S2 Episode 10: No-Code: Unlocking Accessibility and Scalability for Everyone
Welcome to the tenth episode of season two of the LowCode Podcast! In this episode, we sit down with Prakash Chandran, CEO and founder of Xano. Whether you're a budding entrepreneur, a non-technical founder, or a business owner looking to streamline operations, this episode sheds light on the nuances of backend scalability and the future of no-code technology.
Don't miss out!
Jesus Vargas: Hello again and welcome to another episode of the Low Code Podcast. Today we have with us today, Prakash Chandran, he is the CEO and founder of Xano. Xano is a back-end no-code tool. It's very powerful, very robust. I've had a lot of people tell me. only how great Xano as a product is. So I'm very excited to have Prakash Chandran with us today. Welcome.
Prakash Chandran: Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.
Jesus Vargas: So let's start with a little bit of a backstory of how you got into the no-code space. Why did you start Xano? You come from a technical background. You work at Google. So you have this tech background and then you end up working with maybe non-son people that are not that technical. Why and how did you get into this space?
Prakash Chandran: Yeah, so I'll give a quick backstory. So most notably, I spent almost a decade at Google, but I was doing user experience and product. And so not at all in the engineering realm. I actually started in computer science at school, but I basically failed out of it because I realized my brain didn't work that way, so I went more on the creative side. So I did UX and product. And at Google with me was my best friend, Sean, who's our CTO and co-founder. We've been friends since we were We were like 12 or 13. I went the UX product route and he went the technical route. He was actually the lead DevOps on Google Photos. It started with a server on his desk and he like built the foundation for what made that platform today. And that's gonna be important later on. So after we left Google, I went the entrepreneurial route and he went the development agency route. So in my path, I basically did my first startup and one of the biggest things that I ran into was not being able to build the software that I needed myself. on engineers and trying to build the product. And I ultimately like ran out of money. I made so many mistakes.
Jesus Vargas: Okay.
Prakash Chandran: And so the passion there for like wanting to give people a way to overcome that hurdle so they could solve problems in the world really grew during that time. And also during that time, I saw that Sean with our third co-founder, Jack had started this development agency and they were building web and mobile applications and they were building this internal tool And at the time, it was never meant to be something for the public. It was just a tool to basically build faster without having to grow the team. But
Jesus Vargas: other agency.
Prakash Chandran: out of an agency, a development agency, yeah. So after like eight years, it was getting to the point where they were building these scalable backends in like 15, 20 minutes. And I was like, look, I am watching this no code scene be able to like unlock and unblock entrepreneurs like I was. One missing piece is the scalable backend, is the robust backend. People always say, build your MVP in no code. You can't do anything else. You got to hire engineers to do something real. If we took Xano, rearchitected it, productized it, I think we could really help this community. And so there started that journey, a couple year journey of rearchitecting it, putting best practices of scalability and security into it. And then we launched in January of 2021.
Jesus Vargas: That's an amazing story. So it was a product that they built for themselves and then it became a standalone product.
Prakash Chandran: Yeah, but I think the important difference there is, I think a lot of amazing tooling comes out of agencies actually, a lot of no code toolings. But what ends up happening is oftentimes those agencies will take the tool, put a CRM on it and call it a day and then just have people sign up and pay the money. We did something different. We said, no, if we're going to do this right, we need to rearchitect it from the ground up. We need to create basically a system that can auto deploy single tenant to make it as scalable as humanly possible, to make it portable, to make it regional. So that's why we didn't just put a CRM on it, we took three years of building to make it in the right way before we launched it to the public. So it was, yes, born out of an agency, battle tested with those use cases, but rebuilt for the broader no code community. And that's it for today. I hope you enjoyed this video. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you enjoyed it.
Jesus Vargas: It's a very, Xano, it's a very, it's a hardcore product. It has GDPR compliance, HIPAA compliance, you have enterprise grade tiers, and you build that in three years. And when we start looking at other no-co tools, and most of them start building your front end first, but three years later, five years later, they never get to that point of scalability on the backend. Why?
Prakash Chandran: Well, I think you mean why do the front end tools, why don't the front end tools meet that expectation or are you saying that, so.
Jesus Vargas: Yeah, because everybody says, everybody, not in the NoCoD local space, says that NoCoD doesn't scale. And we've seen NoCoD scale, especially with tools like Xano. But even platforms that don't use Xano, they use their own backend, are working on being more scalable. And you can have ideally more records, right? So NoCoD tools allow scaling, but probably not as fast as their clients would expect maybe. is this very robust product where you can have, I don't know, probably tens of millions, maybe records on your database and HIPAA compliance and GDPR and the the other NOCA tools that started as a front-end don't get to that point with their own back ends.
Prakash Chandran: I hear what you're saying. Yeah, so I think it's something that you have to be very intentional about from the beginning. So to draw a correlation and by no means am I saying that we're in the same league as Elon Musk, but with SpaceX, for example, in order to do all of the things in space that he wanted to achieve, the reusable rocket was like, it is a prerequisite. You have to do it, right? You can't like launch in space, kind of do low or like low-worth orbit things without the reusable rocket. So the reusable rocket is this foundational thing that needed to be researched, needed to be built and needed to be optimized. In that same way with Xano, we needed to build the automation and infrastructure to give people the ability to automatically, right, do DevOps for them. And in a way that it was on professional infrastructure. So when we, That means like when you look at the best in class engineers that are scaling, they're using the cloud providers of today, which are AWS, it's Azure, and it is GCP, right? So in order to scale, you have to allow people to build, have almost a direct relationship with those cloud providers, but abstract away the complexity. So we, from the very beginning, given Sean's experience with Google Photos, to do the DevOps piece for our users so they don't have to worry about it. They can just pick a plan and we just keep giving them the resources they need depending on how much they're going to scale. And so if you don't have that thought from the beginning, you don't build the infrastructure to allow your users to have a single tenant deployment to be regional so you can meet the compliance measures and you don't take the time to get audited. Like we've been being audited since we, before we even launched, right? We get audited multiple
Jesus Vargas: Hmm.
Prakash Chandran: times a year those compliance measures, if you don't do all of those things, it's not easy to retroactively fix.
Jesus Vargas: Now, you started as, or Xano is a backend product.
Prakash Chandran: Yeah.
Jesus Vargas: Were you concerned getting into the no-code space? Like, which will be the front end that will connect to Xano? Did you build specific integrations for Bobble, eventually for Adalo? Like, what was that product route, that roadmap, in terms of our product is ready? It has been tested for eight years at the agency. Now, this is the backend, which will the front end be?
Prakash Chandran: Yeah, you know, we always knew that in order to be successful as a no code tool or in the no code world, we needed to show the full story, right? And the back end is an invisible, important, but invisible piece of that story. So this kind of bolstered our need to basically create content around how to connect to front end. So right out of the gate, at the time, we were like, all right, What tool is very easy to use that we could showcase like hey Zeno can connect to a front end It was actually a dollar a dollar was the first one that we connected to and just did a video content on right? We then we did app Giver and then from there We at least had a story to tell and then we basically
Jesus Vargas: Hmm.
Prakash Chandran: kept growing and growing on top of that based on user demand So then we had users from all over all different types of platform and now we basically just let the community tell us the that they're connecting with, and then we try to create content to help them.
Jesus Vargas: Do you think, talking about Adalo, and actually we interviewed David earlier for the season, do you think probably they originally thought that they wanted to build their own database and eventually it might make more sense for them to focus on the front end integrations, maybe automations and then Xano does the backend. Do you think there was a little bit of friction when you provided that service? And do you think that other Nucco tools might look into Xano as a very easy way to provide scalability for their clients without having to build a super complex and robust backend.
Prakash Chandran: Yeah, so we internally, we always knew that we were just fundamentally different. So even for example, like let's just take Adalo for example, you know, we know David well, we're good friends with Adalo. You know, Adalo always was had like their own collections, but we knew that like for example, when it comes to scalability, compliance, all of the things that we're talking about that Xano does, that's a whole, that's like a 100% focus of ours, right? battle on the front end and then to do all of the things on the back end, it's very, very hard to do.
Jesus Vargas: It's too much. Yeah.
Prakash Chandran: You even see big companies like Bubble that are like really well funded have a hard time to do both
Jesus Vargas: Yes.
Prakash Chandran: because it's just, it's a lot to tackle. You got to worry about responsive resizing on the front end. You got to worry about best in class design practices and compliance and scalability on the back end, deployments, Kubernetes, Docker containers. It's just so much to do. So we always knew that Let's never touch the front end. Let's be the best backend there is possible, and let's build bridges with all of the no-code tools that are enabling people on the front end, right? And that way, to your point, they can supercharge their applications with Xano. They don't have to worry
Jesus Vargas: Mm-hmm.
Prakash Chandran: about all that stuff. They can now, you can now use Adolo to build a HIPAA compliant scalable application because all of the API calls just go straight to us and let us handle all the DevOps security compliance things that you're going to worry about. So we look at ourselves as a boon for the no-code community because we enable all of these other tools to supercharge themselves and to sell to more, you know, even mid-market and enterprise customers. So we look at all of these other tools to supercharge themselves and to sell to more, you know, even mid-market and enterprise customers. So we look at all of these other tools to supercharge themselves and to sell
Jesus Vargas: How has the reaction been from those platforms? Do they like the idea of Xano providing the back end? Do you see still a little bit of a pushback? Is it too early to say? I don't know.
Prakash Chandran: I think there's a mix. Like you definitely have philosophically certain founders in the no code community that say, hey, my tool is the all in one tool. You should only build with my specific no code tool. And I'm not gonna name any names, but there are definitely founders with that philosophy, which is 100% okay. Like I definitely see the value of like, stay in one ecosystem, don't confuse yourself. But if you look at the engineering world today, the no code ecosystem, is really an abstraction of that. And the best engineering practices is a decoupled ecosystem. What do I mean by that? You have a separate front end, you have separate back ends, you have these separate modular components, and people have data that lives everywhere. So you have to live in a world, or at least for us, we believe you have to live in a world that plays nicely with everyone else. And so for us, we have some people that share that same philosophy. We have other people that don't, but either way, we wanna always be friendly And because no matter what the founders think, users are doing what they're doing, right? They're going to try to use their front end tools with Xano. So we still want to make it as easy as possible. So we're going to do a quick demo of what we're doing.
Jesus Vargas: Yeah
Prakash Chandran: And we're going to do a quick demo of what we're doing. And we're going to do a quick demo of what we're doing. And we're going to do a quick demo of what we're doing. And we're going to do a quick demo of what we're doing. And we're going to do a quick demo of what we're doing.
Jesus Vargas: Did Xano start as a no-code tool? Like did you start as part of the ecosystems? And I ask this because again, coming back to the concept of maybe no-code is not the right word, maybe enterprise clients don't like the no-code world, their IT department hates no-code because they see it as something too simplistic. Where do you see Xano and the no-code space? Do you think that it'll evolve into a different name? Do you like the name? And do you think Xano is part code space and no code will become more robust in order to target that mid enterprise and enterprise markets. How do you see that evolution between Zeno and the no code space?
Prakash Chandran: Yeah, it's a great question. I would say that in the very beginning, we very purposely wanted to be no code. So anything that you could do with a programming language you could do without code, which is why, for example, our Twitter handle is very purposely no code backend. We're saying that you can build a backend without code. And I think that's important because that makes it more approachable. Just by even the difference between no code and low code, there is an accessibility issue there.
Jesus Vargas: Mm-hmm.
Prakash Chandran: A lot of people are like, oh, I don't work with low code. I only work with no code. We've always…
Jesus Vargas: But do you think that Xano is a good no-code product? Because I'm not technical and I have a hard time playing around with Xano. I don't feel very comfortable. I think it might be too technical for me. I think it's a little bit more technical.
Prakash Chandran: It may so no code doesn't mean no complexity. And what I believe is that there are different facets of no code. And you know, there's like a different graduation. So for example, at the at the very lowest tier, most people understand the spreadsheet metaphor, right? They'll start in Excel, then they graduate into like something like air table to see what's possible. And then after that, they graduate into something else that meets their needs. So as they start to grow, as as they, for example, go past the 50,000 then when the need presents itself, they can graduate into a no-code tool like Xano. Now, for example, if we had like a coding environment where you had to like download an SDK to then start using us, it would be much harder to graduate from something like Airtable into Xano. But we are part of a no-code tool that actually does something very different. So let me try to explain this. In the very beginning, we said we can go one of two directions. We can go in the way of like, like zaps or workflows or something like that, or we can use the language that the engineering and internet world uses and teach everyone these concepts. Now, you may not use it today because maybe you don't have like a use case, but if you did, we would have, we have like lots of content starting from what is a backend, what is an API? How do you think about table relationships all the way to like arrays We're part of a new wave, a new wave of no code tools. And you've talked to some of these co-founders where no code can do more. Now, in terms of nomenclature, there's no code and low code. And you're right, there's a little bit of a stigma around those, but we believe we're part of this new no code world and let's just call it no code plus. That's what I've been calling it. That's what I'm going to name it. I'm gonna put the stake in the ground at this podcast
Jesus Vargas: I have a domain, but no code plus domain hahaha
Prakash Chandran: There you go. So No Code Plus, which is something more. It's something you can expect more out of No code. And with this, right, you don't hit the walls that you're normally used to. And we see this, we've won big enterprise contracts where the engineers in those enterprises are like, never, I could never see a NoCode tool meeting all of the criteria, passing all of our security tests, and then we do. We have not lost an enterprise contract to any of those security constraints or scalability constraints. So that is proof in itself, and we feel like that is just a future where no code is headed.
Jesus Vargas: I like it because then we can keep the no-code phrase or word and make it palatable, make it likable by IT departments. And that's, I think that's important because there's a lot of pushback even from no-code founders like we have to find a new word but no-code just makes sense. It doesn't have to be, it doesn't have to carry that bad stigma of being too simplistic.
Prakash Chandran: Totally. And I think we're just going through a transformation. There's different levels of this reinvention. And you can actually map NoCode's journey very closely to, for example, cloud infrastructure. Do you remember when AWS first came out? The mid-market and enterprise and the old guard would say,
Jesus Vargas: Right.
Prakash Chandran: wait a second. Number one, you're thinking of hosting your data in the cloud. And number two, you're using a book company to do this. Hitting me, this is like, you were laughed at. And now in today's world, you're laughed at when you're not building on the cloud,
Jesus Vargas: Yes.
Prakash Chandran: right? So we are going through a similar type of transformation where no code and low code is the word of today, right? It's what people know, but soon enough, it's just gonna be the tools that you build on because why wouldn't you? Like it's gonna be
Jesus Vargas: Mm-hmm
Prakash Chandran: the easiest way to create software. Sure, if you wanna like, it's like Fortran. If you wanna write Fortran, go for it. But you shouldn't need to do something like that. And so that's why this no code plus label just basically says it's no code, but expect more from it expect you to be able to do anything that you want to build without limits and to scale to the moon if you want to do that.
Jesus Vargas: That's great, that makes a lot of sense. Now, will Xano get into the front end part of product? Do you think that?
Prakash Chandran: Nope. Never. We're not going to do it. And we, we're not going to do it because we feel like there is so much in the back end to do that we still want to be the best in-class back end out there, not just no code back end, back end period. And
Jesus Vargas: Yeah.
Prakash Chandran: we want to make that power and capability accessible to everyone. Our mission is to enable anyone to create scalable world-class software, So we have a lot of work to get there and there is, you know, multiple, multiple years of work ahead of us to accomplish that mission. So getting into the front end game opens a whole new can of worms. There's amazing no-code founders, a lot of who you've interviewed that are already working on the front end. So we'll just stay with what we're good at.
Jesus Vargas: Do you think that, like one of your, your recently, what last year you raised $5 million, right?
Prakash Chandran: Yep.
Jesus Vargas: 2021, was it? So, now that you have some money, do you focus more on scaling the backend, the product itself? Do you focus more on integrating with more tools? Like, is it hard to, like, let's say there's a new NoCo tool that your community wants, is it hard to integrate Xano that tool, does it depend on their tech stack? How does that work?
Prakash Chandran: Yep. So I think, yeah, so there's a couple things. So one is, at the end of the day, our output to the outside world is an API. And APIs are the glue of the internet. So as long as the front end tool can connect to an API, you can use Xano regardless of whether there's a direct integration or not. But there is a difference, right? There's a tighter coupling. So for example, other no-code front end tools, like a Bravo Studio or even an Adalo, might have a workflow. that makes that coupling, that API coupling, so much tighter to where people just feel like it's a direct integration. Even though at the end of the day, they're just connecting the APIs. So a lot of what we're focused on is trying to make that barrier to entry for people that are using any no-code tool to easily connect to Xano in a way to where they don't even have to understand the dynamics of all the APIs that are required to do so. I think the second thing that we're trying to do is to just create more, educational content. Like if you look out there, we have a great community. We have a lot of YouTube videos. We really try our best to educate people because that's how we're going to level up no code. It's not by abstracting away the complexity. It's about educating people, treating them like adults and saying, look, there are different no code tools that you can use for different use cases. But naturally, if you're serving a site with 50 million users, 8 million of those users are That's going to be a very different build than a budgeting application that maybe is used by 25 people, right? And you should, as a builder, understand those differences and we find that it is our responsibility to try to work with the no-code community to provide that education.
Jesus Vargas: That's interesting. Does that mean, that's very interesting. Does that mean that you're investing more today on the education part of Xano? And is that education not only in terms of your product, but also integrating with third party tools?
Prakash Chandran: Absolutely. So there's, there's three things that I can tell you one, lower the barrier to entry, right? Make it easier. So people even like yourself that maybe you haven't built in Xano because you don't have the use case, but we want to remove the stigma that Xano is hard to pick up and be successful in. So we want to lower that barrier to entry. And there's a number of things.
Jesus Vargas: Who is your typical user? Is it an engineer, a software engineer trying to build faster? Is it a non-technical founder building their own product? Is it agencies building for clients where they do have a technical team? Who is the typical user?
Prakash Chandran: You basically, you named all of our personas. So we got the citizen developer that is graduating and needs to do more. So that air table user, they're hitting limits.
Jesus Vargas: Okay.
Prakash Chandran: It's going too slow. They graduate into someone like Xano, right? And they could be a entrepreneur, a product manager, product marketing manager, citizen developer. The second is a traditional developer. They love Xano because it allows them to build faster using best practices. They're not sacrificing anything, right? So they're building faster. That's actually 40% user base is traditional developers.
Jesus Vargas: Okay.
Prakash Chandran: The majority is citizen developers and then we also have dev shops or people that are building for others that are overlaps of the citizen developers and the traditional developers.
Jesus Vargas: How is Xano evolving? Where do you see it in two or three years?
Prakash Chandran: So we want to see, again, lowering this barrier to entry so more people can pick it up and to be successful with the product. I think the way that we see it evolving is, again, just being a lot more known for being the scalable solution. And we, by no means, and this is, we tell people, we have office hours that we run free for our community, like every single week. We tell people Xano is not the right tool for everything. Like if you're building something really simple, right? That your mom, for example, needs to like get in use air table. There are other amazing tools out there that we definitely are aware of. We're not saying Xano is a catch-all. But when you think about scalability and security or a back-end that can power many front-ends, we want Xano to be the only destination.
Jesus Vargas: Does that mean that people will first look for the front end tool and then find Xano as the backend? Are you the second product that they find? Or do you want Xano to be? Are people looking for a tool like Xano where they're thinking about building an app? Especially citizen developers, I think they're more geared towards the front end and then they get to Xano, is that the case?
Prakash Chandran: Yeah, so I think that typically citizen developers that are in the no code community, and I think there are many different skill levels in the citizen developer cohort, but ones that are really don't know anything about coding, they usually need something more visual, right? They need to be able to see what they're creating. And then the backend and the data modeling is an afterthought. However, there's also citizen developers that have, they kind of understand like the data modeling piece and they'll start with Xano. So it's a very personal decision. I can tell you though, in our user base, over 60% of people have not decided what front-end they're using, because we asked them in the very beginning.
Jesus Vargas: Oh.
Prakash Chandran: Because when you onboard with Xano, we ask you what front-end are you using, because we specifically will give you content. Like if you tell us you're using a webflow or a dollar or whatever it might be, we're going to send you content on how to connect, right? But 60% of people tell us we haven't decided yet. Which is pretty great.
Jesus Vargas: That's pretty cool
Prakash Chandran: It's actually very surprising to me, but they're starting with the back end and then they'll do the front and next
Jesus Vargas: That's pretty cool. And they're building their own API and then it won't matter what font they decide to use.
Prakash Chandran: That's exactly right. But I wouldn't have thought that that would be the case, especially with the citizen developer community, but the data doesn’t lie.
Jesus Vargas: Yeah. Now, in terms of the product and pricing evolution, I see that a lot of NoCo tools start cheap and starting the NoCo space because the NoCo space is very receptive for new tools and new projects.
Prakash Chandran: Yep.
Jesus Vargas: And then as they start evolving and growing, becoming more robust, targeting mid enterprise enterprise markets, they become more expensive. And then they're like, we no longer like the no code community. The entrepreneurs, the founders, they don't have the money. The money. budget that now we want to charge so they start pivoting in terms of food their clients do you think that will also happen for Xano?
Prakash Chandran: Yep. So the beauty of what Xano is doing is first and foremost, we're always going to have a free product. And in fact, it's that free product is just going to get better and better because we believe that for actually most of the use cases, people should be able to experience the power of Xano without paying any money. I just actually talked to a customer this morning who was considering using Xano. And for his use case, I said, you don't even have to pay for it. Just like hop on, fine. However, if you're doing anything of consequence, we have very common sense packages, build, launch, scale, and then you can go scale 1x, 2x, 3x, 4x, depending on your traffic needs. So as the demand of your site grows, so does what you pay, right? And the cool thing about it is the mid-market and enterprise customers, they pay for either the traffic that they use, compliance, or scalability. They're the ones that are taking care of that at the enterprise level.
Jesus Vargas: Yeah.
Prakash Chandran: $37 a month and want all of the security and compliance measures. We're not quite there yet. Maybe we will get there one day But not right now, right? Because it costs us a lot of money to get audited and to provide that
Jesus Vargas: Mm-hmm.
Prakash Chandran: But you know, it's just an economies of scale thing the more we are able to do And automate the more we can make that available to the lower tiers. So it's my like Like I told you at the very beginning as an entrepreneur that has you know I always want to make sure that the no-code community, the community of entrepreneurs is taking care of for a free price point. And then once they start getting some traffic to then upgrade to the paid, that obviously makes sense. We don't just give them, we're not a multi-tenant solution. We give them a dedicated server resources. We have overhead, obviously. So as long as we're able to both win, we think that that's 100% okay.
Jesus Vargas: That's amazing. Procades work and people learn more about you and Xano.
Prakash Chandran: Yeah, so the best thing to do is just go to our Twitter. It's no code backend. We're pretty active there. And if you wanna at reply us, ask us questions, we're always very responsive. I would also say check out our YouTube channel. Our YouTube channel is chock full of tutorials and ways to connect to different front ends and how to transform data and things like chat GPT stuff, like whatever you're thinking of to build, we've got a lot of education there. And then if you if this is the first time you're hearing about Zeno and You want to like try it out and get an orientation? Sign up signing up is free and then once you sign up on the dashboard you get a hundred dollar credit Which is basically one full free month just for attending orientation. You don't even have to do anything else So you'll get a chance to meet the team. I'm I'm on almost all of the office hours calls And we'll give you an overview a rundown You can ask us questions live We're very, very hands on and we'd love to see you there.
Jesus Vargas: That's amazing. Thanks so much for joining us today.
Prakash Chandran: Of course, thank you.