Flow Phantom Founder Andrew Bass is proof that you don’t need to have a degree in software development to become a technical founder of a startup.
Bass was a double major in economics and biology at UNC Chapel Hill. Upon graduating, he entered the wealth management field. But that all changed when a friend of his urged him to get into software development.
Bass began teaching himself how to program using Notepad. He thought about getting his MBA, but the more he read, the more he discovered that perhaps you learn more by just going out there and creating your own company.
In a split-second decision, he made the leap to join a design firm called Paradigm Innovation. There, Bass could see what life looked like at tech startups. At the same time, he took a UNC Coding Boot Camp. He then began software consulting in e-commerce and realized the magic of site builder Webflow.
That was when Raleigh-based Flow Phantom fully came together as an upsell app for Webflow e-commerce. By incorporating Flow Phantom, companies can better design how, when and what to upsell on their e-commerce sites, encouraging shoppers to buy additional and/or more expensive items.
“I actually kind of mentally decided that I wanted to go get a job,” Bass said. “But when I put it out there, the ‘sandbox’ version, I had some people offer to pay for it before it was even really built. SaaS was the Holy Grail.”
The idea of Flow Phantom as a full business was too captivating to let go of.
Now founded more than a year ago, Flow Phantom charges customers $30 a month per site. Visitors to customers’ sites can see additional products as an upsell for whatever they are already adding to their cart.
Previous to this, it could be difficult to receive help in promoting upsells on Webflow e-commerce, since Webflow doesn’t have an app store.
Flow Phantom’s technology therefore changes the game when it comes to building and maintaining websites for agencies and freelancers. The startup also secured an NC IDEA MICRO grant of $10,000 in October, which went toward infrastructure costs and outsourcing, Bass said.
A new world
The lifestyle of a tech entrepreneur can be an entirely different beast than of a regular employee, and the organizational skills Bass gained have been tremendous. There’s never been so much work to do in his life, Bass said.
“It’s been a great personal growth experience,” Bass said. “If you want to become a better employee, or a more productive employee, just become an entrepreneur and you’ll be forced to figure it out.”
Bass also gained marketing wisdom from William Harris, who was a lead growth strategist at the California-based company Sellbrite, which was acquired by GoDaddy.
“You don’t have to scream, ‘Hey, this is my startup, come buy it,’” Bass said. “You just need to get in front of customers and slowly lead them to your product.”
While many businesses suffered under the constraints of Covid-19, e-commerce did not. Subsequently, Webflow and Flow Phantom thrived in new realities.
“It accelerated e-commerce a lot,” Bass said. “There were more freelancers, which helped push Webflow forward. I know that’s not everyone’s position, so I feel very lucky.”
Bass said Flow Phantom’s ultimate vision is to reinforce Webflow’s mission: web-building accessibility for all.
“It’s really to empower anyone to build on the web,” Bass said. “As a plugin for Webflow. I’m helping them forward that mission in a way.”
Looking ahead, Bass wants to improve Flow Phantom’s marketing and continue scaling his company, which he says is now a “small kindling of a fire.”
“I’ve seen it firsthand with customers where they get excited and they say, ‘Oh, wow, I didn’t know how to code. I didn’t need to know how to code. I can just plug this in. It works, and this is helping my business,’” Bass said. “It gives them independence. That’s super exciting for me—empowering other entrepreneurs out there.”