S2 Episode 11: The New Era of Web Design for Non-Techies
Join us as we host Michelle Marcelline of Typedream. Dive into the innovative process of this no-code platform for transforming simple Notion pages into dynamic, fully functional websites. Also, discover the secrets of this founder for navigating a crowded market with a unique approach and tailored marketing strategies.
Whether you're a non-technical founder, a curious entrepreneur, or simply passionate about the future of web building, this episode is a treasure trove of insights and inspirations.
Jesus Vargas: Hello everybody and thank you for being here again for another episode of the LowCode Podcast. Today we have with us Michelle Marcelline. She is the co-founder, COO of Typedream, which is like a notion-like website builder. Michelle, thanks for being with us today.
Michelle Marcelline: Of course, thank you so much. Happy to be here.
Jesus Vargas: So let's start by, in my mind, Typedream is like a notion experience, user experience, that produces websites. Is that the right concept? And that’s what your try to build from the beginning.
Michelle Marcelline: Correct. So the interface is very similar to Notion in which you can type slash for command, but we change the commands to suit website building. So there are commands like slash button, slash nav bar, and other commands that are not available in Notion.
Jesus Vargas: So why, why do you start? Like, did you think, did you see an opportunity of making websites out of notion because a couple of years ago when you started, probably there were a bunch of tools coming out in the space that allowed you to publish a notion page as a website, is that the opportunity that you thought on coming after?
Michelle Marcelline: Yes, correct. So we saw a lot of people build their websites on top of Notion, and we were wondering why they still use Notion, because Notion is a note-taking tool when there were a lot of other no-code website builders out there like Webflow, Wix, Squarespace. So we decided to dig deeper on the problem, and turns out the Notion people and other pure no-code people were not able to use these other no-code bousite builders because they still needed to understand a little bit of CSS and HTML. They needed to understand a bit technical term for them, like margins, paddings. If they want to add a form or add any other functionalities, they needed to embed some code, although they just needed to copy paste really, but it's pretty hard for pure no-code
Jesus Vargas: Right. Is that still the case even with tools like Wix and Squarespace? Do you need some technical knowledge?
Michelle Marcelline: You need to understand at least margin padding, stuff like that. So it's not as intuitive as Notion and people are very familiar with Notion because it's just like Microsoft Word or Google Docs. So we saw an opportunity to make a Notion-like website builder.
Jesus Vargas: And are your clients mostly coming from Notion and building their website? Is that your addressable market?
Michelle Marcelline: yes, that was our initial niche. Yes, that was our initial niche. But we've branched out since then to other Twitter creators, like people in Twitter in general, so tech people. And we've recently branched out to other social medias like Instagram and TikTok to target influencers and sellers there. So it's pretty broad.
Jesus Vargas: Nice. So going a little bit back in time,
Michelle Marcelline: Mm-hmm.
Jesus Vargas: anyone would think that the website builder space is already established and you have huge players like WordPress, now Webflow,
Michelle Marcelline: Correct.
Jesus Vargas: Squarespace, Wix, whatever. It's a, in my opinion, it's a weird space to get into. Like in 2022, you started in 2020 or 2021, getting into and starting a website builder. Was it hard to get some traction to get it to Y Combinator, get some funding?
Michelle Marcelline: Correct, I agree that it's like there are a lot of other website builders out there, but as I mentioned, we found a specific niche, which is pure no code people, especially Notion people, who were not able to use other no code website builders. So we decided to get in from that angle before branching out. Regarding getting into Y Combinator and funding. Um, no, Y Combinator are still investing in no-code website builders, including Typedream and a lot of other competitors.
Jesus Vargas: And how do you see the space now that you've branched last year, and we can talk about that a little bit later, you went into Web3 and making or targeting the Web3 space, which today is not a good space to be in probably.
Michelle Marcelline: Correct, correct.
Jesus Vargas: But you started with the notion, people, then you branched out. Where do you see yourselves, let's say the next couple of years, three years, in terms of you have the let's say the complex or large. still no good local platform like WordPress and Webflow? And then do you see yourselves as in an intermediate space between the complex complicated ones and weeks, or do you always see yourselves as the no-go, the easiest way to get into building your own website?
Michelle Marcelline: Yeah. So our plan is to stay targeting the pure no-code people. Because if we target more intermediate or advanced user group, then we'll have to compete with other website builders in terms of feature priority. And it'll be an indefinite race of just shipping features after features. Yeah.
Jesus Vargas: Do you think that makes it harder to raise prices if you're targeting probably solo founders, entrepreneurs, people just getting started, probably not having revenue or a traditional business that can support a higher pricing tier? Does that make churn your major problem and use for acquisition or not?
Michelle Marcelline: Um, so if we were to increase our price, then that new pricing tier would include some new set of features that if our users didn't use that, then they would use and pay for another tool. So it'll make sense for us to raise our price, but they get everything all in one with our platform.
Jesus Vargas: I see that a lot of no-cut platforms start, let's say in the mass market, just to get started,
to get the word out, to get users revenue, et cetera. And then as they mature, as they grow, as they probably have to raise money. they move into the, maybe not into the enterprise market, but let's say small and medium businesses, mid market clientele in order to get more money out of a subscription.
Michelle Marcelline: Yes.
Jesus Vargas: Do you think that, and I see that like with Glide, with software, eBubble even changed their pricing, Webflow has a super expensive enterprise plan. Do you think that'll be the same route that you follow at Typedream?
Michelle Marcelline: Correct. Regarding targeting small, medium business, we actually just launched a waitlist for our newest product, which is Typedream products. So we want to allow our users to sell products on our website. So this will allow us to acquire small, medium businesses and other people who want to sell things on our website, like shops, shop owners.
Jesus Vargas: Yeah. Okay. And then do you think, will you eventually build like marketplace features inside of Type-Theme so that people can sell digital and physical goods inside of the platform or that's not something planned?
Michelle Marcelline: No, not a marketplace, not like Amazon. It's more like the shop owners will be able to, yeah, create a website for their own shop with us handling all the payment functionalities, inventories, and stuff. Like Shopify.
Jesus Vargas: And then, talking about your user persona, you started targeting no-shake users to the wider website. And today you're diversifying your user base. How do you do that? Are you running ads? Are you relying mostly on social media? I saw that you tweeted a couple of days ago something about your affiliates driving a lot of traffic. Where do you find your users in a very crowded space like yours?
Michelle Marcelline: Yeah, so every time we branch out to, we want to target a different niche, we would branch out to where those niche hang out. And so at first we were targeting Notion people. So that was on Twitter. We kept growing our Twitter account and we got other tech people's founders, startups building their landing pages on us. And then we wanted to do this shop thing. So we grew our other social media like Instagram. TikToks with target sellers there. So yeah, it depends on the social, it depends on when, where our target market hang.
Jesus Vargas: So it's mainly or purely social media so far.
Michelle Marcelline: Correct, we don't run any ads. We haven't done much in SEO yet. So it’s mainly social media.
Jesus Vargas: Wow, that’s pretty cool.
Michelle Marcelline: Yeah, I think if you're familiar with this term called building in public,
Jesus Vargas: Yeah.
Michelle Marcelline: it's been really working for us in particular. So we share our journey as a founder, we share our insights and everything. So it's not just about tweeting our new products and marketing
Jesus Vargas: Before Typedream, you were building a different product geared towards developers, right?
Michelle Marcelline: Correct.
Jesus Vargas: And eventually you pivoted or you started Typedream.
Michelle Marcelline: Correct.
Jesus Vargas: Why did you look into the no code space?
Michelle Marcelline: Um, because we, from building that product, we found out that developers don't like to pay. If they can build it themselves, then they would. Whereas no code people, they can't build it themselves. So, so they will find a tool that they can pay to, um, be able to make something. So with that product, we have started targeting the no code people. That product was an authentication product. So we were building. sign up and login functionalities for websites. We entered the no-code space with that product by building a plugin for WordPress, Wix, Squarespace. So people who built their websites on top of WordPress, for example, they can add a sign up and login functionality with our plugin. That is how we discovered the no-code space. And then from there, we discovered that just being a sign up or a login... Plugin is not enough, might as well be a full blown website builder.
Jesus Vargas: Yeah, okay. And then do you think, how did you see the no code space? Because so far, let's say that as far as I understand, you're relying on the no code. So, you're relying on the no code space. market, people already knowing NoCo in order to get your customers. Do you think, how do you see the NoCo space evolving? Do you think everybody, just like, not everybody knows WordPress, but anyone that has done some web development knows WordPress. Where do you see the NoCo space going in the next year or two?
Michelle Marcelline: I think it'll be bigger and bigger. I think people, more and more people will know about no-cote because yeah, I believe that there are bigger chunks of people in this world who don't know how to code and they will continue to find a way on how to make a business.
Jesus Vargas: So you would still be targeting entrepreneurs and people trying to launch their product, their idea.
Michelle Marcelline: So entrepreneurs, creators, influencers and sellers.
Jesus Vargas: How do you think, sorry, we'll cut this part. I forgot what I was gonna ask. Oh, sorry, I spaced. I had a note here. Ah, okay, so restart. Okay, so next question is, you raised around a year or so ago. How do you decide on that? Probably what you do is hire people, hire engineers, grow your team. But I think that a lot of NoCo tools that are starting out, their users want a lot of features and you have to prioritize what to build or what to build first. what will get you more money, what will reduce churn. I think that's a very challenging part of no good founders like you and your team. How do you choose what to launch first and what to leave for later?
Michelle Marcelline: Correct. So we have a public community in which our community can ask for feature requests and upvote existing feature requests. So we just go by the number of upvotes. But aside from that, the founders also decide if the feature we're going to build is going to generate us money because in the early days, we focus on getting as many people as possible, as many users as possible, and not really about... reducing term in the early days.
Jesus Vargas: So let's talk about the Web3 story, because it's a good story.
Michelle Marcelline: Okay, yes.
Jesus Vargas: It's about a learning process that every founder goes through. So why did you decide to build in that space? What happened? Did you get problem market feed and then it didn't work out because the market didn't work out? Or we'll see the different reason.
Michelle Marcelline: Yes, so in Typedream, every time we make an effort, engineering effort and building a new product, we separate it into two big parts. The first one is the no-brainer features that we should have in order to reach feature parity with other website builders. And the second one is marketing efforts. And the marketing efforts, we usually ride the wave. So whatever is trending at the time. So initially we wrote the notion wave because notion was really... on Twitter and it worked for us.
Jesus Vargas: Do you think it is still as popular as it was a year or so ago or not so much?
Michelle Marcelline: Um, I think, I personally think the wave has gone down a bit because last time there were a lot of like Notion based website builders, so not Notion-like but built on top of Notion, like super.so, potion, and yeah other a lot, but now I don't see newcomers anymore.
Jesus Vargas: Right.
Michelle Marcelline: Um, yeah so... Yeah, we always ride the wave. So after Notion, we decided to try on Web3. And although it might look like a failure, it actually brought us a lot of revenue at the time for a really brief period of time, though. I need to disclose that. But Web3 Wave, so people were building a website to allow their customers to mint their NFT. And we decided to hop on that right away. built a functionality for them to be able to create a minting site, a lot of templates, and we got a lot of volume from that, although it only lasted for three months or something.
Jesus Vargas: But the product was there like anything blockchain related or was it just a landing page and templates built for that, for that space, for that market.
Michelle Marcelline: Um, so we built a template for NFT minting site, also a functionality for them to lock their page using NFTs tokens. So by locking meaning like putting a password on a page, asking people to log in, but with NFT ownership. Yeah, but
Jesus Vargas: hard to build that was like really advanced and you launch pretty fast.
Michelle Marcelline: yeah, we actually spent one to two months at least on that, but the wave only lasted for three months. So yeah, we didn't really reap any benefits from that feature, but the NFT landing page was a smaller feature, so we managed to get some from the NFT landing page.
Jesus Vargas: And what is the learning after that? Do you still like to follow that shiny object syndrome and build things for these things that go up and then maybe go down like the what three thing or. Like, are you planning to build anything right now with AI, AI related maybe?
Michelle Marcelline: Yeah, yeah. So until today, we still believe that we should still do two separate engineering efforts. One, the no-brainer features that we should have. And the second one, jump on the wave. Because if we don't do the wave thing and only build standard features, then there's no differentiator between Typedream.
Jesus Vargas: Yeah, it's hard to compete
Michelle Marcelline: and other website builder. It's just another website builder, right? So we need to keep on jumping on this wave until we have large enough audience to reach product market fit.
Jesus Vargas: Let's say that's an interesting strategy that I haven't seen anyone else do. How did you came up with that? Where do you see that? How do you learn to like that growth route? Where did it come from?
Michelle Marcelline: I'm not sure if we learned it from anyone. We just learned it from the fact that we jumped on the Notion bandwagon and it worked.
Jesus Vargas: Okay.
Michelle Marcelline: So, yeah, but I believe that we're not the only one doing that. Even Notion is also doing that. Notion is building Notion AI, right? So I believe every company still jumps on the bandwagon every now and then. Yes, so the new product that we're working on right now is Type Dream Payments and we are jumping on the Gumroad, all of the Gumroad issue. I'm pretty sure you've heard that Gumroad raised their prices too.
Jesus Vargas: So let me give a little context for whoever is not aware of that. Gumroad, which is a platform that allows you to sell mainly digital products like courses
Michelle Marcelline: Yes.
Jesus Vargas: and notion templates, stuff like that, raised their pricing, what, to 30%,
Michelle Marcelline: to 10% flat.
Jesus Vargas: a 30% fee? 10%. So they went from two or something to 10%, which a lot of people consider is a lot.
Michelle Marcelline: plus credit card fees. Yep.
Jesus Vargas: Right.
Michelle Marcelline: Yeah, that was a lot that freaked out a lot of people. So we thought why not just build a very simple payment feature for now, digital products only and just launch it so we can take some of the gumroad people.
Jesus Vargas: And when are you launching that? Is that already out? Look.
Michelle Marcelline: We launched a waitlist last week planning to launch the Alpha in two weeks.
Jesus Vargas: Okay, that's pretty cool.
Michelle Marcelline: Good.
Jesus Vargas: So moving fast and breaking things.
Michelle Marcelline: Correct, correct. Yeah, so for the marketing effort, we usually try to just release something, an alpha as soon as possible, test the market. If the wave works, then we focus, like we put more engineering effort on that to finally build a full blown product.
Jesus Vargas: Do you think if we look at, let's say, Webflow, they started as a marketing website builder in terms of there's not a lot of logic, there was none, there was no logic at all in their platform, and today they're getting into subscriptions, maybe, users, and adding more logic and functionality. like moving from website to app, right? At the same time, we see other platforms like, let's say, Bubble, it'll do a very good job, I think, in terms of creating landing pages. It's more a web app, it's more functionality. Do you envision
Michelle Marcelline: Mm-hmm.
Jesus Vargas: Typedream eventually going that route as well and adding logic and becoming like a more robust product in terms of functionality, user roles, stuff like that?
Michelle Marcelline: Yes, that part is always a thing. That's part of the like no-brainer engineering effort that we'll always do.
Jesus Vargas: Okay.
Michelle Marcelline: So we'll always build features that our users request. That's no-brainer that we definitely need to have.
Jesus Vargas: Great. We'll do another puzzle. We'll cut this as well. I have one more question. Okay. So final question. What do you, I mean, you have a lot of customers that are getting started that are creators. What, and you've probably seen a lot of websites built in Typedream of... successful business owners, creators, clients of yours, what would you suggest for someone getting into the no-code space and trying to launch their business, launch their idea, launch a product, et cetera? What have you seen consistently with your best clients, with the clients that are outliers in terms of growing, of getting users, getting revenue, et cetera? What do you think is the key? And what have you seen with your users at TypeScript?
Michelle Marcelline: So what's the key to what, sorry?
Jesus Vargas: What are the variables? What are the... So I'll make the question again and we'll cut it. So based on your users, on your clients, I would say that a lot of them use TypeDrop to create a website that puts them on the spot, like gets them users, gets them feedback, allows them to launch a product. And some of them, a few of them are successful, most of them are not, because that's the rule of life. What do you see the traits? What are the variables? What are the things that the successful clients of Typedream are doing that you see as a trend? And you say, oh, most people that do this or work this way or think this way or are in this industry, there are certain patterns, right? What patterns do you see in Typedream clients that makes them outliers in their space?
Michelle Marcelline: I would say the pattern that I see with Typedream customers is the same with Typedream competitors and this tech startup industry in general. So those who succeed market and build at the same time. So they don't waste three to six months building without ever validating the idea, without ever talking to anyone about what they're building. And then launching it after months and months of building with the hope of people really loving their product. I don't think that exists. What I see have been working is you talk, even talk about your product first before starting to build. Talk about the idea, validate the problem, and while building, keep on talking about the product with the target customers, involve the customers in all the process. continue collecting feedback and everything. And then once they launch, they already have a community or followers. So their launch is usually.
Jesus Vargas: That is great advice. And that's something that, yeah, that is something that everybody should do. They have to sell, they have to build. It's complicated, it's hard, especially for builders. They wanna build it, don't like marketing or sales. But yeah, you have to have both.
Michelle Marcelline: Correct, correct. I would say the biggest point on that is that a lot of tech founders, like solo founders are mostly technical developers and developers don't like to talk to other people, but yeah, marketing is really important. Talking to people, building a community.
Jesus Vargas: And I think that's part of your success at Tatrim. I see you guys doing a great job, terms of marketing, getting the word out there, while at the same time watching the features and ads.
Michelle Marcelline: Correct. ever since the early days when we got the idea, we tweeted about the idea right away, asked people for their thoughts. We interviewed people in the Notion communities to validate the idea. When we were building the MVP, we continued to loop in our potential customers, like what to build. Even down to a certain feature, if we want to build this, which one's better, A or B? We kept on looping in our potential customers.
Jesus Vargas: Yeah, that's great. That's great advice. Michelle, thanks so much for joining us today.
Michelle Marcelline: Thank you so much for the opportunity. Bye.