Building software for the 99%

Building software for the 99%

Benoit, Co-founder & CEO

15 Nov 2023

Software is everywhere and has become critical in driving great customer experiences and running efficient operations.

Every industry, from retail to manufacturing, from healthcare to finance, has been transformed, and often disrupted, by the march of technology. This means that in addition to mastering the nuances of their industries, businesses must also excel at using, and often building, software.

Unfortunately, so many businesses struggle to see a meaningful impact from their software investments. Launching a new product or feature can take months and you will often hear leaders getting frustrated by the apparent opacity of the software development process.

The reality is that for each new product feature or internal tool, developers are having to spend time managing a huge amount of stuff that sits under the water line. Things like auth, infrastructure, monitoring, 3rd party integrations, and so on… All necessary but generic elements that are identical across all products and industries.

The $5Bn developer tools market is improving quality of life by productising each part of the stack, and providing developers with easy to use abstractions. This is certainly helping, but development teams still have to assemble these components together and that “glue” can still result in a lot of custom code that needs to be written, tested, and maintained. In the pursuit of having a flexible tech stack many teams unwittingly become consumed with the busywork and distracted from the primary purpose: solving business and customer problems.

Meanwhile entire departments in the organisation are waiting weeks or months for customer-reported bugs to be fixed or operational efficiency quick wins. They are left with no choice other than to seek out their own tools and processes.

The $10Bn no-code market is built around the premise that you can do anything with a spreadsheet if you really want to. Whether you need to gather and exploit data through Airtable or automate workflows using Make, you can go a very long way by cobbling no-code tools together. Empowering the problem owners is definitely the right approach, but solving problems in isolation from the wider picture will always result in fragmentations. Over time it will lead to inefficiencies and even security gaps, eventually damaging customers experience and trust.

That’s not the only challenge. The power of code is unlimited flexibility. Once you negate that, you’re only left with the use cases that have been designed and coded for you in advance. When it works no-code feels truly magical. But when it doesn’t you hit a wall and it always falls back onto the development team to pick up the pieces and figure out cumbersome customisation hacks to keep the wheels spinning. Once again preventing problems from being solved at the root.

A successful business is one that has problem owners (business stakeholders) working alongside problem solvers (developers), figuring out the right solutions together.

To do this businesses need to:

  1. Minimise the amount of time developers need to spend on work that doesn’t directly add value to the business a.k.a busywork

  2. Give non-technical people the tools that help them do their jobs more effectively, without needing to call on “IT-support”

  3. Encourage everyone in the business, including non-technical folks, to have an understanding of the key data models and business logic, so that there is a shared language with which to communicate

Where it all began

Tom, Jon and I met each other at Echo. A pre-revenue London based start-up that has since become LloydsDirect. By the time we departed we’d built a team that shipped 50,000 packs of medicine every day and a product that was used by 600,000 patients. We led the company through the Covid pandemic where we grew 10x in 18 months, and ultimately scaled the business to £100m annual revenue.

This was an exciting, sometimes terrifying, and always humbling journey. One thing is certain, we wouldn’t have been able to keep delivering for our patients when they needed us the most had we not had the right foundations in place to successfully leverage software.

As a top-tier VC-backed company we had the luxury of toying with various options when it came to our tech stack, organisation and processes. From our humble beginnings on Firebase, to the services architecture we ended up with - like so many other teams we chased our ambition to build software the “right way”, which mostly meant using the tools that the FAANG’s and other high-growth unicorns advocate for. After all these teams have built amazing things - surely it makes sense to follow in their footsteps?

But these are teams of hundreds, if not thousands, of developers. They are the 1% (probably less) and so for the majority of (much smaller) teams, trying to follow their lead can be a huge rabbit hole. But we were determined to not become consumed with the busywork and were ruthlessly focussed on impact.

Realising that allowed us to come up with three principles that were instrumental to our ability to scale at the pace we did:

  • Simple is better than clever. No-one cares about your fancy tech stack. Keep it simple, avoid the busywork, and focus on having a positive impact on customers

  • Power to the people. Never forget that it’s the operators, the customer service teams, the people on the ground that keep a business running - support them

  • Knowledge is power. Encourage everyone to understand how things like data models and business logic work and build a shared language

We are building Keel so teams from all backgrounds and industries, a.k.a the 99%, can stop being slowed down by their software, and start being empowered by it. Keel gives you:

  1. A full production backend, starting from just one file, that is unapologetically code-first for unlimited flexibility

  2. Internal tools that work out-the-box so operators and problem owners are empowered to do their job from day one

  3. An accessible way for all team members to collaborate with always up-to-date knowledge and context around the data model and core business logic

We believe every business is unique, but the tech that powers it rarely is. It’s the culture, the people, and the product that make a business what it is, that make it successful. We want every business to be able to focus on these things and not get lost in the woods. Keel gives you everything you need to build software for a successful business - the question now is what will you build?

Together, we build world-class products

Join the waiting list for early access to Keel

Together, we build world-class products

Join the waiting list for early access to Keel

Together, we build world-class products

Join the waiting list for early access to Keel