This post from Hiten Shah tells the backstory of one of the more interesting startups these days, Airtable. Like the title states, the objective of Airtable is to build a no-code system for data management and application-building. At a billion-dollar valuation now, they’ve clearly knocked it out of the park with their product-led growth strategy.
Even in the face of the 5,000 pound gorilla of Excel, they’ve broken things open and are beginning to attract mass-market users.
Microsoft had been the undisputed king of productivity software for 20 years by the time Airtable went into development in 2012. What Microsoft––and virtually every other software company in the world––had failed to do was create a new spreadsheet product that people wanted to use. The ubiquity of Microsoft Office guaranteed Excel’s “success,” but it was stagnating as a product. Aside from some relatively minor performance updates and a handful of newer features, Excel looked and felt much the same as it did when it launched in the early ’90s. Microsoft’s Access had fared a little better (for a 26-year-old product) but was still aimed squarely at database administrators who possessed the programming and scripting skills necessary to work with SQL databases.