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Airtable raises $100M at a $1.1B valuation (techcrunch.com)
404 points by kbyatnal 68 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 145 comments



I just wanted to give a big congratulations to Howie and team, as I'm pretty confident all founders read comments on their HN posts. ;)

I was introduced to Airtable by some of their investors. Within days I had recommended it to our customer advocacy team, who now use it as a lightweight but fully customizable CRM (without having to go "full Salesforce", we're a small team!). I've since recommended it to some of our investors for things like providing LPs with access to fund portfolio co info / etc. who initially had said things to me like, "I don't really get it."

I think the product is category-defining, and it's amazing to see Howie's ambition beyond being a $B unicorn. :) Great work all around, and it's absolutely amazing driving by your billboard on the 280 coming back from work. I'm sure it feels great, and it's something all startup founders and cos yearn for - really awesome to see a great product and team succeed!


Sales person here. I use it as my own lightweight crm and it works well.

I should send them an email. I'm sure a good chunk of that investment will go towards building out their sales team.


I use Airtable for my job, mostly as a project management application. This may be an unusual use case, but I find myself limited at many times.

I feel like Airtable is very unresponsive. On the community forums, they seem to communicate rarely, and not implement very simple functionality for long periods of time. Very good features that would be highly beneficial and should take a weekend go months without even a reply.

It's death by a thousand cuts for me. Sorts in Kanban view don't automatically resort when you add cards, so you have to manually resort every time. No rich text formatting on cards. Copying tables doesn't copy the field type. There's so many minor things I'd like changed.

None of the problems by themselves are deal-breakers by themselves, and I will continue to use Airtable (Trello, for instance, does not offer the field customization I love about Airtable). But I can't help but think execution can be so much better.

It's almost like nobody at Airtable pays attention to the design of features. Everything is so limited. Blocks are an incredibly useful idea, but in practice uncustomizable and not something I find helpful.

It's a good product, but not a great product.

I've been considering working on my own product in this line. At least if nobody else uses it, I'll be able to.


There is one lurking competitor to Airtable that no one knows: Notion.

Except Notion is far more capable than Airtable. You can do all these table joins across pages but in Notion everything is a page whereas in Airtable it's just a form. That is the ultimate flexibility which makes it exceptionally well suited for any kind planning effort. And it's a great canvas for creative projects.

It's amazing to see that there's a billion dollar company building something comparatively so... bad.

Plus Notion has some of the best customer service around. Half the company are there for support!


Thank you for the recommendation, I was not previously aware of Notion.

I've taken a look at it, and it seems to have all the amenities I wanted. It seems to have most everything I was using Airtable for, but what I really like is all the rich text formatting I can do to organize knowledge.

I'll definitely consider switching. Thank you!


Wow I never heard about this one, even though I was searching such tools. Sure enough, I open DDG, type in "Notion" and can't find anything. "Notion g!" pointed me here though: https://www.notion.so


Notion is such a treat. I need more apis and plugin action though.


I don't understand why there aren't more people using Notion.

It is like a better looking BaseCamp + Airtable in one.


My guess is that it's seems rather complicated and intimidating to non-tech users. I've been using and testing Notion for a while but when I consider my non-tech-savvy colleagues I imagine I'd have a much easier time explaining Basecamp and Airtable to them. Airtable feels more inviting compared to Notion.

Or put differently: I think we overlook how many people might be overwhelmed with building their very own specific todo list in something like Notion or to a lesser degree Airtable, compared to a solution that provides a fixed, rigid set of fields.


Airtable is web-based, Notion is for desktop use with Windows and macOS clients.

I use neither of them but my preference goes to the web since I work on Linux.


Notion has a web application you can use, no need to download.


Wow, your weren't kidding! I did a deep dive to compare airtable to a lot of other planning tools and never even noticed Notion...

The one downside compared to airtable seems to be no automatic backups. But the ability to format notes is super handy!


Love Notion so far, if only it had an API already.



Not sure if you work there but the pay store link is broken. "app not found" when clicking through


Notion is nice, but I found it pretty buggy a year ago. And I wish it supported online live chat, like samepage.io.


This has been my experience, too. For example, I wanted to use Airtable for a survey, but after needing two missing features which have been requested for a long time [1, 2], I lost my motivation.

1. https://community.airtable.com/t/add-new-linked-record-when-...

2. https://community.airtable.com/t/random-number-functions/129...

Edit: Formatting


In addition to the comment re Notion I'd like to throw out coda.io. Notion is more developed but I think coda has some really promising stuff too. I'm considering both for my current project. I certainly agree that Notion is better than airtable (which I already decided against), I think coda had potential to be even better (but then Notion will improve too).

In short, from my usage so far, I like that everything is a document in Notion. Coda is more capable in other ways - I can summon up chats of my data and define new formulas. I love that buttons let me effectively create a little webapp that also works beautifully on mobile.

One thing I'm trying out with the qa guys (keep in mind very small team) is a list of test cases with buttons for pass/fail/dnt for each. Clicking pass or fail updates the status and test date for that row. You can also have actions in coda trigger integrations. So one thing we were discussing was notifying slack immediately when a test case fails.

Don't know where it will go - both products seem excellent so far.


I personally love Airtable, but I do totally understand some of your points. I also went through quite a bit of testing vaguely similar services before settling on Airtable in large part because of their API.

However, since then Coda has also added an API, which is really interesting. Other folks have mentioned Notion, which is also great, but Coda honestly felt like the closer competitor to Airtable while Notion felt like they were fighting Dropbox Paper.


> Sorts in Kanban view don't automatically resort when you add cards, so you have to manually resort every time.

Ugh, same in Grid View.

I use it for PM work also, and it's still the closest thing to useful I've found.


Have you taken a look at https://zenkit.com/ ?



I think in general we’re about at the limit if “one size fits all” UIs especially for things as personal as workflows, customer data, etc.

I’ve long thought the idea of “A Todo App” makes no sense because everyone works a little differently. That’s why apps like Pivotal Tracker are such garbage... they support too many use cases to do anything well.

The problem is if you try to make it configurable, you still have all the complexity behind the scenes. And your configuration UI recapitulates that hell.

So there is a need for someone to come in and start over with a more configurable foundation and maintain really serious software engineering discipline so that the base layer doesn’t get infected with individual business requirements (which will eventually be infinite).

I don’t envy Airtable trying to do this with a big client roster and huge scale. I think the problem would be easier solved in a smaller company with less pressure from investment timeline.

BUT if they’ve already solved the problem, or at least solved it to their satisfaction, then they will be fine and the platform can get as convoluted as they need to make their clients happy.

It’s only if there’s research remaining, core UI questions to be solved, that they’ll have a hard time competing with whomever comes to eat their lunch.


I've been fortunate in building a consultancy that's grown pretty quickly almost entirely based on this insight (https://superwork.io). We've helped some companies basically 2x just by dumping their existing SaaS-based processes.

The days of one-size-fits-all SaaS are numbered.... most companies can find massive efficiency gains through smart deployment of tools like Airtable and Zapier with turnkey automations.

There used to be a time this wasn't feasible because the only option was to hire a development team and deal with legacy software - we don't have that problem anymore.


> The days of one-size-fits-all SaaS are numbered.... most companies can find massive efficiency gains through smart deployment of tools like Airtable and Zapier with turnkey automations.

Yeah, we're working through Zapier integration at the moment for our paperwork assistant (https://lexico.io) and I'm pleasantly surprised that there aren't as many established B2B SaaS companies doing the same thing as I thought. Self-serve automation definitely feels like the path ahead.

Still don't quite get Airtable though.


I've been looking for exactly a consultancy like this. Thanks for sharing.

Feel free to contact me directly, I've got some business for you.


"We're world leaders in automation & optimization. We know our shit."

Ha, brave language!


Quite brave. I'd A/B test that with something more benign to see how it's really performing.


Very similar to Zapier.

The interface is very slow to work in, and everything requires multiple steps, because if they are going to facilitate the endless possibilities their customers present, everything has to be atomized into pieces that fit every puzzle.

I have found, after working in Zapier for a couple years, that the primary value doesn’t come from ease of use or the ability of non-technical people too easily do technical things, but rather in the flexibility afforded by a layer that connects services together in any way conceivable.

My guess is that air table will become generally useful in a similar way, where maybe you need some technical people to help you set up things, but at least you can achieve most of what you need, as a small company, without having to hire a team of programmers to build it from scratch.


> a layer that connects to services together in anyway conceivable

This sounds quite much like general-purpose programming. But the tool is much higher level, apparently, at least, in some respects.

This opens (logically) endless possibilities, but watch out for well-known programming pitfalls; the Turing tarpit is already referenced as "very slow, and everything requires multiple steps".


This is exactly the problem we have tried solving with the Frappe Framework [1] (Open Source, MIT).

The core concept in Frappe is a DocType, which is configurable metadata. Using this you can quickly build small, special purpose apps for very niche targeted use cases for their own business. You can also configure rule based permissions and add simple scripts. We have used it to build hundreds of use cases for ERPNext (Open Source, GPL) by allowing complexity to grow linearly (instead of exponentially).

This also helps keep the base layer and the "one size fits all" business layer (like say an Accounting Ledger) clean. And you don't have to worry about UI, permissions, REST API, deployment, maintenance and users get a consistent experience.

[1] https://frappe.io/frappe | https://github.com/frappe/frappe


I agree with this sentiment except for your reference to Pivotal Tracker - it's the opposite of “one size fits all”.

It is so ingrained into the particular Agile Scrum way of doing things that this is actually cited as its drawback by teams wanting to be more "flexible".

Are you getting it confused with Jira?


It's worth knowing that Airtable uses some nasty dark patterns.

Airtable has a share button much like Google Docs. If you're on the free tier of Airtable, and you use the share button, you receive $ credits on your account when a user accepts the invite into you "workspace". So it lulls you into a pattern of sharing widely.

When you go premium, use of that "share" button has the opposite effect. Instead of receiving credits, you are automatically, silently billed for each person that joins your workspace. There is no warning in the UI that this will happen. It's completely invisible [1]. In my first month of being a premium Airtable user, they billed me over $2000 USD onto my credit card - without any warning whatsover. This is because about 10 people in my team accepted shares. They also do some other weird stuff with accounts, e.g. if you create a premium account, it's only premium for one workspace (a workspace is effectively a folder of databases with its own permissions). If you create another workspace, it's set to the "free" tier and you have to pay all over again. Team subscriptions with multiple workspaces get very expensive, because they multiply up in some way. The pricing is model very opaque.

It pains me when start-ups are successful using cruddy growth hacking tricks like this because it tells then next generation of start-ups "This is how you do it".

[1] https://twitter.com/harrybr/status/1030195061550710784


How was your specific issue resolved in the end ? Were you refunded ?


Another team that I know had the same problem, they were refunded apparently without problem. But this strikes me as shady... Are they hoping a significant number of clients will not ask for a refund?


That’s how this sort of play works. It’s about capturing a percentage who don’t notice - plus those who do notice but see their time as too valuable to justify spending the time to request a refund.

I believe It’s unlikely that anyone would ever welcome a totally unexpected charge to their credit card.


Their main competitor Fieldbook shut down earlier this year. I liked Fieldbook better because it was faster and had a cleaner UI, but Airtable always had more features and better pricing. I’ve migrated over to Airtable now, and I’m happy they’ve raised this round because they’re definitely here to stay.


Their main competitor should be considered Salesforce.

I know at my own company we moved to Salesforce NOT because of its CRM capabilities, but because it's basically a managed database with app-building capabilities. Lots of point-and-click stuff, and lots of development tools too.

I think we're just starting to see this space heat up. The basic capabilities have existed forever at the "enterprise" level (think SAP, Oracle, Microsoft with Access and Sharepoint, etc).

But the focus on making the promise of relational databases available to everyone -- with minimal computer science expertise required -- is what's sort of new and, in my opinion, now taking off.


Our org uses Salesforce for exactly that purpose. Unfortunately the deeper reality is that the value in this database is that non-database-savvy individuals can arbitrarily modify the data schema through a simple GUI tool leading to Objects/Tables with hundreds of fields, computed properties, and other often undocumented pitfalls and dependencies.

As might be expected this yields large numbers of performance penalties and application level work-arounds that deeply slow application development and neuter the quality of often business-critical tools.

It's my theory that the reason such platforms are allowed to exist without employees immediately breaking out in open rebellion is because the users of Salesforce and similar products are often non-technical enterprise workers whose quality bar has been welded by management and past experiences to be lower than the Mariana Trench.


This is definitely a real challenge. No argument from me.

I think the niche where this product can thrive -- and its a huge niche -- is all those small-to-medium size businesses that have so far been running things through a hodge podge of unconnected spreadsheets, obsolete special-purpose applications, and lots and lots of paper.

It's easy as a programmer to more or less forget that most people, when facing a task or challenge, do not think: "I wonder what the most efficient way to do this might be, and if technology could help." Instead, it's: "What methods do I already know that I could apply to this problem?"

More often than not, the answer is paper. And email. Or excel.

So this type of the-database-is-everything app has huge value. Unfortunately it won't be run entirely by engineers with 10+ years of experience in what makes for good database best practice.

It's the trade-off we have to make.

In return, we get:

- A single system that has access to all of the business' data (rather than a dozen different "systems" [if they can be called that] which do not interoperate in any way, with endless duplication and data entry. - Customization (for better and worse) - Radically simplified I.T.: Just give everyone a chromebook and be done with it. - Access to these systems anywhere in the world (cause it's web)

It's better than paying a bookkeeper to (literally) manage paper-based ledgers.


This. See my comment above about Zoho. I've used both, and it's the cheaper/easier to use version of SFDC.


FYI - Zoho CRM's rebuild (from about 2 years ago) is a super user-friendly version of SFDC at a fraction of the price. Has many of the functionalities you just mentioned.

IMO - Their main competition is Excel.


Zoho customer support is so terrible the company should not be used for anything mission critical.

Our account was closed because we kept getting strange credit card billing errors. No amount of calls or emails would resolve it. Just kept getting "we don't see errors on our end" despite us sending screenshots and trying different cards from different issuers. We literally could not pay for the service so out account was shut.

It was bizarre.


They are not even remotely playing in the same league. Zoho's product is a testament to the capabilities of unlimited human resources tasked with building features and stopping exactly at the point where each feature "works."


I always thought of Airtable as a simpler FileMaker for the web - just to mention another comparison.


I would be willing to put money on a Salesforce acquisition within the next two years.


Ding ding ding


I think nowdays they also compete with Notion. Their features start to overlap a lot.


Coda is another one to keep an eye on https://coda.io/welcome


Coda and notion both seem to be in the space of dropbox paper crossed with confluence crossed with airtable. I feel like these have more promise than airtable in the long run, or perhaps if dropbox paper starts adding more functionality with their own tables, having different views, apis, workflows.


Previous HN discussion on why Fieldbook shut down: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17052333


Are they similar? I looked at Airtable after fieldbook shut down, but they didn’t really seem comparable.


I really really loved Fieldbook. I’m sad to see them shutdown.

I’m pretty sure I’m gonna end up quitting my job and building a better Fieldbook next year.

AirTable is nice and they have an insane amount of funding now but their interface leaves a lot to be desired.


People keep calling out how this isn't a new solution/idea (i.e. MS Access, FileMaker, SmartSheet, Google Sheets + Scripts, Knack) and those people I hope understand that Airtable's success has everything to do with their execution of this idea not that the idea is somehow groundbreaking.

I've used many of those ^ products and I can tell you they are no where near Airtable's level of UX. The Airtable team has obviously taken a lot of time and energy to really nail the design and user experience instead of making another "just good enough".

I think this is also a good example of how desperate users will resort to using subpar products or cobbling-together numerous subpar solutions if the problem is painful enough. Having used MS Access a decade ago I can tell you it was out of desperation and it never really solved the problem- it sort of got you ~75% there.

One last thing I'll mention is that when you take on something as flexible as Airtable you end up dealing with an much larger dimension of possible edge-cases and more importantly you end up challenging designers to craft constraints on the users very thoughtfully so that you're not limiting them but also you're not overwhelming them with too much complexity. In other words- solutions in this space succeed precisely because they figure out how to walk that fine line not because the idea itself is earth-shattering.


Great execution involves new solutions and ideas, though. After seeing this post, I tried creating an airtable for a project I'm working on (finding a new condo to buy) and one thing that really stood out to me was that after filling the table with some data, airtable automatically generated a documented API that I could use to upload data to my table. Slick execution, yes, but also a novel idea as far as I know. Granted, I'm not super familiar with all the other solutions.


As a researcher, I have been completely impressed by how Airtable has changed the game for collecting and sharing information. Howie has been personally interested and the whole team takes a strong interest in hearing the needs of an incredible diverse set of users and improving things as they grow. I have run a research program from Airtable, connected tons of different inputs and outputs using Zapier, and even planned a wedding inside it. It's not really a "one size fits all" product, it's more a portal for 'regular people' to get the value of a relational database without any coding, which ends up being extensible in the same way as say, Wordpress or Drupal (without the actual pain of Wordpress for the most part). (Edit for spelling)


The product is novel and interesting - it's in a way an 'obvious' spin on an old classic. It works well.

As soon I tried it, my immediate thought was how on freaking earth, Google nor MS with their billions haven't been doing this long ago. Their products haven't changed much in a while, do they have anyone running product experiments?

That said, my company is full of languishing, unmaintained spreadsheets, like a big mess cobble of data ... I wonder how this might spread to the corporate world.


> my immediate thought was how on freaking earth, Google nor MS with their billions haven't been doing this long ago.

My biggest takeaways so far, running an early stage startup and working around and with Enterprise cos and "late stage startups" (i.e. $10B+).

- Large cos can move surprisingly slowly, especially around significant product updates and improvements.

- Large cos, to varying degrees, have a tendency to stifle innovation inadvertently via internal politics: those with the ambition to make change often don't have the lateral freedom to execute.

These are mostly a function of being a victim of success: you move slowly because you don't want to alienate an existing, paying userbase and you have politics because of policy and process that have helped you reach massive scale.

Startups (i.e. Airtable) have a massive advantage early on if they stay lean for as long as possible before nailing product-market fit and scaling, because it's easier to make "alienating changes" to your product and innovate when you have fewer customers and little revenue. Politics also haven't yet set in as a defining characteristic. To my knowledge, Airtable did a fantastic job early on at executing carefully, clearly defining their product / market and understanding their customer before scaling.


Fully agree that is essentially it - however - Google and MS are not slouches. They have the ability to have cracker jack teams work on stuff ... and maybe the ability to spurn out a different product that meets different needs and to not 'alienate' customers.

Though I wonder if a bunch of Airtable-like features in Google Sheets would be alienating. They're features that don't have to be used.


As well, large companies may see a product opening in the market, but because they make so much money, a $100m revenue product may not even be in their interest due to time/money ratio. It's somewhat like me and you doing some jobs that pay substantially less than what we think our per hour dollar amount of effort is.


Good point, seems the valuation might be a little high.


Howie is a great CEO and super helpful in the startup community. Congratulations on this well-deserved milestone.

I would love it if they supported white labeling embeds of their products into other apps. I'm guessing there is a huge need for this.


That’s really impressive in such short time...

I think they have managed to come up with a product that appeals to everyone while giving a lot of freedom to non tech users.

There has been a lot of attempts to make « coding product » for « non coder » but ultimately DataTable is probably the most convenient way to do it as the majority of workforce is used to excel or Google Spreadheet...

Personally I love their pricing and the concept but I found the UI super heavy and not that much intuitive .


Weird valuation. Ok app, had to write it off because of lack of offline support.

I'm surprised this isn't a non starter for more people/companies.


I'm curious as to why you feel offline support is such a big deal?

Maybe my perspective is warped by living in a major US city, but I'm pretty much connected to the internet all the time. I'm pretty sure the only time I disconnect and have my computer on me is when I'm on a plane.

So much of my other work requires the access to the internet and the ability to communicate, I just don't see the need for offline mode. To put it another way, I can't see many situations where I could effectively do my job (outside of some minor tasks) without internet access, even if Airtable was available offline.

I do agree that it's a nice to have, but I just don't see it as a deal breaker.


I work in NYC. The most efficient form of transportation is the subway, and phone signals are not great down there. If you take a train out of the city, there are huge dead zones. There is at least an hour of my day that I am trying to be productive that I do not have good internet connections.


> I'm pretty sure the only time I disconnect and have my computer on me is when I'm on a plane.

That is changing too. I remember when airline wifi was new and we used to watch netflix (now they block it of course). But now I frequently VPN in from a plane and continue working. Sometimes I get more work done because there are even fewer distractions on the plane.


What kind of offline support are you looking for in a cloud application? Most cloud services don't work offline at all.


Which is a huge problem with webapps that try to replace desktop software (aka. Service as a Software Substitute). You end up outsourcing maintenance/ops work at a price of vastly reduced featureset, performance and usefulness in real-life conditions.


A lot of the big players do, to wit Google’s office suite.


Yes, Google has superb offline support for their suite of productivity apps


I agree. Cloud only apps aren't enough for me. I'm starting to look for more apps with macOS offerings, and not just ones that cheaply wrap a webview.


Same here. It’s not just the lack of offline support but the absence of an on-premises offering that kills this product for me. The great thing about Excel and Access is that there are no barriers to using them in a typical enterprise environment – no need to pay for a subscription or ask the security team to approve the use of a new cloud provider to store private data. You can just start building something and share it on your internal network, or even email.


I wouldn't think this is a product problem, but a low-hanging fruit technical problem that they can just address it if they had enough demand for this. This is also not a new problem in this space. And it has been done in the past.


Airtable is great - I use it every day. It's perfect for anything in-between document and spreadsheet; when you have to deal with database-like entries that are awkward to handle with a word processor or spreadsheet.

I was hoping that Dropbox might acquire Airtable one day, and integrates it into Dropbox Paper. That would put them ahead of Quip, Coda and the like in an instant (for my use case).


I understand it's some kind of killer app, but I still don't get it.


The tl;dr for a more technically-minded person:

It's a database primarily operated upon using a spreadsheet interface. You can create different representations (literally Views) of your data / rows. You can add custom logic "blocks" to rows / entries / tables that, for example, send a text message to a customer in the table.

You can arrive at Airtable as a product from first principles by basically just saying: most applications are CRUD apps atop a database with some custom callouts to external APIs. What if the database was super easy for a non-technical person to manage, we could provide data insertion / retrieval in a few standardized views, and there were integrations for the most popular 3rd party services upon record creation / editing / etc.?

You're not going to build a brand new consumer app on Airtable, but all of the backoffice and internal crap we write over and over and over again... it's a really good option for simplifying those processes and is accessible to non-developers.


Thanks for this explanation. Serious question, though - what is the core benefit over using Google Sheets + Apps Script? Is it just a better UI layer and baked-in API access, or is there an underlying structure of some sort that's superior?


It's funny how people say things like "just a better UI layer", when to non-techies, the application IS the UI, and the only thing that matters (as long as the performance is acceptable) is features and ease of use.


The difference is that Airtable's core data structure is a relational database whereas Google Sheets' core is a spreadsheet. It's very easy to link to records in other tables in Airtable. Google Sheets does not have the concept of records. You could hack something together, but it just works in Airtable. Airtable shines when you want to have a list X, and then for each item in X, have a list Y. X could be homes, clients, or events, and Y could be rooms, tasks, or guests. In Google Sheets, these types of relationships are awkward to represent.


By playing around with the app, I can totally see that this supersedes Google Sheets and Apps Script by a long way. Yes, the UI layer and the API accesses. In the backend, I feel a lot of interesting things are going around - their relational engine natively supports collaboration, type support, revision history. All your mini blocks can be packaged into one big "base" which forms your workspace.

All of this can be done ... without writing a single line of code, which is impressive!


Composing views and dynamically linking sheets (tables) together through information. Again, it’s a full database with a spreadsheet view / control on top, not a spreadsheet that can act like a database.


More obvious third party integrations, and explained workflows and presets for common tasks non techy people doing business on the web have to deal with.


It's FileMaker pretty much?


Plus a sales and applications team that apparently doesn't suck.

Don't underestimate that.


OK, thank you for the explanation. As a developer, I was thinking "It's a phpmyadmin with a spreadsheet UI". Never would I have had the balls to sell something like that. But... I am $1.1B wrong!


MS Access, online?!


"Yay! RAD is back!"

What's old is new; what's new is old.


For a lot of simple apps I write now I just use Airtable as the database with some caching to avoid rate limiting. It works great even at scale.


Have a simple quick write up on this? Or a good resource to point to?

I haven't used AT, but I have a pretty urgent new need to use it, and need to quickly ramp up on how I can build against it.

I just created an account today.


I susoect that's where the growth is / will be. Care to share a repo or two on anything you've done using AT? tia


Last year we used Airtable with 60 volunteers working concurrently on the site updating a Base to collect and organize information to help the Sonoma County fire victims. The Rails code is a very light wrapper on Airtable and if I were to do it again I would just write a Sinatra / NodeJS interface. (I didn't know JS at the time) We had about 130000 page views all backed by Airtable as the DB.

Specifically: https://github.com/chimera/sonomafireinfo.org/blob/gh-pages/...

Also working on a MTurk interface for Airtable (A Big WIP): https://github.com/workmachine/workmachine


If the volunteers are using a Rails app to access the Base, who is accessing the Base directly in Airtable? Was Airtable just a convenient data backend to get the Rails app up quickly?


Sorry, they were using the base directly on airtable. The rails app was just a thin layer to hide the apikey and cache the data so we weren't hammering Airtable directly.


That makes sense. I see how Airtable's user permissions (Owner, Creator, Editor, Commenter, Read-only) allow someone to quickly create a useful CRUD app that is safer than letting people randomly edit a Google Spreadsheet. :)


This is the information I found https://www.businessinsider.com/airtable-review-guide-app-wa...

> Tesla uses airtable to track inventory of vehicles as they leave the factory; $20 billion office-space startup WeWork is a customer, too.

I've tried airtable and used the tool to plan my trip to Japan. It's great. I heard a few iOS developers use airtable as a lightweight backend instead of firebase.

I like its idea and design. I was trying to use it as replacement of my evernote (It's probably too weird to you). Then one day, I found https://notion.so. I decided to switch to it. It's faster and have offline support. But the only missing part is notion.so doesn't have API yet.


I've used AT a couple times but not recently. It was useful and solid.

I have to assume the $1.1B is based on more API usage and/or their backed as a broader servive.

I think AT is useful but none the less not everyone is ready, willing and able to use such a tool. I certainly wish them well. I'm still overwhelmed by that $1.1B. Just me?


Revenue is on track for $20M in 2018 [1]. While $1.1B could be considered high by some, it's a done deal now, Airtable is a real business pulling real revenue, and their continued execution and direction will determine the rest. :)

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevenbertoni/2018/11/15/move-s...


For a SaaS founder with 20% growth, $1MM ARR and 95% gross margin, hoping to even get within spitting distance of a 2x multiple, that 50x is one hell of a thing.

Now exit and raise are very different valuations, but 50x...


Not to offend. Just compare the AT growth. In SV the growth is what valued, with revenue and profit being the distant 2nd and 42nd.


Zero offense taken.

The VCs know what they are doing. Growth is absolutely king because it’s where you are going not where you are.

Profits would be like dividends - literally counting against you for not knowing what better to do with the money and instead giving 20%+ away to taxes.

Consistent (aka stagnant) profit is like running a zombie startup. Very difficult to exit that.


> "Consistent (aka stagnant) profit is like running a zombie startup. Very difficult to exit that."

I think you might have inadvertently adjusted - in a good way - the valuation lens. That is, it's not about valuation per se in the more traditional sense but valuation relative to exit / the ability to exit.

That is to the VCs, that's ultimately the goal / figure that matters. And their POV takes form of the public (to so speak) valuation. Put another way, it's not about the (broader) market per se, it's about the VC market.

That is, now $1.1B kinda makes sense.


met the co-founder Howie at a dinner in San Fran back in 2012 - I think the app was called Grid back then? Very passionate and driven, I remember him leaving the event early to work on the app.

I also remember my typical cynicism (held to myself of course) when he described the idea (what's this, Excel for ipads??!).. But now with a $1.1B valuation, wow - so well done to him and his team!


I believe you’re thinking of a different startup, Grid, from the YC S12 batch. Howie was a YC alum from a previous batch, but Airtable didn’t go through YC.

(I was in the YC S12 batch and am friends with Howie)


I wonder the database structure behind airtable-like flexible data apps. I suppose they would create databases and tables on the fly to increase performance - or maybe they just use unstructured (or flexibly structured) databases like mongodb?


"First off, we're huge fans of both Meteor and Asana. I spoke with Geoff @ Meteor a couple years ago when we were first starting to build out the Airtable product and was very impressed by their approach and vision. We've closely followed the developer blogs of both those projects (and in Meteor's case, their source code). With those learnings, we built our own realtime database engine that supports relational data (which Meteor doesn't yet support) and also some other major features like the ability to undo any user action out of order (like git revert), which is necessary to support undo in a multi-user context (because the last thing that you did may not be the last change globally if other people are concurrently making changes). Undo is a particularly challenging feature to implement in a structured relational database context, because it can't be reduced to a set of simplistic character insertion operations as is the case for a google word doc, or a spreadsheet (which is a simple 2d array of values without type constraints, foreign key relations, etc)."

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8374468


Maybe something similar to a triple store.


So many people use Excel/Google Sheets as a database rather than a spreadsheet, except you don't get any of the advantages of a database. It's astounding to me that there hasn't really been a webapp that's essentially just a nice collaborative frontend for a SQL database, which is how I use Airtable in my lab. I'm very happy to see they're on a sustainable path, and I hope they continue to support the use case of just-a-database. Congrats!


Very Nice interface. Takes things to the next level. However seeing the word workflow I assumed that there will be visual graphical representation of "my task" for a given project. It will show dependencies between the tasks. I assumed it will be show me the different steps visually with a nice diagram and I can drill into things to see subtask if required etc. (edited to make it more clearer)


I guess I just don't get it.

In what use cases does airtable outshine google sheets?


It's more databasey. Airtable is to Sheets the same way that MS Access is to Excel... for example, you can do many-to-many relationships between tables using junction tables.


The UI is much better than Google Sheets (Sheets is likely better for power users), multiple views (calendar, Kanban), attachments etc. You could also set relationships between tables, which as far as I know, you can't do in Sheets.

The number of rows allowed per table is too low for any data driven serious application - this explains why it is used by smaller companies and individuals. A non-tech person can set up a handful of tables and be up and running in minutes.

I am a fan, though I wish they allowed more rows per table.


> I am a fan, though I wish they allowed more rows per table.

I agree. Like the product, but being constrained by a rather limited number of records even in their expensive pro plans makes it a non-starter.


Good luck to them. Although I don't feel a spreadsheet is the most flexible representation of a "database", it's probably useful for their audience - non-dev knowledge workers. If they could bake in GDPR compliance tools, they'd probably be able to capture some enterprise customers.


I'm not a user but I did look at their product a while back. It seems like it's more of a spreadsheet UI for data tables, which is the next step for spreadsheets IMO.

You could argue there are extensions, scripts, plugins etc. that also do this but it seems Airtables are built for it from the ground up.


Looks like https://www.filemaker.com/ is looking at competing. I with Microsft does the same with access


There's definitely a market for something like this, the question is how big. I used DabbleDB back in the day, and it was great, but perhaps a little early to the party. The competition to Airtable is not just SalesForce and Sharepoint, but also all the janky access db's and excel-macro laden informal systems that get built at big companies. It's not hard to be better than that. And if an Airtable app grows to the point of needing a rewrite, then congrats-you've just got past MVP...


A month or so back I tried experimenting with Airtable based on glowing reviews on HN and elsewhere. I really hated the on-boarding process which forced me into a template (contact list, schedule, todo) when I just wanted the equivalent of a blank google sheet. The concept of structured data collection in a user interface that anyone can ramp up on is very compelling but I didn't even pass go.


Big fan of Airtable. Been using them for a month now trying to find a hosted/paid alternative to using both Google Drive and Trello.


Shouldn't Tableau already own this space seeing as they are the swiss army knife for whittling relational data?


Anyone know what their revenue multiplier is? I was pretty surprised when I saw the $1B number.


I use AirTable. Impressive product.

It feels to me like a successful implementation of Lotus Notes for the web.


I remember getting an interview invite to YC S2012 for MetaModeler (spreadsheet.io), a spreadsheet-database service. Seemed the timing was right, but the pitch was off at the time. Great seeing a Airtable execute on a similar vision.


Their Show HN in 2014, some interesting tidbits about the design. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8373914


Ok, so it's SmartSheet with API integrations.

Could be good solution to simplify managing multiple sites through API calls.

Basically creating a spreadsheet with external calls. And a sexy ass website.


Could be a good solution to ___________.

I think there are a TON of answers that you could fill in the blank with.


Honestly Airtable is the future, I'm very excited to watch it grow. 90% of software I create for enterprise companies is just spreadsheets on the cloud.


I use airtable everyday. Awesome tool for education.


Revenue numbers aren't mentioned in the article. Does anyone know about the multiple (valuation/revenue) they've raised at?


The Forbes article mention that they are on track to be around $20M https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevenbertoni/2018/11/15/move-s...


I'm guessing 20-25x revenue. Probably around 40m in ARR?


You're telling me AirTable makes more money than Zapier? wow


Valuations are not always straightfoward, and we don't know Airtable's ARR. I see Airtable as an Excel + Repl SaaS replacement. Does that have a larger market available to it? Maybe! Also, it doesn't appear Airtable has any competitors in the space (whereas your example has multiple competitors; MuleSoft is at ~$300 million/year in revenue, Microsoft doesn't break out their Flow service revenue unfortunately).

I think Airtable and Zapier are both great products, and recommend both to clients, but they have different use cases.


What's the most impressive Airtable use-case that comes to your mind, since you recommend it to clients? I'm trying to think of something that Google Spreadsheet + Zapier add-ons don't cover...can't come up with much


A client has a popular t-shirt production business and brand that does around $60 million a year in revenue and they're using Airtable as their process workflow tool (inventory, shipping, production, etc). They'll eventually graduate to a traditional ERP system, they're just not ready yet.

Also, I don't find Google Spreadsheet to be a compelling tool for anything mission critical.


Thanks for sharing!


Happy to help, a rising tide lifts all boats.


Well done ! Looks amazing


Welcome to nubtown


lol


They will ban you from their community if you ask them to explain why they are not implementing certain features that are being requested over and over for years.


Sounds annoying. I'm assuming you weren't satisfied with the answer (even if implied) of "it's not our priority right now"?


Problem is they often delete posts that have more than a slight hint of dissatisfaction in them. If they had provided that answer before, I, and others, couldn't know. The thread I am remembering had no responses from staff and multiple asking for an answer. Then it was gone. Then my account was temporarily banned.

It left a REALLY sour taste for me. That's the first time that's happened to me and I express my desire for features often.

I know this is just a single anecdote but it was a really heavy-handed approach.

edit: I actually REALLY REALLY like Airtable. That's part of why I am so "traumatized" by it. My colleagues were getting annoyed with how much I was raving about it. "We could do so much with this and it's easy to use to use too!"


I've had similar not /great/ experiences. I ended up on a conference call with one of their staff to work through some limitations. Some basic interface fixes were required, especially when it came to some Blocks implementations -- sad to say this was ~6 months ago and those changes still haven't happened.


Totally offtopic, but the screenshot on the top of the page shows the Airtable dashboard with a fictional magazine cover about the "best in class American cruiser" with a Ferrari in the background... And a GM logo next to it...

This screenshot comes from Airtable's press package. If you are releasing press material, at least check it for facts first.




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