Websites are an inextricable foundation of the Internet as we experience it today. From facilitating business to personal use, a website is the fundamental form of digital real estate in our day and age. Some websites run on quick, easy-to-use templates provided by WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace, and others rely on Webflow for its deep customizability and advanced features. However, many are trying to build websites on Notion with difficulty. Michelle Marcelline, Kevin Nicholas Chandra, Putri Karunia, Anthony Harris Christian and Albert Putra Purnama noticed many people building workarounds to Notion’s limitations and created Typedream as the go-to tool. Typedream is a no-code website builder “that is easy as Notion and pretty like Webflow.” The startup is based in San Francisco and has previously raised venture capital funding.
Frederick Daso: What are the driving factors behind the bifurcation of easy-to-use template-driven website builders (e.g., Squarespace and Wix) and more complicated customizable options like Webflow?
Kevin Chandra: Website builders, like any other software, were born simple. They were meant to serve users with simple needs. However, as these users grow their business or audience, they need more features, and it is because of these features, complicated and customizable options like Webflow were born.
Initially, website builders were a tool built for the hobbyist, but as we entered an era where individuals, brands, businesses all need digital real estate, that no longer stands true. Website building became a job, and with the explosion of web designers and web freelancers, tools like Webflow were born.
Today, that choice is no longer binary. With the significant development in rich text editors and design tools, it is possible to combine easiness with customizability, and that is why we built Typedream.
Daso: Out of the hundreds of thousands of new websites launched every day, how many of these are not built on Squarespace, Wix, Webflow, and similar competitors?
Albert Putra Purnama: According to this source, only about 3.45% of the internet is built using CMS/website builders. This number shows you that most of the internet is still created through code, which most people in this world don’t know how to do. Therefore, there is still a lot of room for more no-code tools to help democratize the internet.
This is one of the reasons why we built Typedream; we wanted to help make website building accessible to everyone. The fundamental design of Typedream is based on one of the most ubiquitous software on a computer, a text editor. We want to make sure that there will be no knowledge barrier for creating a website.
Daso: How did you marry the concepts of ‘What You See Is What You Get’ and cutting-edge website design standards to produce Typedream? Which of these took priority during your initial phases of product development?
Michelle Marcelline: We drew our inspiration from Notion, where they paired the easy WYSIWYG editing experience with an opinionated design. It allows users to just focus on their content; however, we took it a step further and built a tool specifically made for building websites. We incorporated website building elements such as sectional templates, CTA buttons, embeds, and more into our rich-text editor. Beyond that, we made sure that our users will use the latest and greatest design trends, such as 3D assets and gradients.
We knew early on that we needed to nail the editing experience first. Hence, we took our time to talk to people who build websites on Notion and asked them how Notion’s editing experience swayed them away from using all the other website builders that exist today. We learned from them that typing a document is usually the first thing people do when they interface with a computer. Hence, we modeled our editor after MS Word, Google Docs, and Notion.
Daso: You’ve mentioned before that you and your co-founders have successfully worked on prior projects. How did those successes and failures from past collaboration shape how you all work together on Typedream today?
Anthony Harris Christian: We never succeeded; we failed so many times in the last six years. However, the lessons that we learned along the way led us to where we are today. We first came to the US as international students with 0 knowledge of how the tech industry works and 0 role models to draw inspiration from since there aren’t many Indonesian engineers or entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.
It took us five long years of building projects and tinkering together. Looking back, Steve Jobs’ famous quote, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.” is an accurate description of our journey. We kept building, not knowing where it could take us, but in retrospect, our previous projects did help us build Typedream.
We built Typedream based on our learnings at Cotter. Cotter is a passwordless authentication solution. We built Cotter based on our learning building a mobile application for developing countries. We got into YC wanting to build Robinhood for SEA. We were exposed to YC because of our experience working at a YC company. We got to work for that YC company because one of our projects were picked up by them.
The many failures that we had taught us that nobody knows how to be successful; it is just a matter of failing cheap, fast, and often. Luckily, in tech, we have the privilege to fail cheap and fast, which subconsciously leads us to do the right things. We’ve learned more than 1000 different ways to fail; today is just a matter of not repeating those mistakes, trying different approaches, and making new mistakes. Hopefully, we’ll run out of mistakes someday!
Daso: Why did you prioritize community building for Typedream? How have those efforts guided and shaped the technical development of the startup and your ability to sell to users?
Putri Karunia: The community is our moat, and they are going to take us a long way and build a meaningful business. We focus on building a community because we understand that the software is easily replicated in the world today. With a community-driven approach, our users help us prioritize the features we build and define our roadmap for the foreseeable future. Listening and observing our community also led us to see glimpses of what the web could be like in the next 5-10 years. We’re excited at the possibility of being able to do what Pixar did to animation, us to websites. Moreover, our users not only enjoy using the software, but also they also enjoy building and running their websites together with the community. We have made a place for them to easily ask for feedback and early support.
Typedream connects with its users through many memes; we even have a referral-like program which we named a simping program. Our community loves us so much that they helped us win Product of the Month on ProductHunt, and since we were able to connect with our users and craft a product that they and their friends want, we found it relatively easy to sell to them. This initial group of simps allows us to not compete on pricing but focus more on giving them as much value as possible.
Daso: What lessons have you learned so far in switching between key roles that a founder is responsible for in the earliest startup stages?
Chandra: Meaning a founder means that you need to do everything that pushes the company forward, which involves wearing many different hats. My co-founders and I mostly had a technical background, but when it came to building Typedream, we had to learn how to talk to users, market the product, nurture our community, among other things.
The most important lesson that I learned from switching between many different key roles is the ability to learn repeatedly. Learning involves finding the right mentors and content and putting in the hours to do put what you learned into practice. My co-founders and I have made so many mistakes that we are comfortable with being a beginner repeatedly.
Today, we have documentation for every role that each of us has taken before. The knowledge base that we have is to make sure that if we were to switch roles or pass a role to a future hire, he/she would be able to transition into the role fairly quickly.