Don’t build your business on a platform that could disappear

10 July 2024

Low code development platforms like Airtable or Mendix offer an apparently ideal solution for the tech-minded non-developer – someone who doesn’t want to learn code but does like constructing useful, time-saving digital tools. If you use them to create a small, time-saving app, that’s one thing. But if you create a tool your team relies on, you’re building your house on sand.

Low code platforms do have their place. We actually prefer a client to have built some of their own tools (using Excel is a great start) because it means they will have done some work to establish their process and in doing so gained an understanding of the problems.

So what’s the problem with low code?

The fundamental problem with building an important business system on a low code platform is that it could be withdrawn overnight.

Don’t believe it? Two names: Google App Maker and Amazon Honeycomb. Both were low code platforms, each supported by one of the richest, most powerful businesses on the planet. Both were launched with some fanfare and both disappeared a few years later.

Google App Maker was launched in 2016 as a tool for non-techies and was shut down in 2021. Amazon Honeycomb launched not long ago, in 2020, a platform for building mobile and web applications without writing any code. It provided plenty of neat readymade functions and templates, and it has already gone the way of all flesh, less than four years from launch.

Many other low code platforms have disappeared off the face of the earth. If the ones supported by the biggest businesses on the planet can’t make it, many smaller ventures won’t survive long.

The profitability problem

When these kinds of software startups launch, they are usually new and shiny and full of features, typically with a low cost-barrier to entry. But there’s often the problem of profitability.

Almost every software startup with a brilliant idea is backed by private equity in one form or another. These investors aren’t doing it out of love. They want a return on their investment. The startups often grow fast and gain tens of thousands of users. But it’s not cheap or easy to construct, maintain and improve effortless tools doing complex things seamlessly, and the startups rarely make a profit. Eventually the venture capitalist decides to stop throwing money at it and the plug is pulled.

The platform may get sold to a larger business, and then is often either closed down or just kept it ticking over without any investment in it. Or it’s just completely abandoned by the developers.

If you’re a business that has spent time and money building your systems with one of these platforms, you now have nothing. Your system stops working, or becomes unsupportable and increasingly out of date. You can’t port out the code and use it somewhere else. The best you can do is retrieve your data and start from scratch.

Build your business on something solid

So how is Claris FileMaker any different? This fact: Claris – who developed the FileMaker platform, their core product – have made a profit every quarter for 25 years. One hundred consecutive quarters of profit – quite a feat in any sector. Not surprisingly, they continue to seriously invest in and develop a product that has served them and their users well for over a quarter of a century.

Business management systems, now more than ever, are mission-critical tools. Over time they become essential to your daily operations. If you suddenly lose your system, your business could be unable to operate. That’s an existential threat.

Don’t take a risky bet. Build your future on rock, not sand – on a platform with a proven record, not a shiny newcomer full of slick promises that could disappear and become obsolete in a few years time. And to be really sure of success, choose a good, reliable partner to support you with that good, reliable platform.

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