Great ideas can come from anywhere. But, if you have a great idea for a mobile app, you won't get far without developer talent. In today's app market, there are so many ideas in various stages of development that developer talent has become scarce and costly. To fill the gap, low-code and no-code solutions have emerged.
Thunkable is a no-code platform that makes it easy to build custom native mobile apps without any advanced software engineering knowledge or certifications. The platform has seen tremendous growth, recently expanding to more than three million users. MongoDB has been pivotal to that growth, enabling the company to offer its services at scale without having to worry about managing the database. Thunkable is also part of the MongoDB for Startups program, which has helped the company solve some of the technical hurdles involved with scaling to millions of users.
App creation for everyone
Just because you don't have a computer science degree doesn't mean you can't come up with a great idea for an app. Thunkable co-founder and CTO, Wei Li, says the company is on a mission to democratize mobile app development. "We are currently empowering more than three million users across the globe that can come to our platform to build and publish their apps and do it without writing a single piece of code," Li says.
Thunkable uses a simple drag-and-drop design canvas and powerful logic blocks to give innovators the tools they need to breathe life into their app designs. "It's very exciting seeing people from all different backgrounds trying to build solutions," says Jose Dominguez, engineer at Thunkable.
"The part that I'm most proud about," says Li, "is our global users. Every day, I hear wonderful stories. For example, we recently have had people using our platform to build mobile apps to coordinate relief efforts in Ukraine. And since the pandemic, we have seen more users coming to our platform to build an app that addresses their needs for work, family, and community."
Mobile phones are a transformational technology, but at the same time, there's untapped potential waiting to be exploited. Li believes Thunkable can help unleash the latent power lurking in our back pockets. "There are so many needs people could solve by using their smartphones," Li says. "But because they cannot program their phone, they become passive consumers. We want to empower them to become active creators."
Modern app development with MongoDB
Thunkable chose MongoDB early on because it mapped to its existing architecture; it stuck with MongoDB because it scaled when it became critical to do so. "We decided to build with MongoDB because it fits our data very naturally," Dominguez says. "We abstract our users' apps as documents, so it's a natural fit. We do a lot of writes so we needed a system to handle those kinds of loads and MongoDB was the perfect fit."
Like a lot of startups, Thunkable has had to figure out how to achieve its goals with limited resources. Its engineering team consists of about four to six developers. "The engineering team has always been focused on building the product," Dominguez says. "So not having to worry about the database was a great win for us. It allowed us to iterate very fast and build new versions of the platform without having to worry about scaling the database or backups."
After scaling to three million users, the Thunkable engineering team needed to rethink some of its design decisions about data. So, they talked with MongoDB engineers, courtesy of the startup program. Since then, their data storage needs have decreased while performance has improved. "Our partnership with MongoDB has been fundamental to our growth," Dominguez says.
Li concurs: "As we scale, supporting more enterprise customers, we don't have to worry about database management issues. We know MongoDB will do a great job helping us as we scale."
Building better together
In addition to free MongoDB Atlas credits and one-on-one technical support, participants in the MongoDB for Startups program enjoy co-marketing opportunities and access to our partner network. "It's wonderful to be part of the MongoDB for Startups program," Li says. "We have all the support we need, from database management, MongoDB upgrades, and maintenance. You just go to one portal, one website. It's wonderful."
MongoDB technical support has also been a life-saver for Thunkable, says Dominguez. "We had an initial call with an engineer and went through our logs. The engineer spotted a few things that we could fix right away. We were having issues with our op log — the tool that MongoDB uses to replicate to other servers — and the engineers helped get us out of those issues."
The MongoDB dashboard is another tool Dominguez cites as being especially helpful. "For us, being able to log in to the dashboard and have all the functionality already there is a life saver," he says. "Not only being able to monitor the cluster, but digging into our collections and seeing if our indices are performing properly gives us tremendous insight. The integration of MongoDB and Google Cloud makes our infrastructure much easier to maintain."
Although they've scaled to millions of users, the team at Thunkable isn't finished. "This upcoming year will be a big one for Thunkable," Li says. "We're going to use our recent funding to scale up our support for enterprise, mainly for team support, collaboration, and enterprise design integration. For example, we recently integrated with Figma so you can import your Figma design into the Thunkable platform and have a functional app."
"We're also currently hiring," Li adds. "We're planning to double our team within the next six months."