An Interview with Toby Oliver: CEO at Bravo Studio

This Month on NoCode.tech we sat down with Toby Oliver, CEO of Bravo Studio, a design first, no code tool, which allows you to turn your app designs and prototypes into real publishable mobile apps.

Bravo Studio is one of those tools that made a very strong debut within the Nocode space and continues to make great strides when it comes to growing their following base and features.

We wanted to know the good, the bad and the ugly of launching an app builder for designers. His view of the Nocode movement and his top tips for first-time entrepreneurs.

Bravo Studio Studio

Hi Toby thanks for joining us at NoCode.tech!

Can you tell us a bit about your background? 

Sure! I had my own startup in the UK for a few years, before I moved to Barcelona and joined Typeform pretty early on as CTO and grew the tech team there 10x.

Once we launched version 2, I felt the entrepreneurial itch again and I left and did some work for the KFund, a Madrid based VC as Operating Partner, before starting Bravo Studio.

Toby Oliver CEO at Bravo Studio

Can you tell us how Bravo Studio came about? 

Well when I was at Typeform I had the idea of making a tool that could be a UI for APIs (a bit like Zapier in the frontend), but at Typeform it never really got beyond just data collection. After I left Typeform I came across a team that had been building Enterprise mobile development tools with some great ideas  to make the apps even easier, and we decided to bring all these ideas together.

So in April 2019 we formed Bravo Studio to make it easy to create native mobile apps by connecting APIs to Figma designs.

What has been the biggest accomplishment and learning curve of launching Codeless labs and Bravo Studio? 

I think our biggest accomplishment was switching on the paid plans in June last year. The uptake by our users really validated the idea of Bravo and showed the value the service provides. 

The area where our learning curve has been steepest is in how to reach our initial target market - freelance designers - and how to make APIs easy for them to work with.

Why was Figma chosen as the design engine? Can you talk about the benefits and its potential for designers and non-designers?

There are really 3 main UI design tools Adobe XD, Figma and Sketch. Sketch historically has been the leader, but Figma has grown massively in the past few years and being browser based with well documented APIs made it a great fit for our first design engine we worked with (but we are about to add another one 🤔 )

The massive advantage of working with a design tool like Figma is that it allows designers to take their existing designs and turn them into an app by simply adding a few annotations to their designs and then connecting their designs to APIs. As we leverage the design capabilities of the design tool, the designer can have the ultimate flexibility with their design rather than be locked into a number of existing templates. 

How can users benefit from its other integrations like LottieFiles? 

There are a number of benefits of leveraging design tools, as you can utilise their extension systems.

So for example LottieFiles has created a plugin for Figma that generates annotations that are compatible with Bravo so it is super easy to add LottieFile animations to a Bravo App design.

Lottie Files, open source animation file format

How user-friendly is Bravo Studio? What is the learning curve like for someone building their first app?

Learning Bravo Studio is pretty easy if you know Figma already (and if you don’t there are lots of resources to help). We also have a lot of documentation and tutorials on our site which explains how to annotate your designs to help Bravo understand how the app should work (or add functionality that goes beyond Figma’s prototyping), how to connect to APIs and how to publish to the Google and Apple App stores. Alongside this we have a pretty active community where people can help each other out with specific questions.

What are some of the most popular types of apps being built using Bravo Studio?  

Bravo studio is a really flexible tool which you can use to create a huge variety of mobile apps, so we haven’t seen one particular type of app take prominence. We have medical apps, e-commerce apps, school apps, utility apps - it continues to surprise us what people build with Bravo Studio

How did you find your first users?

Our first big push of users came with our first launch on producthunt in December 2019. That really helped raise awareness of Bravo and we even had a number of users create tutorials for Bravo on Youtube of the back of the initial launch.

How is Bravo Studio different from other app builders in the market? What updates made recently are something for users to look out for?  

The biggest difference between us and other app builders is our focus on design.

We feel that functionality is becoming a commodity and design is critical in how you differentiate your applications, and to do that you need to have the flexibility that comes with using the major design tools.

Actually there is another difference, due to our focus on APIs rather than functionality, we can actually work with other app builders that have APIs if your app needs to have the flexibility of design that we can provide.

Where do you see Bravo Studio going next? What can we expect from Bravo Studio in 2021?

The next big milestones in 2021 for us are:

1. Working with more design tools

2. Making the integration with APIs easier

3. Putting native payments into Bravo apps.

Where do you see the future for app creation? 

I think we are going to see more and more nocode tools so that everyone can get the functionality they need.

I also think we will see more innovation in the mobile application no-code space as it is currently so expensive for a company to make a native, publishable mobile app (whereas it is much easier / cheaper to make a website). 

What are your thoughts on the No-Code movement? What would you recommend to those keen on getting started to build their products with No-Code?

I think it is great that technology is being democratized so that more people can be involved in the creation of digital products.

The only challenge is that no-code is such a big subject with so many options, that is often hard for people to know where to start.

I would recommend rather than learning no-code, have a project that you want to implement and then figure out which tools would be good ones to help implement it (nocode.tech might be a good place to start 😛 ). 

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?  

Interesting question, okay here goes:

  1. Pay it forward - your network will be one of your most powerful tools so always try and help people where you can.
  1. Generally when it comes to technology (and it is not core to your business) buy rather than build, it will help you move much faster.
  1. Overnight success normally takes many years. It might seem that a lot of startups come from nowhere but there is normally a huge amount of effort to get to the point when they start to get a lot of traction.

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