Following Alexander Kwamin’s recent visit to his local barbershop, the lead software engineer at Builder left with a fresh cut.
Meanwhile, his barber left with an app prototype.
“We were simply discussing my job, and the work I do around AI,” Kwamin said, referring to Builder’s platform that creates custom software solutions. “That’s when he told me about his idea for a service application and challenged me to pull out my phone and render an app.”
About 10 minutes later, they had developed a prototype that was about 85 percent complete using Builder’s Builder Now platform.
Builder Now, which launched in late 2019, gives people with an idea the ability to whip up a design concept before committing tens of thousands of dollars to the development process. It joins Builder’s existing solutions that use human-assisted AI that pulls reusable features from previous builds and then connects them with a network of developers to fulfill custom software requests for any new build.
“My barber had this idea for a while, which is representative of a lot of people,” Kwamin said. “They don’t think of the idea as rooted in reality, because traditionally, to get it past an idea the cost is high. This is precisely where Builder fits in.”
The new platform falls directly in line with Builder’s mission to democratize software development by making it accessible for everyone — not just those with technical expertise.
Builder is one of the first companies to use AI to develop prototypes in minutes from already established code. Despite Builder’s pioneering efforts, it’s the company’s transparent, guaranteed pricing that Kwamin thinks is most game-changing.
Crist joined Builder more than two and a half years ago as the company’s first marketing hire. Today, she leads as chief of staff. While plenty of low-code and no-code solutions exist today for app development, Crist says there’s huge market potential in industries like oil and gas where low-code solutions won’t meet industry needs.
Naseer tells his potential clients that unlike traditional methods, Builder doesn’t charge customers for every line of code. Instead, Builder charges customers for elements that are unique and proprietary to the client. “If we’ve already built a certain feature, it makes no sense to charge top value,” Naseer said.
Dissolving barriers to entry
If Kwamin’s barber pursued his app idea outside of Builder, he’d have few alternatives.
He could outsource software development to a freelance app developer using a gig platform like Fiverr. He could build an app through a low or no-code SaaS platform like Microsoft Power Apps, or he could work with a development agency.
Each route comes with its challenges. Freelancers can be unreliable with deadline deliveries, work quality and pricing. Low- to no-code software platforms often lack the ability to fully tailor an app, and agencies can deliver highly customizable requests at the expense of hefty prices and longer waiting periods.
“The barriers to entry today are cost, efficiency and know-how,” said Builder’s Chief of Staff Lauren Crist.
With Builder, however, users can quickly spin up prototypes using Builder Now by self-selecting items from an extensive menu of options and then create solutions through Builder Studio using already available build sets.
“We’re offering instantaneous realizations of full working products, so entrepreneurs can have them readily accessible as they’re either building their business or pitching a product idea for a campaign,” Crist said. “This allows for more emerging entrepreneurs across industries.”
If you’ve built a certain feature 100 times before, it makes no sense to charge the customer top value for that very same feature.”
They start by choosing what type of technology they want to build, like an app, a shopping platform or a wearable product. Then they drag and drop desired features from more than 500 commonly used items loaded on Builder’s platform, like email logins, review capabilities or shopping cart options — each priced accordingly.
From there, if users choose to move forward with the build, they set a timeline and hand it off to Builder’s human-assisted AI that runs point on the project, implements code from previous projects — if it already exists — and assigns to a team of in-network developers to finalize.
The entire prototyping process, which would normally take a couple of weeks, takes about 10 minutes — and it doesn’t cost the user anything upfront.
“The consumers we service mostly are those who don’t necessarily have the capital to engage formally with consultant groups,” Kwamin said. “We provide a service as though they have partnered with a consulting group by managing risk, cost overruns, and predictably building customized software that meets the need of executive specifications.”
Unlike more traditional methods of building software, Builder also shows users exactly how much it will cost to have their product shipped and refrains from charging clients for every line of code.
“If you’ve built a certain feature 100 times before, it makes no sense to charge the customer top value for that very same feature,” said Mikaeel Naseer, an account and partnerships executive for Builder. “We only charge you for what is unique to your application. That’s how we really bring down costs and timeline relatively significantly.”
The perfect time
In 2010, two years before Builder launched, about 400,000 apps existed on Apple’s marketplace.
Today, that number sits above 2.2 million, with about 20 percent of all app features making up 80 percent of all apps, like single sign-on abilities, payment functions and social integrations, Builder CEO and Co-Founder Sachin Dev Duggal told TechCrunch in November 2019.
“Ten years ago, we didn’t have an app for literally everything like we do today,” Naseer said. “Now is the time for a platform like ours that leverages existing code builds to democratize everyone’s and anyone’s software idea.”
In addition to inspired entrepreneurs, Builder has also caught the attention of departments within larger organizations looking to skip on corporate procedures and sign-offs in favor of less expensive, faster options.
BBC’s internal events team turned to Builder for what is now called the BBC Click Live events app, instead of allocating time and resources from their IT department.
We are moving into this new era of the way that we think, the way that we create and the way that we interact.”
“They came to us with an idea for an events app that would easily pull and engage with event attendees,” Crist said. “Within a few weeks, we built out a simple but effective application that would allow them to get real-time data, feedback and engagement with their audiences.”
NBC Universal and SXSW’s biggest invitation-only party Fader Fort, amongst many others, have also opted for the Builder model.
The company hopes to continue this momentum by expanding to new global markets over the next six months, iterating on its existing products, and targeting industries that have been slow to receive technical upgrades, like beauty and oil and gas.
Crist said they will also be increasing efforts to further promote the pursuit of turning ideas to reality through build-a-thons and partnerships at community-driven organizations and incubators.
“We want to drive the conversation around how we are moving into this new era of the way that we think, the way that we create and the way that we interact,” Crist said.