Back in Jan 2019, my Weekend Fund teammate Ryan Hoover wrote an article on The Rise of “No Code”. Dreamweaver and similar tools dramatically reduced the barrier to creation for 15-year-old Ryan. It was his gateway drug to creating on the internet (he later went on to build Product Hunt). As technology makes tools of creation more accessible — whether it’s audio, photography, videos, or music — everyone becomes a creator.
1.5 years of investing later, we think the rise of no code is a sub-theme in an even larger movement: tools that give knowledge workers superpowers.
For a long time, employees had no control over the tools they used at work. These decisions were made by the CIO, VPs in IT and other “higher ups”. When we started using Dropbox Paper at my last job at TrueLayer, it wasn’t a CIO decision. I chose it. Knowledge workers want to use tools that best serve them (better UX, more efficient, etc.) leading to bottom-up adoption.
I can’t possibly write an article about superpowers without a superhero name-drop. Unlike most superheroes, Batman doesn’t have any superhuman abilities. He derives his “superpowers” from an arsenal of tools, equipment and weapons, nicknamed “Bat-tech”. The best example is probably his Batsuit. The Batsuit has armour to protect against gunshots, a voice modulator, a “communicator” to interface with “bat-drones”, and more. The bat-tech extends Bruce Wayne’s natural abilities.
We love tools that unlock new abilities that allow people to achieve 10x more in their job. We call these superpower tools.
We breakdown the “superpower” tech landscape at Weekend Fund by value-prop:
Open up access — do things you couldn’t before
These tools create a “bridge of access” between the user’s current abilities and the powers they need to create something. They give people powers in an environment that looks familiar to them so they can safely level-up. Excel was one of the original tools that opened up access. It gave everybody the power of being able to touch, organise and compute data in an intuitive WYSWYG interface.
They minimize time-to-creation using (mostly) browser-based software, re-usable blocks and templates.
No-code tools are a subset of tools that open up access:
- Airtable is a hybrid spreadsheet-database that looks like spreadsheets but gives users the power of databases
- Webflow helps build production-ready websites in the browser without code
- Internal helps build internal tools using databases, APIs, and business apps, without code
Code is not the only skill that stands in the way of translating something in your head into something people can use:
- Invideo* allows non-professionals to create professional-level videos in the browser
- Causal allows anybody who can use Excel to build predictive models and share them interactively
- Flodesk** allows creative entrepreneurs to send marketing emails that are on-brand, without needing a designer
Create as a team — tighter feedback loops, fewer handoffs
While there are a lot of collaboration tools out there (ex. project management tools), this category of tools allow the actual creating to happen as a team. They keep work “in sync” by tightening feedback and decision making loops. These tools make teams better at what they do, rather than individual workers.
- Bubbles* is a contextual collaboration platform starting with a chrome extension to create sharable screenshots, drop feedback/comments, and collaborate with teammates
- Graphy* is a data collaboration tool, similar to an Airtable/Notion for data dashboards, that empowers everybody within companies to make data-driven decisions
- Loom is a video messaging tool that increases communication efficient, particularly for async work
- Front is a collaborative inbox for customer facing teams
- Figma is a tool for teams to design together and gather feedback in real-time, in the browser
Automate workflows — work on what’s important
There’s an increasing number of tools that automate workflows to give people more leverage. Their value is in time freed up for building, creativity and strategy. They help us maximize our human strengths as human-software collaboration should. They integrate with 100s or 1000s of tools to cover maximum surface area in our day-to-day workflows.
- Tonkean automates process for ops teams (intake, request handling, coordination), especially human-in-the-loop processes
- Sora automates processes for people teams (onboarding, off-boarding, key moments), freeing up time to create employee experiences
- Zapier connects all the apps you use to automate repeatable tasks, mostly used in SMEs
- Tray.io also automates processes for marketing, sales and support teams in enterprises
Cross-category superpower tools
Tools that fit across categories can be especially powerful. For example, Modulz* is a visual component editor that empowers teams to design, develop, document and deploy a design system, without code. It looks and feels like a design software but gives designers the power of code
The designer <> developer workflow without Modulz:
Since Adobe launched Photoshop in 1990, designers have been drawing static pictures and handing them off to engineering to translate them into code. This works for illustrations, not for interactive components, interfaces and user experience.
The designer <> developer workflow with Modulz:
Design teams extend their natural abilities by using a visual component editor to create interactive, accessible, production-ready components. With their new powers, they’re able to handover a complete design system.
Modulz covers all categories of superpower tech tools:
- No code tool so designers can create code visually (open up access)
- It’s collaborative, where creating happens in the cloud (create as a team)
- It automatically generates a style guide rather than requiring the designer to update the style guide in their workflow and automatically converts hand-coded components into Figma, Sketch and XD components (automate workflows)
We’re interested in tooling that helps marketers become super marketers (increases leads or top of the funnel opportunities 10x), salespeople become super salespeople (10x more likely to close deals and meet their quotas), and overall, tooling that gives knowledge workers or teams 10x superpowers.
If you’re building superpower tech, we’d love to hear from you at email@example.com.
*Weekend Fund portfolio company
** Weekend Build company