In the no-code bootcamp that we run, one of the participants asked an interesting question.
"Can we create a true marketplace using no-code?"
What is a true marketplace? A true marketplace is like Airbnb where there are 'buyers' and 'sellers'. The sellers determine the price of their product or service and the buyer pays for the service. The platform merely facilitates the matching of buyers and sellers and takes cut of the transaction as commission.
There are marketplaces everywhere you look - facebook marketplace, airbnb, upwork for freelancers, udemy for courses, Booking.com for hotels and so on.
If you can think of a service, there are marketplace products around that service. So, that question from the participant got me thinking, can we really build a true marketplace without coding?
For those who know, I also run a platform for teaching product management content called 'Product-Ivy'. One of the long term roadmap for the product was to build a coaching marketplace. Where experienced product leaders can register as coaches and set their price. And students or other PMs who would like coaching can search for and choose a coach of their liking and pay for their services. And as platform enabling this transaction, I can take a commission.
So, I wanted to use this opportunity to check if I can build this using no-code and also in a way answer the question of the participant.
And then I got to work. No-code is the easiest way to build and validate your idea quickly with the least amount of resources.
Traditionally, you might spend a lot of time with design and pay an expensive developer to develop and iterate on the idea before going live. Even for the simplest of ideas you need to figure out the infrastructure, architecture, security, design and development. The time, cost and effort involved are manifold. Especially when you are a non-technical founder.
For ideas which already exist, no-code can easily allow you to replicate things easily. The idea that I have in mind is not something that doesn't exist. There are already coaching marketplaces in the market. A quick example that came to mind was Exponent's coaching service - click here
So, I wanted to build an MVP. There are fundamentally 3 major requirements.
As a mentor, I want to register for coaching services and determine my own price
As a mentee, I want to search for, select and pay for coaching services
As a platform, I want to take a commission out of each transaction.
The no-code tool stack that I used for this was
'Softr' for the front end,
Airtable for the backend,
'Integromat' for workflow automations and
'StripeConnect' for payments.
Stripe connect is an offering from Stripe that is specifically meant for use case such as these.
To enable this, you need to first have an account with stripe. Then sellers have to be onboarded into stripe and created a connect account under you. And after that every time the connect account receives a payment from a buyer, stripe will pay us the application/platform fee.
I could easily build the front using softr and store the coach information in the backend in Airtable.
The challenge was in using stripe APIs to onboard a new coach on to the platform. To do this I created a webhook in integromat, and then when a coach submits a form through my platform to register as a coach, in the backend I call stripe APIs in sequence to create a stripe connected account for the coach.
Once everything is successful, the coach will get listed in the platform as a new coach.
Then users will be able to search for coaches, select a coach and make payment. In this case, I call another integromat workflow and call stripe APIs to create a customer in stripe, create an invoice, finalise an invoice and send the user the invoice link so they can make the payment.
And just like that we have created a working marketplace. It took me only a few hours for a couple of days to get this up and running. I could make all of the API calls by clicking buttons in integromat.
Obviously there is some polishing of work that needs to be done in terms of making the marketing copy neat and setting up email automation workflows etc. So the product isn't live yet, but as you can see bulk of the heavy lifting is already done.
And now, you can extend this marketplace to any level - Marketplace for doctors, marketplace for interns, marketplace for used cars and so on.
And that is the power and flexibility of no-code development. Here is a video explaining how all of this works.
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