Marcus is based in Sweden and has been in the world of design, technology and innovation for about 16-17 years. Marcus is a co-owner of the digital product studio ustwo and built it from 0 in 2004 from his bedroom above a kebab shop in London. Currently it functions as a mix between an incubator, agency, product studio and venture fund.
Why did you apply for the On Deck No Code Fellowship (ODNC):
When I started in the design space in 2004, the Web was the place to be for a design studio. We differentiated from our peers by focusing on designing digital experiences for mobile devices instead of websites. Unknowingly, this led for ustwo to sit at the right place at the right time atop the wave of growth in mobile.
Now in the last 6 months I have since October been immersing myself in the wave of no-code and in the passion economy. I view this as the third great wave of technology as it now gives everyone access to the power of technology and the ability to create a business from their passion. To learn more about no-code, I looked no further than ODNC because how could I not be part of a collaboration among 150 no-code builders for 8-10 weeks.
How did you approach ODNC:
Personally, having launched and built a successful company in the past, I want to look at how I can give back to the next wave of builders and entrepreneurs. On Deck is a brilliant place for me to explore what the needs are in the community to help me support them. In the no-code space, I am a complete beginner, but as an entrepreneur and product person, I could advise and give back to the community.
Jelmer Pe, another fellow from ODNC, and I decided to launch Venturism, a product studio where we create a variety of digital tools and products that help indie founders get their first 100 customers. We wanted to use ODNC as a launchpad for Venturism by putting our main idea and hypothesis to the test, that we can turn makers into single-player startup studios. We believe that the studio model is on the way back because no-code has removed a major bottleneck for past studios: development speed. The power of no-code now allows you to place multiple bets and build multiple MVPs. I think we’ll start seeing more and more ‘Micro-Unicorns’ being created, that is multiple independent internet businesses with minimal costs that generates over $1M/year.
What did you get out of the program that was unexpected:
Seeing the power and diversity of no-code first hand. These ten weeks gave me a first-hand experience and view of what people with 1-2 years of experience could accomplish with no-code.
The Global Build Weekend was a great example, during it me and a team of five people built Shuffle, an audio chat networking tool for the creator economy. It was surreal that we were able to build a functional MVP of a social network app in just three days. Being part of a team that could ship something so quickly really cemented my earlier thesis about how no-code can bring back the studio model.
What did you build during ODNC:
The transition from a maker to a founder is the process of turning their passions into something they can monetize. One thing in particular that makers struggle with is how to separate the good ideas from the bad and knowing when to double down on something. My capstone project was a product called Sneak Peek, which I presented at the end of fellowship Demo Day. Sneak peek is a tool to help validate ideas by seeing if you can get pre-orders for them.
What we tried to do with this project was to help makers go from zero to validated idea in minutes. The goal is to have them easily be able to create a beautiful landing page that you can then distribute on your social networks. The issue is that there are a lot of landing page builders but they are quite clunky and expensive and can often be a blocker to shipping a product idea you have.
How would you describe ODNC:
I would describe ODNC as the consistent exchange of belief capital. Even the week before the program starts and you first enter the Slack channel, you see a mountain of introductions and enter a buzzing community with the friendliest, most supportive and engaged people.
For me, I loved the “buffet” style programming as you could tailor it to yourself. To get the most of the program you had to pick the bits that you need and get most excited about. I really focused on a lot of the insights of founder journeys from the fireside chats. The one with Jeff Morris Jr. was particularly impressive as it inspired Sneak Peek. An ODNC fellow asked, “how do you demonstrate business value within your MVP?” and Jeff responded with something along the lines of, “Put up a paywall because if you can get your users to pay for something that is the ultimate sign of respect that you’re solving a real problem.”
Advice for incoming fellows:
Focus on engaging. The community only gets better the more you engage with it. It perfectly embodies the metaphor of “the harder you throw a ball, the higher it will bounce.” It took me awhile to ask stupid questions (ie. how can I do this specific task in Bubble?) But when I did I got an amazing storm of small Loom videos of how to accomplish specific tasks.
If you can help and host a session in an area of expertise feel free to put yourself out there and you might create a valuable connection or even find your next co-founder.