The Rise of Airtable

in Technology by
3 minute read

Spreadsheets get a makeover and, believe it or not, they’re actually getting sexy.

For years on end now, Microsoft has dominated the world of spreadsheets with their widely accepted software product, Excel. Most commonly packaged in the technology giant’s complete office productivity suite of Office 365, Excel tends to take the lead in the bundle and soar above the rest.

In the recent years, numerous competitors have stepped up to the plate to unseat Excel and Microsoft’s Office 365 suite as a whole. Microsoft’s most notable competitor in office productivity is fellow technology giant and member of tech’s “Big 5”, Google (now, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc.) released the first components (Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides), now part of what is currently known as G Suite, back in 2006. Their mission was clear, to give Redmond a run for their money. Though, as previously recorded, the Silicon Valley company holds second place by a wide margin, according to a white paper published by San Francisco company, Okta two years ago (Business@Work 2016).

Since the focus here is spreadsheets, specifically, another quasi-competitor that also arose in 2006 was Bellevue, WA based company, Smartsheet. Though, Smartsheet seems to have gone more toward a project management focus, targeting a niche of people who were growing unsatisfied with using spreadsheets for the task, as it became cluttered and unwieldy.

Enter Airtable

In 2012, a San Francisco startup emerged to do for spreadsheets what Microsoft did for computers (according to Business Insider). Airtable has raised $52 million in series B funding and is plans to move toward an initial public offering in the future. The app is used by industry leaders and giants such as Tesla, Medium, Box, and Target (to name a few) and, according to their website, the platform serves over thirty thousand companies.

… he believes it could be “cash flow positive at a moment’s notice.”

Airtable CEO, Howie Liu, via Twitter

The company’s CEO and one of three co-founders, Howie Liu, previously founded Etacts, a CRM that was shut down. It was later acquired by Salesforce and re-introduced into the marketplace in February of 2010. Liu has made it clear that he does not want to go this route again.

Airtable seems to be revolutionizing the workspace. As Howie Liu states, “We’re confident we can be the Apple or Microsoft of the low-end-app space.” He might just be on to something. Time and Fortune are using the application to manage their production schedule. Meanwhile, Tesla uses it to keep track of every car that leaves its Fremont, CA factory.

Liu found one of his first investors in Etacts in Ashton Kutcher. When Liu went on to establish Airtable later on, he successfully pitched Kutcher again. Now, Liu says the app has millions of users and thousands of sign-ups each day. Tesla even has a six-figure deal with the company.

Airtable, while shooting for IPO, is not yet profitable. Though, as Liu told Business Insider, he believes it could be “cash flow positive at a moment’s notice.”

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