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August 8, 2021
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Using no-code to crowd fund a knowledge-sharing platform


Makerpad is a knowledge sharing platform. We love simplifying things. The fundamental idea behind no-code is to simplify software building, and make it more accessible to everyone.

When we discovered this exceptional knowledge sharing experiment using no-code tools, we had to know more! Here's how Sari Azout built Ghost Knowledge and is now working on Startupy to make the internet a more open place for readers and thought leaders.

Hi, I'm Sari Azout. I’m a seed-stage investor, design-thinker, product strategist, and storyteller. ​My mission is to bring more humanity and creativity to technology and business. I was born and raised in Colombia, educated in Rhode Island, trained in NYC, and developing my life’s work in Miami.

I spend my days investing and building consumer technology companies for the sake of making human life better, not for the sake of technology. In my spare time, I write about humanizing tech, building the future, personal growth, and raising children. I also post a bunch of selfies and baby/toddler photos.

These days, I invest in early-stage startups at Level Ventures and I’m building Startupy, a community-curated network for startup knowledge. But before Startupy, I decided to try a little experiment.


Ghost Knowledge: The pre-Startupy experiment

Two years ago, I started documenting the things that inspired me about startups and tech. I organized them in an Airtable database that now has notes from over 2,000 content entries with over 4,000 tagged startups. I use this database almost every day to influence my writing, business decisions, and thinking.

This ongoing practice opened my eyes to the fact that good quality, one-off writing needs funding.

Unbelievable amounts of wisdom remain unshared. 100 billion people have lived, but only a small fraction have published their ideas and insights. Human evolution can be seen through the lens of publishing advancements; from oral language and the printing press, to ad-funded Internet writing.

Recently, subscription media has made great strides. But the paid newsletter model doesn’t work for the busy founder or expert practitioner that doesn’t want the pressure to publish often.

It’s no wonder, then, that the majority of business writing on the Internet comes from people in the business of commenting, complaining, and hot takes–not from people in the business of building, creating, or fixing things.

Let’s fill the knowledge gap

We need a new model for funding ghost knowledge — the kind that exists within expert and maker communities but is not written or documented. This is why I launched Ghost Knowledge, a 1-week crowdfunding experiment to get the people who don’t write enough to share their knowledge.

The problem we saw is that there is no funding model for writers that don't want to publish on a regular basis, which results in most of the media we consume coming from full-time journalists, content marketers, SEO experts, and not from makers, operators, and builders.

There’s an underserved market for practical, specific business knowledge; the sort of secret intellectual capital few people have access to. There’s so much talk about learning in public, but how much of that learning is performative sharing of selective metrics vs. transparent, highly actionable insights?

You see, when an angel investor writes a check into a startup, more than buying an asset with a potential return, they are paying to learn, and getting a status symbol in the process. What if instead of raising traditional VC, you announced you are working on something and were paid by people to document your learnings?

My bet is people would pay.

How does Ghost Knowledge work?

  • You suggest ideas for essays you'd want to read from authors that don't normally publish
  • You pledge $$ to support the suggestions you like
  • We collect payment and coordinate with authors to make the magic happen ✨
  • Also, if you requested the essay you get 10% of the proceeds of the crowdfund

Why do requesters get a cut? We believe that coming up with a question is also an act of creation — the very essence of a question is its power to elicit the possibilities of reply.

Nine no-code tools and 18 automations later...

Every part of Ghost Knowledge was built with no-code tools. The entire product was built in under 10 days.

While it’s still in development, we launched Ghost Knowledge as a drop to test our hypothesis for Startupy. The idea for our “drops” is to use no-code tools to run quick, lean experiments that may eventually fold into the core Startupy product. We used Airtable, Zapier, Typeform, and Webflow to piece Ghost Knowledge together.


So basically, Ghost Knowledge lives in Webflow with three Airtable embeds:

  • An Airtable view to display all requests
  • An Airtable form to place a request
  • An Airtable form to pledge your support to an existing request

Aside from this setup, we leveraged Airtable automations to send communications about requests to pledgors and requesters. We also managed all internal operations through several Airtable views, some of which had manual triggers to activate emails on “particular scenarios”.

Here are some of our automated workflows

  • “Automated” Airtable automations to send emails (e.g. confirmation emails, notifying an author when there’s a new pledge for their essay, etc.) triggered by actions in Webflow
  • “Manual” Airtable automations to send emails (e.g. to ask for writer’s commitment, request supporters payment, payment reminder) triggered by checking a checkbox manually
  • Formula fields to pre-populate tweets to streamline internal operations and improve “hype” efficiency (although we couldn’t automate tweeting due to tagging restrictions)
  • Integration between Stripe and Typeform to automate payment requests along with Airtable formulas to attribute and send unique value payment request links to supporters
  • Webhook between Typeform and Airtable to track payment completion

Side note: Mixing automations with human judgment to trigger certain emails for specific cases was key for this experiment. The “checkbox” approach allowed us to incorporate human judgment in a highly efficient way. Thanks to having manual triggers in place, we could modify email copy in real-time, add new relevant fields, and more.

It was a super flexible setup!


520 upvotes on Product Hunt and $11k in pledges

As an experiment for Startupy, I think it was a success! In one week alone, we generated over $11,000 in pledges, of which $6,000 represent successful crowdfund proceeds that will be distributed to writers. We had over 500 emails added to the waiting list and over 10 people added to our First Friends community (>2,000 in revenue).

We’ll likely run a second season of Ghost Knowledge in the future now that we have the infrastructure in place.


If you’re feeling the Ghost Knowledge vibe, here’s how you can help:

Cheers to making the Internet a more open, delightful place!

Thanks for sharing your story with us, Sari! Follow her journey on Twitter.

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