I spent 1,000+ hours talking with 150+ No-code Founders, who have generated millions of dollars with their businesses without actually writing code.
How are they doing it?
I spent years researching and building on what they do. I wrote The Lean Side Project so you can build and launch your product.
Studiotime - Discover and Book Music Studios
1. No-code tool feature: Sharetribe Go
What can you do with this?
"Let your users rent or sell goods, spaces, or services online. Whether you're starting a niche peer-to-peer platform or dreaming of a global B2B business, Go has the features you need to get your idea out into the world."
Sharetribe is the platform that I used to launch my first startup in 2016. It was insanely user friendly to use, with everything from user admin and controls to manage my marketplace. I would say that it is 10x easier to manage than say a Wordpress dashboard.
Also the support from Sharetribe is really impressive. They have built a quality product that allows you to build a marketplace overnight.
Sharetribe Go is a great way to test out an idea because it has a 30 day free trial period.
When I first started using it there was a lot of key features missing like a custom landing page. Since then the product has evolved to give you all the starting essentials to test out your marketplace idea.
There is a caveat to marketplaces if you have never built one before. I detail some warning and I share some experience when I tried to build mine below in point #3.
Bottom line, Sharetribe is pricey but very valuable because there is no way that one person would be able to build all of the payment processing, three way vendor management, backend admin, maps feature, ecommerce and listing information.
2. No-code tool feature: Sharetribe Flex platform sits on top of Sharetribe Go and allows you to build customization and more features or functionality that you need.
"With Flex, you have full control over your marketplace's user experience. Design and develop a completely unique frontend in web or mobile. Build custom features and integrations on top of powerful APIs."
What this means is Sharetribe has built the backend of a marketplace so that you do not have to. "Flex gives you a powerful back-end with all the features you need for an advanced service, rental, or events marketplace. Take them to use with Flex's customizable web template and save months of development time."
What this essentially allows you to do is get the best of both worlds. Instead of buidling and managing all of the backend infrastructure for your marketplace, you can get that with Sharetribe and use your own custom developers to create on top of this technology. What's more is Sharetribe also has trusted Sharetribe experts who will help you build out what features you need if you need to find someone to build it for you.
3. Product Strategy: Building a double sided-marketplace is hard.
When I launched my marketplace in 2016 I spent a year trying to get my landing page just right and figure out who to launch a marketplace. Mike Williams has provided some really good information on how to do this in his free marketplace handbook. I'd recommend checking this out.
Here are some high level fundamentals about building a marketplace that I learned that I believe you should consider when building yours.
1. Marketplaces take time. It is generous that Sharetribe gives a 30 day free trial. In my experience you will need much longer than this to validate the marketplace and gather enough momentum to see if it is worth pursuing.
2. Because marketplaces are hard, its next to impossible to launch as a side project. I drastically underestimated the time to build up a marketplace, get the digital experiences ready, get marketing going, prepare for PR release, get the supply side and the demand side to shop up at the same time.
3. Starting a marketplace isn't just a one man job as a side project. But you can build up to this gradually but I would not recommend that your first project that you launch is a marketplace. This should be one of the later projects you launch after you have been in a problem space for a set amount of time. This time is not arbitrary and may differ per person, but you need to build up a significant amount of an audience before you launch any type of marketplace.
Mike Wiliams is an incredible entrepreneur. However, if you have followed him you know that he has put in a lot of work to get the marketplace to where it is. He has significant reach with his audience and ability to get his marketplace the initial inertia to get off the ground.
Starting a marketplace is a lot like trying to achieve liftoff with an airplane. Your window is small because you have to have both supply and demand aligned at the same time. Its a bit like asking a bunch of@ people to show up to a dance party. If they don't show up at the same time, they will miss each other and you won't have a party.
So all of this has nuance in depending on what the dynamics are pressing on your supply and demand. Maybe you have a supply that has patience to keep their attention long enough before the demand shows up on the marketplace.
But you could conceivably do this.
That is why if you are staring out and you do not have an audience, or a way to get promotion and PR quickly. You must build the supply side and build your audience. I have no idea how much time it may take for you to do this, however, you'll likely need thousands of people interested in the idea to get it off the ground.
In this product example, Mike Williams supply is the studios. The demand is the artists needing to rent a studio.
Mike would need to do significant work to attract his supply. He talked about in his early days building that manually. So if you are trying to launch a side project before quiting your main job, you need to judge how long will this take you to get? here are a couple of models to consider to help you:
1. Can you focus on just a local area? It is better to be really good for a small area than marginal for a larger area. This is the Facebook approach. they started with ivy league colleges, then all colleges, then high school. They kept growing to a larger audience. Start small or small enough that you can wrap your hands around it to provide a good enough experience.
2. Can you get a few really good players listed and highlight them and give them star treatment so that they get a lot of business or traffic in the beginning?
3. Can you hack your way there by having a few suppliers have buying capability through your marketplace platform and others listed as linking to their contact information?
This might look different but for example, instead of launching on Sharetribe, why not create a simple Carrd website with a list of all the places you could rent studios from. Allow some of them to accept transactions based on any initial manual work and relationships that you have created. Then also track the traffic that you get from your list to these studio websites. Once you set this up, then you can blast on this initial list for promotion to get traction by talking with publications that target your same customers. Initially you may think that this isn't helpful because you wont be getting any value from it.
But what you're doing is establishing and validating demand, you can capture value by asking anyone to get a full list of studios by subscribing to a list. Now that you have their email, you also have link tracking to what sites they visited.
Now what you can do is when you contact these studios, tell them about what you're doing and if they want to get access to the marketplace as a preferred studio, you can offer them some type of incentive for them to come on board and you can use your data as proof that you are already gave them distribution and can send them more distribution through this platform that you are building.
This is how I would approach building a marketplace like what Mike Williams did for StudioTime. The beautiful thing about building is there are many ways to do this. Experiment!
I give all this knowledge from what I have learned by failing at building my first marketplace and studying them to understand how to you build a one?
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