Bootstrapping Bubble: A Deep Dive with Bubble CEO Emmanuel Straschnov
Emmanuel Straschnov is an exceptional founder by all accounts.
Despite Bubble’s rapid ascent into mainstream no-code discourse, he and his co-founder bootstrapped the company for seven years. Emmanuel only moved to raise external capital last year, a $6.25 million round led by Signalfire with participation from Neo, BoxGroup, ThirdKind, and the founders of Warby Parker, Harry’s, Allbirds, Okta, MuleSoft and Flatiron Health.
Throughout Bubble’s growth, both in the early days and post-venture backing, Emmanuel and his team stayed true to their mission of creating a world where anyone can build technology.
At Day One, our focus revolves around the earliest moments of company formation. In keeping with that mission, we spoke to Emmanuel about his bootstrapped origins, the early formation of no-code tools, and acquiring Bubble’s early adopters one by one.
From a young age, I had always been fascinated by coding and software.
But, I never imagined starting a company. Growing up in France, I assumed I’d work for the government my entire life. I did work briefly for the government, but then I went to business school which thoroughly expanded my horizons.
One summer while in business school, I interned on the product team at a luxury fashion brand in New York. It was during this really interesting time in which I rekindled my love for building digital products.
After that experience, I moved quickly to immerse myself in the tech scene in New York.
Finding His Co-Founder
After graduating from business school, I met my future business partner, Josh.
Josh was already working on an idea when I met him for coffee. We ended up talking for more than three hours. It was amazing. As we kept the conversations going, we both slowly became more and more excited about the idea. At the same time, I had a great offer from a more secure company that would take care of my green card.
So, I decided to take a risk.
I declined the job offer and went to work with Josh. Eight years later, I still believe this is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It was a very intuitive and emotional decision.
I guess the takeaway here is don’t over-architect your life. Sometimes incredible, life-changing opportunities show up out of nowhere and you need to reach out and grab them.
Getting customers in the beginning is always hard.
Our product at Bubble wasn’t pretty or polished. We targeted non-technical founders and in turn had to really convince them to just try our product. From the outset, Josh and I were constantly talking to our users, getting feedback, and iterating based on those comments.
We genuinely acquired users one by one. It was definitely slow and even painful at times, but having that small cohort of users at first really allowed us to build out the product in tandem with those early adopters. On the other hand, if we grew too soon, that wouldn’t have worked.
The lesson here is don’t try to acquire too many users too soon. Rather, you should focus on developing a quality product and constantly testing it with a small group before marketing it.
For seven years, Bubble was entirely self-funded.
We only raised our first round back in 2019. The fact we self-funded for so long helped us tremendously during investor meetings because they saw that we had real traction, real results, and were solving a legitimate problem for users all over the globe.
However, the MVP phase took time. It was definitely tough.
We basically didn’t get exciting user acquisition charts for five years. Frankly, if we decided to raise money back then, we would’ve gone under. We saw this happen to two of our competitors that raised money from top Silicon Valley investors, which proved to be a major lesson for us.
Long story short, both companies went out of business after 18 months because their products weren’t in good enough shape for the next round and the market wasn’t entirely mature just yet.
Unfortunately, a lot of founders view an early fundraise as a way to validate their core business. Without being overly judgemental, that’s wrong. Josh and I aren’t like that.
To be blunt, we decided to raise our round because we were so understaffed. We had one customer success position to support over a thousand clients. It was crazy.
You should only raise fresh funding when personnel and processes are starting to break down internally due to the overwhelming customer demand for your product.
Bubble’s No-Code Foundation
In 2012 there were a ton of bright founders with brilliant ideas, but they weren’t thrown into code young enough and in turn couldn’t build their products that deserved to exist.
Now, of course, not every big idea is going to become the next Facebook. Many will fail, but a few will really become huge.
It’s a shame that you can’t even move the ball forward without enormous financial resources to hire coders. A lot of major global challenges we’re facing require technologists and software engineers. The whole no-code movement is about reducing the cost to technology at scale.
That’s why Josh and I built Bubble into what it is today.
The seed of our idea was that technology is too expensive, so we wanted to make it cheaper in a way that people can make it themselves using no-code tools. Of course today we’re bigger and have more users than 8 years ago, but our mission remains the same.