How I Built A Legal Tech MVP Without A Technical Co-Founder

As a former lawyer turned legal tech startup founder, I never imagined I’d be the one to build my own Minimum Viable Product (commonly referred to as an “MVP”). 

When I started my company, I had absolutely no coding experience whatsoever, so the idea of creating my own software seemed like a herculean task. But, after a number of twists and turns, I decided the DIY route made the most sense for me. 

If you’re a non-technical founder wondering if you should build your own MVP, read on to learn why I decided to build my MVP myself, and the core no-code tools I used to do it. 

Why I Decided To Build My Own MVP

There were three main conclusions that led to my decision to build my own MVP:

  1. Trying to “recruit” a technical co-founder wasn’t the best use of my time.
  2. Contracting a temporary developer wasn’t the best use of my money.
  3. It is possible to build an MVP as a non-technical person.

Abandoning Technical Co-Founder Recruitment

My original plan was to recruit a technical co-founder through networking and job listings. But after a number of interviews and networking meetings, I realized that taking on a co-founder role at an early-stage startup requires two extremely rare things: (1) a borderline-crazy passion for the business idea, and (2) the ability—and willingness—to take a financial risk. I was trying to find a needle in a haystack—and I was wasting a ton of time doing it.

Deciding Against Contract Developers

The next path I went down was looking for a contractor to build the MVP. There are a number of independent developers and MVP development studios out there that boast a lot of credentials and awesome product designs, so I found plenty of viable options—they just cost more than I was comfortable with. 

Contracting a developer would get the MVP done faster and to a higher degree of quality, but I would have no funds left to keep the business running if I didn’t acquire customers ASAP. Trying to build it myself would take longer, but I’d be able to cover initial customer acquisition costs—and to me, that made more sense.

Discovering I Wasn’t Alone

The final push I needed to start building my MVP on my own was meeting someone else who did it. During my time going through an early-stage startup accelerator called the Founder Institute I met a non-technical founder whose MVP was much farther along than mine—and she revealed that she had managed to build it herself using a no-code platform called Bubble. And so, armed with this new information, I set out to discover the world of no-code tools.

Building A No-Code Stack

If you relate to some of the points above and want to try building a software MVP as a non-technical person, at this stage you’re probably wondering:

Where do I even start?!

In this next section, I’ll help you answer that question by giving you an overview of the three types of no-code tools that I think are absolutely essential:

  1. A Content Management System (or “CMS”),
  2. A membership management platform, and
  3. A workflow automation platform.

Content Management Systems

What is a Content Management System?

A Content Management System, commonly referred to as a “CMS,” is a website builder that has advanced capabilities when it comes to—you guessed it—managing content. What does “content management” actually mean, though? In its simplest form, “content management” refers to the ability to easily store and modify content like image files and blog posts.

Why do I need a Content Management System?

Historically, the most common use for a CMS was maintaining a blog. Instead of having to create a new webpage for each individual blog post, Content Management Systems allow you to create a single template page that automatically duplicates itself and populates your content whenever you add a new blog post to the system.

But some brilliant minds out there figured out another way to use a CMS: creating member dashboards. Just like the blog post example, with a CMS tool, you can create a template of your member dashboard that automatically duplicates and customizes whenever a new user signs up for your software. As an added bonus, you can use a CMS to build both the members-only area of your product and the public-facing marketing part of your main website.

What’s the best Content Management System to use?

There are a lot of great options when it comes to Content Management Systems, but the two I personally recommend are Webflow and Ycode.

Webflow

Established in 2013, Webflow is a seasoned veteran when it comes to CMS systems. Don’t let its old age fool you though—Webflow has continuously evolved and improved their product, resulting in a clean, easy-to-use interface. 


Inside the Webflow editor.


I ultimately chose Webflow after the experience I gained using it during “The Complete 'No Code' Developer Course” on Udemy. Webflow’s history and presence also means it has a plethora of product documentation, courses, and built-in integrations, which give you even more resources to learn.

Ycode

Although I've been happy with Webflow overall, if I ever had to rebuild my MVP in its entirety, Ycode is where I’d do it.

On the surface, Ycode's interface feels pretty similar to Webflow—but having experimented with this platform after developing my no-code expertise, I found Ycode to be faster, more intuitive, and more powerful. There are a couple things that make Ycode stand out as the superior CMS: their workflows, and their built-in user authentication.


Creating a workflow in the Ycode editor.


Workflows allow you to easily create a series of events that happen when a page is loaded or a button is clicked—like sending an email, or revealing a hidden element on the page. It’s technically possible to do this stuff in Webflow, but Ycode makes it so much easier.

And Ycode’s built-in user authentication is truly a game-changer. With built-in user authentication, you can easily allow users to create an account and access member dashboards or other paid content. I haven’t seen another CMS where you can do this without using a third-party application (including Webflow). Which brings me to my next essential no-code tool…

Membership Platforms

What is a membership platform?

Membership platforms allow you to easily integrate user signup, login, payment, and account settings into your MVP. With a membership platform, you don’t have to worry about creating signup and login forms, managing member data, setting up recurring subscription payments, or giving users the ability to change their account and billing settings.

Why do I need a membership platform?

The answer to this one is quite simple: it’s going to save you a ton of time. Building those authentication widgets and figuring out how to process payments are not easy tasks. With a membership platform, you can easily build in these features from day one—so you can focus on building the features that are unique to your MVP, and start taking payments from customers ASAP.

What’s the best membership management platform to use?

The two membership management platform options I recommend are Memberstack and Outseta. I’ll go over my experience with each of them below.

Memberstack

Memberstack is one of the most well-known membership management platforms, and for good reason. Backed by Y-Combinator, Memberstack has nearly perfected the art of designing and embedding pre-built membership signup and login forms.


Creating a signup widget in Memberstack.


The best part about Memberstack is how easily customizable everything is. They don’t just stop at giving you the ability to add your brand’s logo and colors—you can also change fonts, create custom multi-step signup processes, control session durations, and more.

Outseta

Outseta is the membership management platform I personally use, and I can’t recommend it enough. Configuring a signup, login, and profile settings form for my users was a breeze, as was setting up different subscription tiers and billing options.


Creating a checkout widget for recurring subscriptions in Outseta.


Here’s where they hooked me though—on top of the features available on other membership management platforms, Outseta also gives you the ability to segment your users, send newsletters and drip campaigns, integrate a pre-built chat widget and respond to incoming chats through your dashboard, and manage contacts and opportunities through their built-in CRM. Talk about bang for your buck.

Separate from the product itself, I really admire Outseta’s dedication to helping bootstrapped founders. Outseta’s blog is a source of infinite wisdom—they go as far as sharing their own internal budgets, expenses, and equity allocations to give you an insight into how a successful startup is run. Their CEO even got on the phone with me once to help me with my Zapier integration, which brings us to our last essential no-code tool… 

Workflow Automation Platforms

What is a workflow automation platform?

Workflow automation platforms allow you to easily connect the different web applications you use so that events in one app automatically trigger events in another. The simplest way I’ve heard it described? Workflow automation platforms let all your other apps talk to each other.

Why do I need a workflow automation platform?

Workflow automation platforms are really the secret sauce when it comes to building an MVP without coding experience. They allow you to make a series of events happen across multiple different apps instantaneously—and if you’re creative, you can create almost any MVP function this way.

What’s the best workflow automation platform to use?

When it comes to workflow automation platforms, the best option, hands down, is Zapier. I’ve tried other workflow automation platforms like Integromat and IFTTT, but Zapier truly takes the cake.



Zapier boasts the ability to connect over 3,000 different applications—that’s some powerful stuff. And if you somehow manage to find an app you want to use that’s not already connected to Zapier directly, you can still integrate it into your automations with their Webhooks feature.


———

If you’ve been on the fence about trying to build your own MVP, I hope my story proves that it is possible—and that maybe it’s not as crazy of an option as you think! With the help of a Content Management System, a membership management platform, and workflow automation, there’s so much you can accomplish.


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