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Interview With Chris Spags From on Webflow's ecosystem

Interview With Chris Spags From on Webflow's ecosystem
By Aron Korenblit • Issue #23 • View online

In this edition, I’m bringing you an interview I did with Chris Spags from Jetboost last week. You can read the transcript below or watch the interview on my Youtube channel.
The timing couldn’t have been better, Chris announced funding from Earnest Capital just this week.
Earnest Capital
Big big welcome to @c_spags 🙌 We have invested in Jetboost: the No-Code Webflow Sidekick
For the uninitiated, Jetboost, today, is an add-on that allows you to enable real-time and dynamic search on your Webflow site. With the funding (and due the obvious threat to their business from Webflow), Jetboost hopes to become your no-code Webflow sidekick.
There’s a few reasons why I thought it would be interesting to interview Chris. Jetboost is part of a growing “plugin” ecosystem for Webflow. That ecosystem includes Memberstack, Udesly, Weglot and many others. I was curious how it feels to be part of an “unofficial” ecosystem. And to dig into how Chris sees his business knowing that it’s full well something Webflow could (and will) build.
Without further ado, here is the full interview (lightly edited for clarity and brevity):
[Aron Korenblit] Welcome Chris to Automate All the Things live chat number two. It’s been five months from the first one, but really excited to have you here.
Chris Spags: Thank you. Thank you. Very excited to be here.
[AK] For, so for those who are not as deep into the Webflow ecosystem, you are the founder of Let’s start with a quick introduction into Jetboost and your role within the Webflow ecosystem.
CS: Sure. Yeah, that sounds great. So, with, I am building add-ons and power ups for Webflow. Webflow is an incredible tool for building web pages. And there are certain little features and add-ons that people have requested that aren’t natively available in the Webflow platform. So Jetboost has been providing solutions for that. And the big ones right now are a search and filtering system for your Webflow content.
Jetboost is essentially a more dynamic and more granular filter than is allowed in Webflow today? Is that correct or a high level?
Yeah. And it’s all done without code. Jetboost is a no-code tool. You don’t have to have any knowledge of Javascript or add any custom code. There are ways to do [custom search] in Webflow via custom code, but you don’t have to know how to do any of that. You just add it to your site and it runs. It works for you.
Awesome. Our timing for this interview couldn’t be better. You just announced an investment from Earnest capital. Why did you want take investment? How do you see Jetboost growing? What do you want to grow into?
Yeah, that’s a great question. Jetboost, has always been bootstrapped, self funded. It’s never taken investment. And that had never crossed my mind. But with Earnest capital, their goals and my goals are extremely aligned. They specialize in funding bootstrapped companies. They’re not looking for some sort of crazy exit at the end of it. They’re just investing and profitable businesses that they think they can help grow. In talking with Tyler over at Earnest [Capital]. I agreed with his vision of how Jetboost could benefit from taking some funding from Earnest. And they’ve just got a great network of other founders and mentors. That was really the main driver for me behind taking that investment. Ultimately, it allows me the freedom to build Jetboost. It’s still gonna be mostly me for the meantime, but it gives me options to bring on support people or some help with design or marketing. The areas where I’m not as strong so I can focus on building out even better solutions for the Webflow community.
I’ve noticed this transition of Jetboost from create dynamic search, a very narrow focus on a specific gap in the Webflow feature set to jetboost as additional add-ons to Webflow. Is that a result of this ability to take a little bit more risk? Or is that just an evolution of how you’ve thought of Jetboost because you’ve identified other gaps that you want to go after?
I would say it’s been separate from the funding. It has just been an evolution of Jetboost. Jetboost started out because I had a friend that built the site in Webflow and he had very specific problem of not being able to search. He had built a job board and there was no way to search the actual jobs like a job boards listing. And so that was really how Jetboost started: a very narrow problem that I built this the solution for. And that has given me an exposure to the other problems that people face when they’re working with Webflow and other things that they wish they were able to do that they can’t do so easily. It’s really a natural evolution of how can I expand Jetboost to help more people to solve more problems. That’s what I’m doing.
We’ve been talking about your role in this workflow ecosystem as a gap within what Weblflow is currently able to do. Do you define or see yourself as something [dynamic search] that Webflow will never do or will eventually do? How do you think of yourself relative to Webflow? Webflow employs hundreds of developers and seems to have not done what you do. I even see at Webflow recommending Jetboost to folks who want a dyamic filter.
Obviously at some point, at least I believe Webflow is going to build dynamic filtering and search. All the things that Jetboost does, eventually, Webflow will build those natively in the platform. Timing wise, as far as when that happens, some of these things, it could be a few years down the road. I would say two reasons why that is. One, their priorities are different. Lately their focus has been on the commerce side of things to compete with Shopify more. And two Jetboost is actually in a position where I can build some of these features much quicker and more easily than the Webflow team itself solely because there’s so much less for me to think about.I don’t have to think about how it works in the designer and how it works for tens of if not hundreds of thousands of sites that they support. They’re carrying a much bigger anchor. Whereas I can just attach myself to the ship and build these little things that help people out.
I’ve spoken to a few other Webflow add-ons and they have this argument of whatever Webflow will build, ours will be better. And it sounds like you’re not actually saying that. You’re saying eventually they’ll be able to do this [dynamic search] natively. You eventually foresee Webflow fully taking this on.
I would say it would be better if it was built natively into Webflow. There’s no doubt about that. But I think, one, I can probably stay ahead of the curve for a little while as far as identifying other gaps and other things that they’re not working on and build those out into Webflow. And two, Webflow’s executive team has said eventually they do want to build out a plugin platform. I’ve actually heard Vlad, their CEO, say on the the makerpad podcast that maybe dynamic filtering is something that get solved via their plugin platform and maybe they never build it natively. My long-term idea for Jetboost is when the plugin API becomes available, then I move everything from Jetboost to that and officially be integrated into their ecosystem.
I want to talk about Webflow’s ecosystem. Webflow could look at a lot of its partners – I think of Jetboost but also think of Memberstack, I think of a lot of what Finsweet did with their CMS Library. So what do you hope as part of that ecosystem that Webflow does? What is your wish? And what is the opposite,what is your nightmare in terms of how Webflow develops its platform?
I think my wish is that Webflow and Jetboost work together on it because there aren’t a lot of companies building on top of the workflow API publicly right now. Most other integrations like Memberstack, and some of the other ones, don’t use the Webflow API at all, they just run JavaScript from the page. So I think I’ve got pretty deep insights into what I, as a plugin builder, what I need from web flow, what would make me able to build more powerful plugins, and what would make my job easier. So, I would hope to, work with them as far as developing that out or at least have some sort of input or consultation with that. And maybe they have their own vision of what it should look like. But I think any sort of like early access or beta access that could be granted to Jetboost, which I hope by the time they build their plugin API will be a fairly how household name for Webflow users. That’s sort of the dream for me. I think probably the nightmare would be if they released the plugin API and I was like totally blindsided [by its release]. There would be a lot of work for me to then go and actually officially integrate.
Since you’re currently operating outside of an official quote, unquote, Webflow ecosystem, how much and what would you be willing to give away to officially be part of a sanctioned ecosystem? And there is a certain amount of given take between Webflow and yourself with you building on top of Webflow. What are ready to give up in terms of revenue and control?
I think I’m willing to give away both revenue and control if it results in a better experience for customers. Of the two things that come to mind is one, Jetboost has its own application that you go to get all set up and you go through our entire onboarding process and it kind of walks you through “here’s, what you need to go do and workflow in order to get this working”. That’s all custom UI that is part of a custom workflow. Ideally, that goes away and Webflow says here’s, how you get your plug in into our designer using our building blocks. I’m totally okay with that because it allows someone to stay within the workflow tool and add these plugins to their site. So that’s like from the control side. And then from the revenue side, most of these developer platform models, the platform take some percentage. And to me, that’s fair: it’s their audience, their customer base and they help market your product. So that seems fair.
I’ve spoken to folks who build on top of other platforms and they’re not willing to concede that they are a small business have no intention of being 200-300 employees and don’t necessarily realize that they’re always going to be the dwarfed by the platform they’re on. You’re not going to build a Webflow on Webflow. It’s interesting that you’re willing to dedicate to one platform, one feature set, really have that one kind of focus and willing to concede most things if it makes your customers happy.
Yeah to me, that’s ultimately what it is. Trying to solve problems for people and do so in the best way possible. If Jetboost was officially integrated into this theoretical Webflow shop or platform, say it gives up 30 percent of revenue. Who’s to say it might not do 100 times more revenue. A win win for everyone.
I love that you’re just like willing sacrifice 30% of revenue. You’re just putting that out there.
Any suggestion for developers thinking of building on Webflow? Or more generally, any recommendations for people thinking of building these plugins on Webflow or otherwise?
Yeah, if you’re a small company, just one or two people, it can be a great business model because you’re not going to have the resources to do a big marketing campaign, whether that’s like on search Adwords or just getting into various different places. You’re limited as a small team with what you have and so by building on top of another platform, you immediately gain exposure, at least if you do it right, to a large customer base, a large base of people who are already paying money for solutions. I know every everything that Jetboost has been able to do so far has been on the back of Webflow 100 percent.
Awesome. And so last question for you. You started Jetboost by building the search for one of your friends. How did you then acquire the next 10, 100 and 500 users? When did you say, I could do this, it’s a thing?
How it actually started out is I wrote a bunch of custom code for a friend and he put it on a site and I didn’t really think anything of it. And over time, it was like probably over the period of five or six months, he would occasionally send me one or two people a month who were looking for the exact same thing. Since its each site was different, I had to write the code differently each time but it was all somewhat similar going on. I’d write the code for free. it wasn’t a big deal. But after probably about six to 10 of these people, I thought maybe I can figure out a way where somebody can add this to their own site without having to know how to write the code themselves. And that’s kind of where I had the validation that maybe something was there. And from there, I put up a landing page to say “This is what I’m doing for Webflow, if you’re interested like sign up for the early access.” I had enough people sign up where it gave me the confidence to go and actually build it.
Chris, thank you so so much for doing this. Really appreciate it. I love the fact that you have that single focus and frankly understand the boundaries in which you work in terms of Webflow potentially building what you’re building or even the boundaries of whatever their ecosystem looks like. Knowing that you’re going to have to give and take to a certain extent. That’s really refreshing.
And congratulations on the funding. But even more so on the success. I’ve only heard rave reviews around Jetboost and I wish you continued success.
I really appreciate that. And if I could add one thing, I would say a lot of the given take from my perspective comes from working with Webflow, the tool, seeing the Webflow leadership and with some of the people inside of Webflow who I’ve form relationships with, just a great group of people. And, you know, I’m really grateful to be able to serve their customers who are awesome.
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