We’ve been talking with founders of successful startups about how they introduced their products to the market in order to inspire business growth or starting your own businesses.
Meet Sergio, a seasoned entrepreneur, management consultant, and trailblazer in the tech industry, who has lived in ten different countries and has his hands full with groundbreaking tech projects and his three children. With a career that began at Toyota in Brussels, spanned management consulting roles at powerhouses like Roland Berger and BCG, and ventured into the entrepreneurial realm with a price-comparison website and a ride-hailing company in Portugal, Sergio has worn many hats.
In 2021, his tech odyssey took an exciting turn. Teaming up with Vasilis Danias, he co-founded Bitloops, a backend development platform that aims to simplify and streamline the process of building, managing, and scaling software applications.
What is the backstory of Bitloops? How did you get from an idea to a product?
The Bitloops team was working together on a European wide ride-hailing project, and it was really tough managing product requirements. We had so many ideas that we wanted to implement, and we had a rather large engineering team, however, the technical debt, the loss of knowledge due to talent churn and, most importantly, poor software design and architecture meant that adding new features, or even adjusting existing ones, had a very long time to market and was very expensive to implement.
In discussions with colleagues across other companies and industries, we realized that everyone suffered from similar issues – developer productivity fell significantly and rapidly as an application became larger and more complex. Moreover, this loss of developer productivity was mostly due to technical difficulties and not because of communication or management entropy. We realized there had to be a better way to build software.
We began by understanding more deeply what was the root cause for this loss in developer productivity, and it became very clear: poor software design and architecture, combined with an inability to maintain rigor, standards and developer discipline when building software was the main reason companies experience such strong drops in developer productivity. It becomes harder and harder for existing team members to keep track of how a system is structured, let alone for new employees. .
So we decided we needed to build a platform that would empower developers to build software that followed software engineering best practices and principles such as SOLID, Hexagonal Architecture, Domain-Driven Design, Clean Code, Test-Driven Development to name a few. But we wanted to go a step further and also help developers maintain design and architecture discipline by creating a platform around the development process. This is tricky as we want to ensure developers have full flexibility and creativity, but at the same time ensure they create the right code in the right place.
How did you validate your idea?
We began by speaking to CTOs or Tech Founders that had launched or were launching a tech company that required something beyond a simple application. We wanted to understand how they thought about this issue and what solutions they were considering.
This gave us tremendous insight as it was clear that these senior engineers believed there was only 1 of two options: speed or quality, and they prioritized speed to validate their product. However, the feedback was also very clear: if our project succeeds, we will have to redo the entire code-base. Speed was offered by platforms such as Firebase, but this also limited their ability to pivot, extend and scale effectively. Moreover, from an actual coding perspective, they are really relying on good recruitment, and hope that the developers follow processes and best practices.
When we explained our vision, these senior engineers were very excited with the possibility of gaining speed and quality, whilst at the same time guaranteeing adherence to process and code design. However, there was also a bit of skepticism as to how this would work, how easy it would be to learn and use and how would new recruits adapt to the platform. But overall the feedback was clear: this is a problem and if you can solve it, we would definitely use it.
The next step was to speak directly to developers and understand how they would perceive such a platform. Here we’re talking to the users, not necessarily the decision maker. The feedback was very positive because the greatest concern we heard was developers not knowing how to begin a project that they knew would become fairly large and complex in the future. It was more of a “lets wing it and then sort out architecture”.
We toyed with the idea of having something closer to a low-code platform with a greater visual interface and drag and drop, but quickly realized this would not provide the flexibility developers demanded, and it would require a steep learning curve. So, after many conversations (externally and internally), we concluded that we needed to build our own programming language that would incorporate these best practices, and could then be integrated into a development platform that would provide the speed and functionality required by both decision makers and end users.
What marketing strategies have been successful for Bitloops so far?
Bitloops is still at an early stage. We have launched the Bitloops Language and an MVP of the Bitloops Platform, but the Alpha version of the Bitloops Platform is a few months away.
Right now we’re targeting developers one on one, providing mentorship regarding software engineer best practices, and showing them how they can apply this using Bitloops. We’re offering comprehensive tutorials regarding how to go from being a developer to an enterprise software engineer.
Coding is not hard, but building great software is very hard, and we want to make that transition smoother and easier. So, in a way, our marketing is really reflective of our product – we want it to be easy to use, helps users learn more about software design and architecture and be able to build high-quality software systems.
As a consequence, we’re developing a lot of original content, tutorials and videos, as well as focusing on one-on-one interactions to learn what works, what doesn’t, so we can then scale those initiatives.
How did you get your first 100 users?
It’s really been about reaching out via several developer communities, personal networks and getting developers interested in learning more about software design and architecture. We contacted people directly, posted interesting content, and then had 1-on-1 discussions and demonstrations. Some users continue to ping us and we arrange for calls to discuss their problem and how Bitloops Language can help them.
In turn, we also learn more about what features are demanded by our users and how they’re using the language. There are of course many avenues we could pursue, but getting feedback directly from users that are using Bitloops Language is really the best feedback.
Bitloops is an open-source software development platform. Your main target is software developers. What do you think are the key factors that helped you market and approach software developers?
We are developers building for developers, so we are our first users, and every day we’re more and more excited about the project and its potential as we can see its impact. We’re literally using Bitloops Language to build features for the Platform and tutorials. So this ability to relate deeply with the product is definitely a great advantage.
Given this, we have also focused greatly on user experience, making it intuitive and quick to learn. The idea is that a developer should be able to very quickly start building with Bitloops Language, even if they don’t understand all the concepts, but through “doing”, they’ll also grasp these software engineering principles that are reflected in how the code is written.
The other key factor is content. We’re really focusing on developing good, well structured content that provides sufficient (and detailed if required) information about the different concepts and how they work on Bitloops.
What acquisition channels worked for you to reach new users?
We’ve really focused on organic, community based channels, as well as our personal network at this early stage. Fortunately, word of mouth has also been really strong, particularly when a user fully understands how the language works and its potential. We’re getting great feedback from some users, and many learnings from others.
In fact, our first major example is actually going to be a Ride Hailing Platform. Bitloops can definitely be used to build a Hello World or ToDo App, but that won’t give the language or the platform justice.
Going forward, we’re definitely going to continue this effort on content, educational tutorials and videos, and guides on how to build fairly complex applications. The Bitloops Language is open source and free, so we believe there will be significant up-take from that perspective, and at the same time, we’ll offer a freemium version on the Bitloops Platform for users to freely experiment and try the language and the platform.
Essentially, we do believe in a product-led-growth to begin with, and the product will need to clearly demonstrate that it does indeed add value and help developers build better and faster. Once we’ve achieved this, we will definitely push other acquisition channels including paid marketing and sales.
What do you consider your biggest win so far with Bitloops?
The biggest win is really understanding this problem at its core. It is very clear to the Bitloops Team how important software design and architecture is, and how it directly impacts developer productivity. In fact, we believe most tech companies have failed or gone bankrupt because of this issue – inability to meet customer needs and expectations from a technology perspective, and not because they didn’t know what to do.
This understanding and the many deep discussions we’ve had with the developer community also gave us a clear roadmap, which is still underway, but we’ve achieved the first major milestone which is to build a programming language from scratch. It was hard, but it’s been worth it. We’ve learnt so much and it’s giving us the freedom to do so much with it on the platform
As an open-source software builder, what are the biggest challenges you have faced building Bitloops, and how did you overcome them?
The platform and vision we’re developing is quite unique and not easy to explain. There are many alternative options to developing software, but there is none like Bitloops. Therefore, you need to experiment with it to understand its full potential.
This has been difficult both internally and externally, but it’s definitely helped us refine the vision. At the same time, we’ve spent many hours learning about software design and architecture, the different principles and frameworks out there, which has been really hard work, especially when combining this with some consulting work as we bootstrap.
What is your advice to founders who are just starting?
Speak to users. Really get deep into the problem you’re trying to solve.
We spent months reading books about SOLID, DDD, BDD, TDD and Software Architecture such as Hexagonal, Onion, Layered and Clean. We went really deep into the core problem and how it’s currently being solved.
The subsequent step is to almost forget about the feedback and envisage something that solves that problem in the best way possible, without thinking about current opinions, practices or other limitations. The idea is to be as creative as possible to find a solution that is unique and adds great value.
If you’re able to do this, then you don’t have to be afraid of the rest: content, marketing, finances, funding raising (if necessary), regulations, etc. These are all important, but doable.
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From Service to Product: Introducing Launch With AI Program for Startup Success – Part 1
From Service to Product: Introducing Launch With AI Program for Startup Success – Part 2
From Service to Product: Introducing Launch With AI Program for Startup Success – Part 3
From Service to Product: Introducing Launch With AI Program for Startup Success – Part 4
From Service to Product: Introducing Launch With AI Program for Startup Success – Part 5