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May 30, 2022

E032 Christian Barra: Founder @ Tresorbase & EpicSheet

No-Code/Low-Code Empowers Non-Technical Employees To Do A Better Job & Developers To Become Much More Efficient.


Christian Barra is a Developer turned founder, he is in love with automation and on a mission to demystify technology for a broader audience
Currently, Christian is Building Tresorbase, handling Accounts Payable & Receivable for high-volume B2B companies & EpicSheet, adding API and SQL superpowers to spreadsheets.
Twitter: @christianbarra
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Transcript

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 0:07
Once upon a time, there were millions of businesses struggling. Every day they wasted time, effort and money on repetitive tasks that added no value one day, the Better Automation podcast by PROCESIO came to help them find a way. Because of this, these businesses save time, reduce costs, innovate, and make better decisions because of that. These businesses grow, prosper, scale, and use human creativity to change this world. Hello, my name is Aziz and I'm your host that better automation podcast by process co where I interview the world's top experts and share their very best ideas on how to improve automation in your business, processes. And life. My guest today is Christian Barra. Christian is a developer turned founder. He is in love with automation and on a mission to demystify technology for a broader audience. Currently, Christian is building Tresorbase handling accounts payable and receivable for high volume b2b companies, and Epicsheet, add an API and SQL superpowers to spreadsheets. Christian, how are you today?

Christian Barra 1:32
I feeling pretty good today. Thank you.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 1:36
I'm honored and privileged. And to begin in a very, very basic way that is useful to everyone who might not know what it is everybody's hearing low code, no code and all that. If you're to explain low code to a business that is interested in digital transformation and automation, what would you say?

Christian Barra 2:01
That's a really good question. Well, let's say that you're trying to bring some digital innovation. So you've company one of the ways in which you could do that is by hiring developers or people they're somehow or used to work with low level technologies, programming languages, and these sort of things. But while they're expensive, and they're really on demand right now, so maybe it's not a good option. Now a good option is just use a software that will just simplify the kind of automation that you want implement. So that's probably a good definition for low code or kind of software use cases.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 2:38
Thank you. And I'll play the devil's advocate a little bit, where business users are those who are interested in digital transformation. And they want to use developers or low code, when they will say, look, local does not for anybody, you need a developer in order to use it. So like, what's the big deal about it, I don't care what tools there'll be using the developers as long as they will be able to give me the result I want. So what would be your comment on this?

Christian Barra 3:11
I mean, no code a local, they're not just for the school them like non technical people. But I mean, they're also super useful for technical people just to speed up the development process. Because even if you're a developer, like writing code, still requires a lot of time. So it's really something that I recommend for any kind of company, whether you have developers or not.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 3:35
Yes, I was speaking with someone who was speaking about the power of low code in a more strategic and big picture way, where he was saying, we're moving into a world where you need to constantly innovate in order to survive, even in the marketplace. And this constant innovation can happen every day, where you're required to adapt to the new trends to the different desires of the people, the way that the customers, their brains are reprogrammed for instant gratification and fast things. And therefore you need a solution, like with no code or no code, so that you get feedback from the marketplace on what is working and what is not. And implemented into your software or business model, almost instantly. And that's the power that, you know, compared to doing the code manually, that can take longer, you need to be constantly adapting. Do you agree with this? Because someone, en when I asked him about this, he said, Well, if this happens, I'll just retire because it sounds so stressful, while other people said, this is the future we're going towards to anyway. So what's your perspective on this?

Christian Barra 4:46
I mean, I agree that is this is a future where we're going anyway. Like the barrier of technologists just lowering but they're still there. And I mean, every company is always going to be at that company, whether we like it or an answer, that kind of tiny car liter of "C" is going to be needed, whether you like it or not like, I mean, if you want to sell something, now you need to sell a line, because that's what the user experience. If you accept payments, you're somehow, like accepting credit cards, whether online or on your physical store, it's their whole required like, you cannot escape that, whatever you want to call it, the technical requirements are like the future in that sense.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 5:33
Thank you. And you mentioned the power of low code and no code for tech people and non tech people. Some people actually say, it's not really that powerful or useful for non tech people, because non tech people will create bloated software, the databases will be too slow. They don't know what they're doing. They don't understand the logic of creating an app. And therefore, all that you're creating is something that is useful for developers who will want to speed up the process of their work, while the citizen developer dream is just a dream. Do you think this is true? Or what's your thought on this?

Christian Barra 6:12
No, I don't think that's, I mean, I don't agree with that. I mean, first of all, I, I think, also developers, they're gonna build up like a slew of databases application. I mean, it's, it's not just a matter of knowledge, it's also a matter of knowledge about the thing that you want to build. So sometimes, it doesn't make any sense to spend six months to build the perfect software just because you don't know what you're supposed to build. And using the software solution that can just speed up this process, it's absolutely invaluable.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 6:47
Thank you. Another thing that I noticed, and I know you want to say something, but you're a developer, you're turned a founder who's helping creating no code solutions, or with a little bit of code or whatever, what I spoke to multiple people, what they say, and their blame, or the gripe, or whatever, on hiring developers, is that they create projects that end up with too many features that are useless with things that go out of scope, and they end up spending too much money on, on projects that are not really useful to them. One of them was Chad, who's rebuilding all the software in his business using no code, because what he said, We will focus specifically on what we need. So when we need something, we can easily build it. And the people who will be building it are the business people or the people who understand how the business is working. And therefore they streamline their processes, they end up with software that is lean, and useful, while developers who might not understand the business will create a big Frankenstein monster that is hard to use, and has too many features that are useless. Do you think this is the reality? Is this correct? And if so, what's your perspective on it?

Christian Barra 8:05
I mean, I think it's, it's the reality, many companies, if you detach have put too much distance between the development of your products and business, then like the developers will just they do what they're supposed to do, which is build whether they build something useful or not. So I mean, I think that's, like management problems. And, sure, I mean, you can avoid this problem by using like SaaS solution or low code or no code. But sooner or later, especially if your company is growing, and you need to integrate whatever you're running with custom solutions. So I mean, you're mainly sidestepping the problem the beginning, okay, don't want to deal with developers. But sooner or later, it's something to have.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 8:49
Some people, though, will disagree, because they're saying that no code and local solutions are moving in a way where literally, at some point, they will be able to replace the need for writing code manually in any way that they're not there yet today, but in the future, they can get there. Do you agree? Or do you think, really, it's just a myth or a branding or a marketing idea, but in reality, it's not the truth.

Christian Barra 9:19
I mean, it could be, who knows. I mean, right now you have AI that can generate some old code. So it can rise more or less like a developer. But even in even if in the future, like the no code, low code, tools to kind of get better. You still need developers to write these tools.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 9:38
I understand what you mean. That's really well said. One of your goals that you're working on is demystifying technology for a broader audience. Why is that important to you? And is it easy or is it really challenging?

Christian Barra 9:55
That's a really good question. So for me, it's really important Because to not today, you read I mean, writing code or using technology properly is like almost like reading and writing my 50 or 100 years ago. So it's, it's really fundamental, otherwise, we're gonna have a big group of people that is, we just, it's just going to be kept out from innovation, a lot of positive things that technology can bring. So it's really important to try to explain and try to bring as many people as possible inside the innovation that technology can bring. So they need to become not just users, not just consumers, but I mean, creator or like user proper users, technology, in a more general sense,

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 10:44
Thank you. And I'll play the devil's advocate a little bit by saying, look, and no code community, or many developers, they create projects and tools that the business use case is not there, they just think it's cool, or they want their own version of something that already exists in the marketplace, which means it's not competitive. So some people will go the extra mile and say that technology skills are not really valuable. They're just a tool. It's the skill to find the pain in the marketplace. And to figure out the idea, that is the rare skill that is worth everything. And therefore, if people have to choose, they should spend more time market researching, learning about business about positioning business models and all that. And you can hire any time developers for much cheaper than you, you know, it will cost you if you will build something that will literally get you bankrupt in the marketplace. What do you think about this?

Christian Barra 11:48
Well, I think it's a really hard trade off for balance that you need to do. I was watching a video I think the other day from the founder of SaaStr.I think his name is Jason Lemkin. And he was saying, like, if you're a company, as a CEO, and here's an article, that guy are attending Cargill, I'm not going to fund it. And the reason is like, the bar right now to build any kind of product is so high on the clinical perspective that you either are technical or you need to become technical. And I mean, doesn't mean that you need to be a developer, but you need to truly understand technology. So sure, I mean, learning about marketing and talking to your customers, is fundamental. But you also need to know and use technology properly. It's not something you can outsource.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 12:43
Thank you. And another thing, which is somewhat known within the marketplace, that many companies, you know, founders and startups and entrepreneurs, they're pioneers, they love new, shiny things, new exciting things. And what happens is, they will get so many tools they will use, I don't know epic sheet, they will use Tableau, they will use everything that they have. And they end up with a stack that is full of tools. And they're not using any of them that well, because they're excited about like the next thing and they don't want to spend that time you know the difference in personality between a starter and someone who finishes projects? Do you? Do you think there is a benefit to this? Or is the marketplace going to move? I will ask it specifically, do you believe that the marketplace will continue to provide for this where there'll be more choices about very specific niche needs, or that in the future people will just run out of money? And they will think I want one tool that does everything? Because I cannot afford the monthly subscription for 1000 things?

Christian Barra 13:53
I mean, I think that after a period of expansion, basically severe consolidation, I mean, you can see this in different, like sector of the market, whether it's marketing tools, or ultimately now your sector so. So yeah, there is always an explosion in tools, especially when some technologies push in that direction, like simply for like, no, no code, the local platform. But I mean, at the same time, you're trying to use them because they have some value to ensure trying and the shiny thing syndrome is always there. But at the same time, you should get something back, not just training tools.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 14:29
Thank you, and you're a founder, you're putting like your investment and your effort into creating no code tools and entering the market space. There is this economical thought or a way for entrepreneur in entrepreneurial science to choose a niche, which is to think, is there one company that is able to exceed a billion dollars dollars within that niche? If not, then it's not a good niche. It's too fragmented and There are not like big winners. And if you look, you look at no code and low code. There is not like one company, okay, there are big brand names, but there isn't one company that is like a Tesla or Microsoft or anything like that. So when judging by the no code, low code marketplace, is it still in the hobby hobby stage where the companies are still maturing? Or maybe it won't even grow further than what it already arrived to? Or do you see this is just the first steps and in the future, with people like you demystifying technology, the market will grow so big that every person can become a citizen developer, who has the fundamental understanding of technology, to build something with all the tools.

Christian Barra 15:52
I think that I mean, the way in which you evaluate the market right now. And you like to dress the bull market, it's probably different for, like new pull ups from like, low code, or no code platform, specifically, just because you can bring a lot of user that until now, they were just outside. So I mean, if you think about no code, a little platform, I mean, your your time, your total addressable market is probably all the extra users, because anyway, you're doing some sort of automations there. So I mean, the market is pretty big, and then you can niche down. But I mean, any kind of user using a computer or laptop, probably if it works with their computer, as well, and it's some sort of automation. So I think that platform would just get bigger, maybe there's going to be some consolidation. But I don't think that the market is small, it's probably growing just just getting bigger. And, again, you don't need to be a developer, all you need to come from a developer background. But if you think about sales department or finance department, I mean, they're entirely built on technology. They couldn't do what they do now without knowledge. And they're just more demanding, because they're thinking and knowledge is just increasing. So they want to do more. But yeah.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 17:18
Thank you. And I'm sure this will be instructive to the viewers. And I'm really curious about it personally. How did you come up with the idea for Tresor base? And for epic sheet? What's the story?

Christian Barra 17:34
Yeah. So behind Tresorbase, which is our main project right now was, we just started having conversation with customers trying to understand their pain points. And one of the common answer that we hear from them was, I mean, we, we have a lot of consumption and during speaking with, like, when you have requirements, because we need to run the company. So we need to get in for is we need to pay invoices, and all these sort of things. We have technical solution, they just don't work well. So yeah, I mean, we will consider, I mean, we have a status quo that works more or less, but we are looking for something different. And the other curious thing was, I mean, finance people, you're probably clauses, like the cousins of developers, because they do a lot of automation, they work with SQL, they somehow they need to know SQL. I met like finance managers that they were coding, just because they want to, they wanted to automate a lot of things. So for them, like the bar is already pretty low, they just need a better tools, we'd probably where they can have more freedom. So that's that's pretty much the story behind treasure base. And the story behind APG is, I mean, a lot of the biggest companies, and not just be they run on spreadsheets. And it's a super powerful tool. But if you compare it to what you can do, as a developer with a programming language than they did, they, I mean, especially they just could kind of stand the the comparison. But if you have a few, like features to a spreadsheet, if you like make especially epic, then there are a lot of things that you can do. I mean, you can build a pie, you can put data directly inside, especially as you prefer. I mean, you can connect and automate a lot of things. Just if you have a few more things that currently are missing. And people are, I mean, the literacy about Excel or spreadsheet. It's a 90% of the population. So again, number of users that might require this, this sort of thing. So it's pretty pretty, pretty big. So that's why that's how we decided to build this this two different things.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 19:48
Thank you. I love your comment about finance people and how they're the closest to developers and all that. So I'll have to ask you, because also an entrepreneurship or advice Is to no coders who want to create something is telling them choose a market that you already know. Because you will know the problems, you will understand the people and all that, but you are not a finance person. So do you believe it's better to go into a niche that you don't know so that you have fresh eyes and you see the assumptions that everybody is unaware of, because you're not part of the market. And therefore you can have an innovative perspective, or, for new founders, you recommend to stick to a hobby or something that they already know a lot about so that they understand the market? Well.

Christian Barra 20:41
That's a really good question. And they do have a convenient, so I think that you might be lucky. And whatever you're focusing on is going to be successful. Whether it because you build something for you, or because you had the right idea at the right time. But if that doesn't work, the only solution that you have is to get to know your customers wherever they are, and build something that is useful for them. And if you're not lucky, that's the only way in which at the end means spending time with your customer. So I think that the only requirement that you really have is to love your customers, because you're going to spend a lot of time with them. So I don't think you need to have previous knowledge. Also, because when you start with something, then after six months, you're probably going to build a different solution for the problem that initially, you thought you had. So as many of you have said before me, like, we don't fall in love with a problem, because probably you're gonna discover something new, but you need to love spending time with your customer, because that's going to be there, where they're going to be the rest of your life, whether you're going to sell your company a couple of years, but you need anyways, spent a lot of time with them. So I don't think that having previous knowledge is fundamental, but you need to be right to spend a lot of time with them.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 22:02
Thank you. And so since you're demystifying technology for normal people, how do you demystify humans to technical founders or developers who, even if they spend time with people, they might think about it from a logical sense, while humans are very emotional animals, and therefore, even if they spend time get to know them or love them, they might bring a logical solution to a logical problem that doesn't resonate with anybody because humans respond to emotions. So to you what to look for, let's say someone is a techno, technological kind of founder, they spend all day coding. So they're training their brain to be in that logical mode, in order to fall in love with humanity in order to understand humanity, and demystify people to them.

Christian Barra 22:54
I mean, if you're a funder, probably, I mean, maybe you want to get rich, and that's a problem. That's, that's okay. But probably another good reason to become a fund is because you want to be helpful and help someone else fix a problem. So I think there is already a lot for managing, like funders, and especially technical people. They just need to be more open. And yeah, but even even if they're, they feel weird about get connected to people having like, kind of conversation with people about problems. I think that's something that you just need to start, and it's gonna get better with time. But yeah, like, Don't Don't be afraid to, you know, leave your office or leave your desk,

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 23:38
Or use Zoom. I'll ask you. One final question. And I'm curious about it. Because a lot of the founders come into the space with this imaginary idea about the importance of getting VC funding VC money, while experienced entrepreneurs will say, if you deal with VCs, you won't really end up with much money or control over your company. But at least you'll build the reputation so that your second startup will be like will bring you some money, while others will say I will never ever deal with VC money. Because I want to have control, creative control over everything. I can bootstrap and lead the startup fund itself, especially now, where it seems because of the possible recession, a lot of VCs are not writing as many checks as they used to. And before that, also, they invested in too many startups that they shouldn't have invested in but everybody was excited. So what's what's your thoughts on this?

Christian Barra 24:44
I mean, if you look at the recent IPO some I guess some of them were really pumped in DC or pretty much like drunk. But I mean, that's that's the market but I mean, from my perspective, VC capital is like a tool you need just need to understand Whether is the right tool for you or not, it can be expensive, because you're going to take a chunk of your company. But depending on the company you're trying to build, maybe it's the only option if you didn't have any matter what you're finding yourself. But I mean, especially right now, I mean, my case is different, because we are both like both technical co founder. So I mean, we don't have to pay someone else to build a company. But yeah, I mean, there are so many different options right now. So, again, we see, I think that we see, capital, I mean, that you see, in general, it's important, but not about the money. Like if I ever consider getting VC money, it's not because of the money itself. It's more about the group of people, I can get in touch with mentorships access to other companies, because probably they are board members of other companies. So I think this is much more valuable than just my self. And so yeah, we'll just be really careful about getting money. I mean, that like like you mentioned, dilutions is a big problem. So until probably you have market feet, or you're making money, so you're not depend on VC money to survive. Just wait for that.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 26:13
Thank you, Christian. This was really a wonderful conversation. It was my privilege. And my honor. And if viewers want to get in touch with you to learn about your projects to know where you are, can you share some links some information? And I'll make sure to write some of them in the description.

Christian Barra 26:32
Yeah, sure. I mean, the best way to get in touch with me is using either Twitter. I think you can find my handle in the chat or on LinkedIn. So I will be happy to connect with other founders or, you know, people in tech. Yeah. And you listen.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 26:52
Thank you. And for all the viewers of course, I recommend to read their goals of being non tech founder or even a tech founder is PROCESIO. PROCESIO is the modern low code, no code platform for advanced automation and creating an enterprise grade back end for your software. Any viewer can request access to a totally free account at PROCESIO.app. And for those with higher needs, who want to upgrade there is a very generous offer of 50% off if you use the code BETTER50OFF one word in capital letters, more information in the description. Thank you again, Christian. This was my privilege and keep going and keep building.

Christian Barra 27:40
Thank you. My pleasure as well. Have a nice one.