What is your ultimate vision with Memberstack?
The ultimate mission is if a developer is talking to another developer in the future and they say, “What is the easiest way to set up user accounts and payments in this web application?” We want that answer to be Memberstack. The easiest way to set up user accounts and payments with a beautiful UI.
I was our target persona. I’m a non-technical founder. I was really good at Webflow, but I just don’t know how to write a line of code. We started with the idea of enabling people like me to build sites without writing code. One of the things we found pretty quickly is that folks who can find product-market fit or who can run a product like a business are usually working with a developer. We realized that there’s this shift where if you do have a developer, you can do more.
We’re using that developer functionality to unlock more features for no coders. We’re now a developer first, which will enable open-source projects and anybody to build on top of that. People like me will benefit from that.
What is one thing you wish you knew when you started Memberstack?
I love the advice of doing things that don’t scale. That was something we did well at the beginning. We charged from day one for everything we offered. Our time is valuable, it’s worth like a hundred dollars an hour, so we’re going to charge people for our time.
Every time we were like, well, we’ll go ahead and just do a little extra for free for this person, they didn’t stick around. They didn’t value what we were bringing to the table, so I wish we would have stuck to that more. Value our time and communicate that into the world because you learn a lot. If the world says, that’s not worth it, that’s really useful information to have, and you want to get that sooner than later.
At the same time, to kind of balance out doing things that don’t scale, I wish we had started a help center sooner. Tyler and I sent thousands of emails with dozens of duplicate messages that we didn’t automate. We could have solved for that a lot sooner if we started writing articles. When the next hundred customers come along, you don’t want to be the one sending that same message again. That’s advice from my past self.
How did you get your first hundred customers?
The first hundred customers came in a combination of ways. We started an agency. We created a landing page that kind of teased the idea. It was “add user accounts to webflow.” We then reached out to everybody who signed up to that waitlist and said, “We are now an agency. If you want us to do this for you, we’re going to charge between $500 and $10,000 to implement it.” Those people helped us learn about the problem and figure out how much people are willing to pay.
As we were able to build out the actual software side of it, we continued to contact that waitlist and say, “Hey, you weren’t interested at a thousand, but now you can get in at 25 a month.” They were primed and ready to go. The people who did pay us as an agency were even happier whenever we released software.
What do you get about this space that your competitors don’t?
I think this is a really helpful perspective because Tyler and I come from two different backgrounds. He’s technical and went to school for engineering. I dropped out of design school and then worked as a freelancer for a while. So I valued the user interface and user experience side of things. And he appreciated the power and the flexibility that comes with a developer tool.
We couldn’t find anything that did both of those well. Some tools were clearly for developers, and I hated them. Some tools were clearly for designers, and Tyler hated them. The idea was to bring those together and try to unlock both.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
The easy answer is deciding to take VC money. That was risky was because Tyler and I had no exposure to the VC world. We had no idea that if you had some traction and an idea somebody would want to give you thousands or millions of dollars for a small percentage. It’s like, are we selling our souls a little bit? We spent a lot of time evaluating whether this would be the right thing for us from a work-life balance standpoint.
When we had conversations with the people who ended up investing in us, we realized that those horror stories were not representative of them. Our investors are very reasonable and high-impact people. They are going to make a positive impact in the world. They’re also going to enjoy their lives and not going to run ours into the ground. That felt risky at the beginning, but super duper glad that we decided to do it.
We’ve always believed that the market will determine whether or not we succeed, but at the end of the day, do the customers we work for look at us and say, “I’m really glad I had a chance to work with these people?” That’s first. We’re going to do our best with all the other stuff, and hopefully, the world will cooperate.
If you’re doing something interesting in the no-code space or want to get in touch with Duncan, reply to this email. We’d love to chat!