Noloco: Helping SMEs build internal apps without coding

19 Jun 2023

Co-founder and CEO Darragh Mc Kay. Image: Noloco

Founded by Darragh Mc Kay and Simon Curran, the Dublin-based automation start-up has cracked the code to business success without technical expertise.

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“Hundreds of thousands of small to medium-sized businesses worldwide are run by smart, savvy, but non-technical people,” says Darragh Mc Kay.

“Until now, without the ability to code, business owners have been restricted to off-the-shelf software that often constrains their business and their workflows.”

While the ability to code is a great skill to have, Mc Kay does not think it is essential to running a successful business. And this is made possible through no-code and low-code applications such as Noloco, which Mc Kay co-founded two years ago and now leads as CEO.

A remote-first company based in Dublin, Noloco takes data from an SME and transforms it into a custom app to optimise your business without needing to get lost in the weeds of technicalities.

“Noloco lets business owners, operations managers and any other team member craft the custom business applications they need to run their businesses and teams efficiently,” explained Mc Kay, a graduate of computer engineering from Trinity College Dublin. “You can easily create internal tools, client portals, CRMs and other business tools that perfectly fit your business’ workflows.”

One app to make them all

On the surface, Noloco looks like any other “boring SaaS application, with servers and an app, but that is by design, as all of the complexities are hidden from our users,” Mc Kay explained.

“The no-code engine allows users to configure the app’s interface and interactions through a point-and-click interface, and then our application knows exactly how to build their app.”

Through a series of integrations with Airtable, Xano, Google Sheets and SQL Databases, Noloco syncs data to a central database in real time. “This is incredibly challenging but it allows our users to do consistent filters, permissions and allows us to maintain reliable performance.”

After finishing college, Mc Kay joined the HubSpot office in Dublin as a software engineer, where he learnt how engineering teams work at scale to provide technology for SMEs. But it wasn’t too long before Mc Kay caught the start-up bug – in his own words – and joined Inscribe. While at the Y Combinator-backed AI start-up, Mc Kay got a sneak peek into the early-stage start-up life.

And so, when Covid-19 struck in early 2020, Mc Kay was inspired to throw his hat in the ring. He began meeting college mate Simon Curran on Zoom to discuss ideas for a start-up. Having first met in the Entrepreneurial Society at Trinity, the two went on to found Noloco.

“All we ever talked about was start-ups, ideas, problems and ways to solve them,” Mc Kay said. “After a few weeks of calls, we started thinking more and more about the possibilities of allowing non-technical people like Simon to be more independent in their roles, and build more custom tooling, dashboards and workflows, without needing to lean on developers.”

A CEO with an engineer’s mind

Since then, Noloco has found its way into the Y Combinator programme, raised seed funding and grown its team to meet customer demand. And while Curran recently stepped away from Noloco for personal reasons, the company is in good hands with former CTO Mc Kay now at the helm.

Revenue-generating from the very beginning, Noloco today has a “small but mighty team” of three engineers and one team member focusing on customer activation.

But like any other start-up, Noloco’s journey has not been without its challenges. Since going through Y Combinator in 2021, the company has pivoted its focus twice. “Deciding to pivot is never easy, but it’s clear it was the right decision now,” said Mc Kay.

“For me I love engineering, it’s something I’ve been doing as a pastime for over 10 years now, so it’s challenging knowing it’s no longer part of my role,” he went on. “That said, I think having an engineer’s perspective gives me an advantage, I can look at problems and identify ways to automate them or solve them in a unique way.”

With new responsibility in his hands, Mc Kay is all set to continue Noloco’s journey towards becoming the primary platform for building custom business applications.

“Less than 1pc of the world’s population can code, and with advancements in AI and no-code technology like Noloco, we don’t see why that number should increase,” he said. “This leaves a huge opportunity for smart, driven people to build the tools they need for their business or team, without ever needing to think about learning to code.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic