Interview with Mark Piller, Founder of Backendless

This Month on NoCode.Tech we sat down with Mark Piller, Founder of Backendless, a no-code Full Stack Visual App Development Platform that makes apps intuitive to develop and easy to manage.

Backendless amongst other backend development platforms have been offering users the possibility of turning their ideas into live apps without the need of hiring skilled professionals at a very much reduced cost and time.

What is Backendless doing differently and why are they one of the strongest backend development platforms in the market?

What do the founders of this great enterprises think of the no-code movement and where do they see it going next?

Carry on reading to learn about biggest mistakes made by entrepreneurs and how Backendless can make your app a reality in no time.

Mark Piller Founder of Backendless

Hi Mark! Thank you for joining us at NoCode.Tech 

Can you tell us a bit about your background? Did you always want to start your own tech company?

My technical background goes back to my university days when I studied Computer Science. I never graduated since my studies got interrupted by immigration to the US. Coming to America as a refugee, going back to school was not a priority (or within reach) as the necessity to survive was foremost. I got lucky to get a job at American Airlines/SABRE where I started my technology career. After about eight years working anywhere from startups to a Fortune 100 company, I decided to try out my entrepreneurship. First few attempts failed, but then there were wins and growth.

I learned a great deal about bootstrapping a business, growing from within, building teams and reaching unreachable goals. 

What is it about the nocode industry that moved you to create something like Backendless?

After seeing how the software was being built in the 90's and early 00's, I started thinking that there must be a simpler way to develop apps. A way where no time is spent on repetitive tasks, such as setting up servers, databases, firewalls; from project to project, writing the same kind of code to work with the database and the file system, writing tons of markup code for UIs. A way where people can jump to materializing their ideas, bypassing a long chain of development resources. This was happening long before the term "nocode" was coined. I envisioned a complete platform that provides a super flexible and ultra scalable backend out of the box, with a system enabling people to create user experiences, design UIs and automatically connect them to the backend. While implementing the system, we wanted to lower the barrier of entry into the app development space.

We were the first company to introduce a no-code logic builder for backend services. That logic builder has grown into a complete Codeless system, that now is also used for developing UI logic. 

Backendless APIs are designed to make your app-building experience as efficient and enjoyable as possible.

We know you’ve got pretty strong views on visual programming and how NoCoders should approach - Can you tell us your thoughts?

Number one rule for every nocoder: Do not jump into creating apps unless you have some idea about what it takes to make them. Yes, it is very easy to learn how to drag UI components onto canvas, and yes, it may seem simple to compose a basic IF/ELSE condition using a nocode system. However, app development entails a lot more. Study data modeling, information flow, data structures, basic algorithmization. No matter what tool you use to develop, these are necessary skills if you want to build a scalable app.

For someone new to the No-Code industry - How would you describe Backendless to them and the advantages of using such a tool as opposed to hiring the conventional programmer ? 

Backendless is the perfect blend of simplicity and capability. Our platform provides all of the tools you need to build a mobile or web app fast, while still offering tons of features that give you the ability to build complex applications and scale them. We like to say Backendless is the most versatile and powerful no-code platform out there. Since the platform was developed with the backend in mind first, you won’t face the same limitations that many of the UI-driven platforms have. Namely, you won’t have to integrate multiple backend services to make your app function properly. With Backendless, you have all of the tools you need to build your full application right out of the box.

What kind of people are using Backendless? What are they building?

We have all types of customers, thanks in large part to our product offerings. Our Cloud product is perfect for the small business or startup that’s looking to get to market fast and have the flexibility to make changes quickly to meet the needs of their target audience. Backendless Cloud is serverless, so users don’t have to worry about managing infrastructure and can instead focus on building the best app possible. We have users on the Cloud product that have built digital conference hosting apps, analytics apps, tourism apps, shopping apps, animal rescue apps, and tons more.
We also have a pair of products called Managed Backendless and Backendless Pro. These are geared toward more mature businesses and enterprises as they reside on their own separate servers or servers managed by the customer. Many of these clients enlist our team’s support to develop and maintain their applications. We have clients in banking, education, music, gaming, and more.

Backendless client - Digital conference hosting platform BetterCast

How did you find your first users?

Backendless started as a pivot from another company I used to run. So we started with an existing user base. Most of the users were acquired organically through publishing quality content and remaining active in the development (social) community. 

What have been and continue to be the biggest obstacles of growing Backendless? How did you manage to overcome these?

Creating strong brand name recognition has been a challenge, particularly since the no-code space has grown exponentially. With so many new companies flooding the market, it can be difficult to stand out without a ton of venture capital to throw around. With the versatility of our platform, we have taken the approach of highlighting how Backendless can integrate with virtually any no-code platform out there. No matter which no-code platform or tool you’re using, there’s something that Backendless can bring to the table to fill that tool’s gaps. On top of that, we believe in our technology and know that many users end up building multiple projects with us because they see how much Backendless can do.

How has Backendless changed the game for small businesses that have no funds to hire a programmer?  

We have proudly been on the forefront of the no-code movement, starting in 2012 when we launched and expanding it significantly in 2017 when we introduced our Codeless programming. Our goal has always been to deliver a product that seasoned developers can use to maximize their efficiency while also empowering citizen developers with no coding experience. The simpler and more flexible we can make the platform, the more small businesses will be able to bring their app to life, be it a startup app company or a brick-and-mortar business getting online. We want building an app to be easy enough and inexpensive enough that anyone can make their app idea a reality.

Backendless  manages and houses all your APIs in one place.

How is Backendless different from other app builders in the market? What updates made recently are you more excited about? 

There are some quality frontend builders on the market and some good backend builders out there as well, but there’s no platform that tackles both - with as many features - the way we do. We built our platform backend-first, so we feel we have the best backend technology in the app builder space. Although we only launched our UI Builder in the summer of 2020, we have already added a ton of features to it and have many more coming. We’ve added a lot of new features recently, including several new complete app templates (which we call Blueprints). Some other new features include: Themes in our UI Builder, which let you customize the look and feel of your frontend using CSS and LESS; the View Designer, which lets you visually build queries and makes it super easy to explore and display data from your database; and one of my personal favorite features is the support to store JSON data in Backendless Database, giving users a ton more flexibility when it comes to working with and storing data.

Where do you see Backendless going next? What can we expect from Backendless in 2022?

At the top of our roadmap is the support for custom and reusable UI Components. Backendless will be the only platform on the market that lets you take any UI component, regardless of the framework it is built with and use it in the UI created with Backendless. The new features will allow developers to submit their own UI components, UI Themes, page templates and even entire applications into the Backendless Marketplace. Expansion of the Marketplace will significantly simplify the process of app development, as the concept of logic and UI reuse will reach global level. This is just a short list from what to expect next year.

UI Themes, which give you wide-ranging flexibility and versatility in establishing the precise look of your app in Backendless UI Builder

What is the biggest impact you are seeing NoCode is having on user’s lives?

We have heard from users across the spectrum in terms of business size. We have enterprise customers that were thrilled to engage with us to take development work off their hands and deliver fast results. We have startups that we're able to get from wireframe to product launch in less than three months thanks to our platform. We have many users that are using our platform to build passion projects that bring in supplemental income or even allow them to quit their day job. It’s always encouraging to hear stories about how our platform has created opportunities for people and made their development so much easier.

Where do you see the broader future for no-code app creation?

The nocode approach will continue to evolve to further simplify the process. Everyone is looking to do things faster, thus reusability and universality will become dominating factors when choosing an approach for how to build an app. Additionally, existing software services vendors will start introducing nocode plugins providing integrations with their systems.

What are three things you wish you knew before you started your entrepreneur journey and what would you have done differently had you known them before?

If I knew how this venture would turn out, I would have started working on it way sooner...

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