.
He had used SharePoint while at a corporate job and created something that non-technical employees could use to build custom software. Watching them build things was very rewarding to him, and he felt he could do this at a larger scale for general-purpose programming.

We were very driven my the mission: we think it’s a shame that a ton of people are struggling to start their projects because of the shortage of engineers, and the high costs to make it happen. We see reducing the cost of creating technology as one of the key challenges that we need to fix in the coming years. I am worried that we, as a society, rely on engineers to build the tools that we use to live, work, communicate, etc. We’re turning these engineers into an elite class that run our world. If we keep doing this, major tech companies will control all aspects of our lives. Instead, we need everyone to have the power to create the tools that runs their lives. That’s what drives us at Bubble.

What are your goals for the future?

We’re currently very much in expansion mode. We want Bubble to become the standard for programming and building software. When people need to build something, we want them to go to Bubble first, and then, if it appears not to be the right solution, think about how to expand the platform through plugins to build their product. We’re aware this is an ambitious goal, and we’re hiring quite aggressively to achieve it. To get there, we’ll need engineering power to make sure everything works well at scale, we’ll need great customer success people to help our users, and we’ll also need great marketers and community-managers to nurture our community and make it grow while keeping its original spirit intact.

If you had to start over, what would you do differently?

We certainly made a few bad technical decisions, but I’m not sure if they were “mistakes”. They were more like necessary steps. You build a system thinking you know it well, then you realize new things and you refactor. If we were to do something differently, we’d probably have started hiring earlier. We waited to be financially solid enough to hire two people at once, but we could have started recruiting six months earlier.

What’s the best careers advice you’ve ever received?

When I was in business school, I was debating between a job at a big company overseas and staying in the US to try something entrepreneurial. The job was great but the appeal to stay in the US was strong. I went to a Harvard professor for advice and his answer was the best piece of advice I’ve ever had. He said: “If I guarantee that you’ll be successful, no matter your decision, which option will you pick?” My immediate answer was “I would stay in the US.” That was it. It’s a clear message “Don’t make decisions out of insecurity”. Thinking about things in an optimistic way has always helped me since. Even if it turns out the decision leads to a tough situation, it feels good knowing the choice was made with confidence instead of insecurity.

What’s your advice for entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

I can’t say bootstrapping works for every business and startup, but if you can afford it for the first year or two I think it’s a fantastic way to build something real, learn how to make money early, and start scaling. With the cost of technology going down (Bubble helps here as well!), bootstrapping becomes easier and easier. Also, wait as long as you can before trying to be very visible. Wait until you know you’ll make the best of the opportunity.

Are you an entrepreneur looking for your MVP built? Get in touch with us at hello@devathon.com

Devathon has built software for companies backed by the world’s leading investors like Betaworks, Greylock, Andreessen Horowitz, Accel, KPCB, Lightspeed and many more.

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