No-Code & Low-Code Are A Competitive Advantage For Businesses Today.
Nanxi Liu is is the Co-CEO and Co-Founder of Blaze.tech, a no-code platform for building internal tools. She previously was CEO and co-founder of Enplug, which became one of the largest digital signage software companies in the world. Outside of Blaze, Nanxi serves on the board of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation and is an Emmy-winning television producer.
Her LinkedIn: /in/nanxi
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Nanxi Liu 0:00
But there are so many times when you're starting a company even years in, where you scratch your head, and you're like, Am I doing the right thing? Is this right? And that's going to be really frequent, it's going to happen a lot. But if you keep at it, and you're always learning, and you are making adjustments, that is what I define as the perseverance. And then of course, on top of that, I think it cannot be just counted the importance of positive energy to your team. Because if you as the founder, you're like, yeah, guys, I'm having a terrible Monday. I don't know if it's going to work. But alright, let's do it. It impacts the entire organization.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 0:43
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 podcasts 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 and use human creativity to change this world. Hello, my name is Aziz, and I'm your host that Better Automation podcast by PROCESIO 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 Nanxi Liu. Nanxi is the CEO and co founder of Blaze dot tech, and no code platform for building internal tools. What's special about Blaze is that it enables users to build complex applications and custom tools without writing any code. He previously was the CEO and co founder of EnPlug, which became one of the largest digital finance software companies in the world, outside of Blaze. Nancy serves on the board of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, and is an Emmy winning television producer. Nanxi, how are you today?
Nanxi Liu 2:18
I am doing really well. Thank you so much for having me, Aziz.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 2:21
I'm excited. I'm honored. And I'm ready to explore your mind. But first, how did the story or the idea of Blaze come to be
Nanxi Liu 2:32
Blaze started, because it was actually something that we always wanted at our last company. So the cool thing about Blaze, I'm really proud of our that the cofounders of Blaze are the same co founders I worked with at EnPlug, my last company. And so at our last company, you know, half of the team were engineers. And the other half were non technical people. Very, very talented. But you know, they didn't write more advanced code. And so they always had requests for building some kind of dashboard for various things that they needed. And we didn't have the engineering resources to always be able to very quickly build these types of internal tools. So my co founder design, naturally, we said, You know what, it'd be so awesome if we can just build a platform that lets non technical people build web applications and internal tools. And that's how they started,
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 3:24
I love that. Often, you know, you are your own best first customer. And when you find the problem that you face, it means other people face it too. Or as they say, the more personal a problem is, the more universal it can be. And then I will ask you something which puzzled me for a while. A lot of people say, Okay, if there is a lot of power in coding, whatever internal tools you have, but because of the way projects are conducted, you end up with bloated software that does a lot more than you need it to be. That is much more expensive and costly than you expect. While if you're using no code or something nimble like that, you can focus on thinking, Okay, what problems do we have right now, fixing those was lets you both create something lightweight and useful. Now. Is this an experience that you had you faced or you're aware of? And can you explain how can that happen? Because sometimes you might think well, coders have this kind of pride and saying with eight lines of code that can go something magnificent and magical and whatever. So how do both reconcile themselves? Absolutely. I
Nanxi Liu 4:40
think that's a great question. So for Blaze one of the things that we found for a lot of people that are using us is that they have very specific tools, they know exactly what they want, and they don't need to have all the bells and whistles. I'll give you an example. So we have a lot of customers that use us to build very Custom inventory management systems, right. And so there are a lot of existing off the shelf inventory management software that you can pack, but they're very expensive. And they are very complex, they have so many different things. And there is a learning curve to even using that inventory management system. And so for Blaze, what they've been able to do is just build exactly what they need nothing extra, keep it really simple, keep it basic. And I think that's the beauty of being able to have that custom internal tool, not having to worry about, you know, bugs in the system, when you're working with your own engineers,
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 5:36
thank you very much, that's actually very, very useful. And to add even more, you know, some people might think, because they didn't have those internal tools or dashboards, they want to create them. But it seems to me, one of the largest benefits are related but twofold. One, they are forced to think critically and look into the processes within their system. And therefore, they might think, Wow, this is useless and a waste or while we can do this so much better, which is forcing them to sit down and think, which is something that because we live in a world where everybody's rushing and busy. It doesn't happen, as well, as very importantly, it's seeing or having clarity or visibility into their processes. What's happening? And what is creating friction or a constraint or a bottleneck. Is this something that Blaze is being used for right now? Or, like, can you comment on this,
Nanxi Liu 6:37
what I have been super excited about is people are using blaze in ways I never thought about using lights. And that's the beauty of Blaze, we give you all of the backbone, and all of the components to be able to be really creative with however you want to build, you can bring in lots of external data, you can connect it together, you can create your custom dashboards, you can also use blades as your own database where we have tables and and lets you very easily visually manage all of your different customer data, vendor data, etc. One cool way that we were not intending for blades to be used this way is we have a client that has a paid subscription for kind of getting day trading tips. And so they actually built a dashboard, where anytime certain things, price movements on a certain stock happens. Then it says okay, now is the time to buy, or now's the time to sell. And they created this dashboard for all of his subscribers. And that was you know, not necessarily an internal tool that we ever thought, but that's what's possible with Blaze. And so when he built it and showed it to us, we're like, oh, wow, that's awesome. We never imagined it would be used that way. And that makes us really happy.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 7:49
Thank you very much. I mean, I love it when people innovate and create unexpected things. And that's how the world evolves, and new things are created that make life much better. And to ask you even more about Blaze, who are the targeted users? Can somebody without any technical skill use it or I have interviewed before the founder of a no code platform? And he said, Actually, you cannot just bring any person off the street. As he said to us and build apps, they need to have the foundation of computer science to understand how databases work, how all that stuff works for them to optimize it UX UI to have the foundation of everything. And all it does is it saves them time, while other people say, Look, we have been living in a technological world for decades, people have the right instincts to understand how the flow of software happens, how apps, you know, the different app displays or whatever, like the pages have, like are created and the flow of them. So anybody could be a citizen developer. What's your perspective on this?
Nanxi Liu 9:03
Yeah. So for Blaze we made it that you don't have to have any technical skills. You don't have to have a computer science background. You don't need to understand how databases work. All those things are great things to to have regardless, right. But it is absolutely not required. What I say is you know, I have a sister who is in college, she is a double major in public health and business. She hasn't taken any computer science classes, she can use Blaze, she can build a tool, she can build lots of different web applications. And again, you can just start it from scratch and build it and complete it in blaze without having to know any technical knowledge and that was something that was really important to blaze because we didn't want to have that learning curve where it takes a lot of time to figure out how to build a tool. We want it to be super simple and for you from day one to have the the confidence that you can build anything you want in place.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 9:59
Thank you And then I will ask you, in your perspective or opinion, what makes blades different from any competitors?
Nanxi Liu 10:08
Yeah, I would say one of the biggest differences for Blaze is that not only do we make it truly no code, right, there are some that are like no CO loco, but it's like, like you said, for other companies, that's like, actually, you still need to have some computer science knowledge for Blaze, you definitely don't have to. I think the other thing that makes us really special is a lot of times you have no code tools that only let you build very specific things. That's why it's no code, it has to be super simple. And there's a couple of use cases you can use that tool for. I think, for Blaze, what is incredibly exciting is that you can build very complex web applications, you can do calculations, you can have lots of different levels of user management and user access to your app. And again, all this no code. So we bring the benefits of having low code or code, right like, which means you can build very custom things, very complex applications. And we bring that with truly having no code and having a very easy, beautiful interface for you to drag and drop all the elements for your web web application.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 11:15
Thank you, Nancy. And I'm curious about another part of your experience or life, which is being a co CEO. And I'll ask two questions about it one, often they say if a ship has two captains, it will like not to work because people will butt heads and will have different visions. And harmony is very difficult. So how on first, why did you choose to have a co CEO like position where two people are being the CEO rather than one? How do you create harmony for it? And is it a better way, or it's just the way that you happen to stumble upon.
Nanxi Liu 11:57
So Tina, my co CEO, and I have been working together now for almost a decade, nine and a half years right now. So we started our last company together where I was CEO, and she was CTO. And we had an incredible partnership, we love working together. And we wouldn't have started this new company together if we didn't have that there already. And so I think going into building Blaze, because Blaze has a lot of you know, it is, ultimately we're doing lots of the technical work, she is that technical person. And I felt like it actually makes a lot of sense for us to be COSIA, where I'm actually the non technical person, she's the technical person, we need both to be able to build Blaze, our users don't need to have that. But for building the blaze product, we need to have that. And she's just been incredible co founder that I felt like it only made sense that we are co CEOs on. So I think you're right in that Cosio it can be very tricky, when you know they're stepping on each other's toes, and you have disagreements. But I would say Tia and I really don't, she actually really oversees a lot of the product and engineering team. And I manage all the sales marketing operations. And so that makes it really easy. But I fully trust her to manage run product and engineering. And she fully trust me to run sales, marketing operations. And because of that, I think there's really no kinds of conflict. I think any types of discussions, heated discussions that we get into is always really thoughtful ones where it's not really about not criticizing the other person, but really thinking deeply. Okay, what makes the next best step forward, you know, some kind of product feature or whatnot. But I think for a lot of times, it probably is very tricky, where if you haven't worked with somebody before, and maybe you've known them for a while, and then you're like, hey, let's start a company, let's be co CEOs, I can see how that can be really tricky, but because we've had nine year relationship, before starting place, where we really understand exactly how to work with each other and she truly at the last company wasn't just a CTO, she was really like my co CEO already at the company that it made sense for Blaze.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 14:13
Thank you. I have three questions that are popping onto my mind, but I'll begin with this one. You have been a successful founder for a long time you have experience with it with weathers starting something or growing it scaling it and even exit and all that. And therefore I would like to ask you what seems to be the biggest mindset problems or misunderstandings about business that stop do stop a lot of founders from finding success. What do they not understand assumed to be right while it's wrong or like hangups about money or whatever it is, that could be a cause that is unseen but very impactful to the success or lack thereof for founders.
Nanxi Liu 15:04
Yeah, I think a really important one is perseverance, I think is one that people don't really think about. So what does perseverance really mean? Perseverance means that you keep on going, but how do you keep on going, right? It's you have to be positive, you have to feel like it's going to work out. And every time there's a hurdle, you go, and you look for a solution to overcome that hurdle, rather than saying, Oh, wow, this is what's going to knock down, my company is not going to work out because, you know, we're running out of money. So it's not gonna work out now. Or we're not getting customers fast enough, it's not going to work out or right now my unit economics for my product isn't working out. So my company it just didn't work now is not, you know, it's not a good idea anymore. Now that I have this information. And I think, what I learned, and all of these things, these things I just listed, occurred multiple times at my last company running out of money, unit economics, not working out, customers not coming on board fast enough. All this happened. And I think the way to make it work is every time you come across one of these, you go and you find the solution, there is a solution to this. So for the money problem, it's the Okay, well, I need to either cut my expenses, or I need to go raise money, or I need to do both. So all right, I'm gonna go do that. The problem of unit economics, our business model, at our first company, when we first launched the company, it totally did not work out, we were actually a ad supported product. That didn't work. We were not good at selling ads. So then we made a software subscription. And that worked. And then the third problem, we're not getting customers fast enough that it was really looking at how we were doing our marketing and adjusting the budget, such that we were getting better. We were targeting customers and potential users a lot faster. But there are so many times when you're starting a company even years in, where you scratch your head, and you're like, Am I doing the right thing is this right? And that's going to be really frequent, it's going to happen a lot. But if you keep at it, and you're always learning, and you are making adjustments, that is what I define as the perseverance and then of course, on top of that, I think it cannot be discounted the importance of positive energy to your team. Because if you as the founder, you're like, yeah, guys, I'm having a terrible Monday, I don't know if it's going to work. But alright, let's do, it impacts the entire organization. And so one of the things that I'm grateful for is that I'm naturally a very positive person. And I didn't think that was such a big deal. But I'll be honest, my co founders, and, and Tina, my co CEO will say, you know, one of the best traits that I brought to our last company, is just the positivity even when things are not going well, that I was like, Hey, guys, like we can, we can do this. And I never thought in my mind that that would even be a skill at all, I felt for me, that wasn't, you know, that wasn't a valid skill, but from hearing from other co founders are like, actually, that really made a huge impact on us. And so I would say all those things I listed, I think goes under perseverance. And I think people don't realize that successful companies, it's not linear. It's not like I'm making progress. It's like, you know, you take one step back, and in some days, it's like three steps forward, and then sometimes it's like, you know, one step forward, and then like, five steps back, right. So it's constant ups and downs. And it's about how we manage these obstacles that I think that determine the success.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 18:41
Thank you. I love this very much. I have another question. Before asking you more about your experience. I want to know, Blaze, right now has a diverse set of customers, there is a lot of creativity going on. But who seems to be the largest number of clients that is attracted to blaze with like, what's the current problems that you're helping them fix right now?
Nanxi Liu 19:07
Yes, I would say there are two categories of customers that we're seeing a lot of traction with. So one set of customers are people that work at a larger company, and they are tasked with finding a better way to do their operations. And so they'll come and they say, you know, I know exactly what I need to solve one of the problems to optimize something in our team. And so I want to go and build that. And so that's one set of they already know, in their mind exactly the tool they want to build. And they may be looked at things that are off the shelf, and it's like it's not quite right, that's too complicated. It's too expensive. And then they'll land on Blaze and they're really happy with Blaze. And then the other side is we're actually seeing a lot of DEV agencies, you know, Dev shops, that they're building tools on behalf of their clients and they say no, the clients always had these, you know, small adjustments they want to make, here and there. And if we build it in a great no code tool, then they can actually make these adjustments themselves without having us get involved. We just want to build the, you know, the v1, and get all of that the skeleton there for their web application. And then they can further edit it without having to write code. And so we're seeing lots of customers in that category.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 20:21
Thank you, then I will have to ask you again, because something to dig deeper, I have interviewed one of the somehow founders of platform that is no code. And he was saying, Look, no code tools, there is like a big dilemma between power and simplicity, that nowadays, if we add more power, we lose simplicity. If we try to be simple to use, we lose power. And somehow, maybe in 10 years or whatever, with AI and all those technologies, we can reconcile them both. But currently, it's not really feasible in his perspective, or experience them building their own platform to have both and it keeps on tagging them. And both directions. It seems to me from what you're saying that you found a solution for that or that right now you combine power with very, very simple usage, interfaces, all that can you comment on this? Yes, I
Nanxi Liu 21:24
think going into Blaze, we had nine years of experience and building a technical product, but needing to make a technical product, really simple that anyone from an intern to the CMO to the head of engineering can go and use that product. So we I think came in with that kind of experience that really helped Blaze. And for Blaze, one of the things that we needed is to solve our own internal tools problem. And a lot of them were quite complex. And so we needed to have those features and functionality there. And paired with all the experience we had of UI UX, making a very simple, when you go into a place, it still looks very simple and clean. And we do a lot of work behind the scenes to make it such that it is simple, because it truly is the hard part. How do you build complex applications, and use a no code platform that is easy to use, that has very, very little learning curve involved. And that's the key piece. And we went into glaze with this intention. So we never went to the place saying, we're going to, you know, just build, be able to build these types of tools. We said, We want to build actually wide variety of internal tools that are complex. And we need to make sure it's easy. And because of that our CTO did incredible job building the architecture and the framework for our software to be able to do it. Because if you don't do that from day one, and you're building for, you know, a couple of years down the road to it's too difficult to change. And your users are used to the UI being a certain way before us intentionally from day one. We did that. And I think that's why it's worked.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 23:03
Thank you. And to ask in a more general way. Yes, you're focusing on being an a builder for internal tools for companies and all that. But as Ken about like more of the no code citizen developers can blaze do what bubble let's say does or any of those other competitors, like who could be your competitor, but not for that target market you're going for. But for people who are building an MVP for their own mini startup or, or something like that, so that they will test an idea before they commit to it. And it could be any kind of app rather than tool? Whether it's a web app or whatever they're creating?
Nanxi Liu 23:49
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 25:10
Thank you. I love what you're saying, and that you understand, of course, your product as well as your message very well. And one final question, how did your experience in television production either prepare you, for the business world or the tech world or made a part of you who you are today? Or was it actually you needed a lot of unlearning, in order to become a CEO, and the founder.
Nanxi Liu 25:39
Yeah, so the television production is actually what I do on the weekends for fun. It's something that I enjoy dabbling in, and it's a creative outlet. For me, I would say some of the similarities for starting a TV show, it's just like starting a startup company, where you have to bring together people, you have to figure out the right people to cast, you have to figure out if the script and the story and division makes sense, you have to go get it funded, then once you've made it, you have to go and find somebody to buy it so that they can go and stream it on, you know, different platforms, whether you want to put it out on movie theaters, or you want to put it on a streaming platform like Netflix or Amazon, you have to figure out all of those things. So what I like about it is it kind of is like bringing all of my experience and skills from the startup world and being able to apply it to a very different industry. Now, the things that are very different, and the things that I think, are very helpful, that, you know, helped me in my company on a day to day basis is, when working in the entertainment industry, you come across lots of different personalities. And you're coming across very, very diverse people all the time in on different projects, you're oftentimes working with a totally different cast, right. And so to be able to communicate the vision that you have of what you want this plot to look like or what you want these scenes to be. And so I think communication, and being able to realize that different people hear and learn in different ways and be able to share that message. So I bring it into glaze, because I'm always talking to different types of users and customers are building different things. And I need to be able to immediately pick up okay, what is the problem that they're looking to solve? And then how do I communicate what glaze how to use glazed and how to leverage blaze in the easiest way for them to understand.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 27:28
Thank you that was very well said. And to end this, can you just share about Blaze with full details that we might not have clarified? What is it really? Where can people find out more our work and they tested or theory results and case? Use Cases? All the information? And I'll make sure to write the website and the episode description? Yes, absolutely.
Nanxi Liu 27:53
We have lots of examples on our website, which you can go to www dot glaze dot tech. And you can sign up for a demo, you can see the platform in action. And then there's no cost to go and try and build tools in Blaze. I would say the best things to build in place anything related to improving the internal systems and operations of your team. If you want to empower them to be more productive, you want to give your team a way to be able to do more and to empower them to build web applications without code then definitely check out Blaze.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 28:27
Thank you so much. And before we finish, of course, I have to highly recommend PROCESIO which is what makes this podcast possible. PROCESIO is the modern local, no code platform for advanced automation and creating an enterprise grade back end for your software. Any person can request access to a totally free account at PROCESIO.app. And for those with higher business needs. In this podcast, there is a very, very generous exclusive 50% discount code which is BETTER50OFF one word in capital letters. You can use it at processor dot app. More information in the description. Nancy, this was my pleasure, my honor, a great great conversation and keep going. You know and I wish you success with plays.
Nanxi Liu 29:17
Thank you so much Aziz. This was fun.