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Cloud Startup Airtable Raises $185 Million At $2.5 Billion Valuation And Launches API For Outside Coders.

Cloud start-up Airtable has raised $185 million at a $2.5 billion valuation and launched API for outside coders

9/14/2020 4:28:00 PM

Cloud start-up Airtable has raised $185 million at a $2.5 billion valuation and launched API for outside coders

Airtable is opening its API as it battles both startup and mega-cap rivals in the no-code space. Amazon launched Honeycode, a spreadsheet program that lets you build apps and web pages on AWS. Microsoft debuted its low-code offering dubbed Microsoft Lists. Rumor has it Google is creating one too.

© 2018 Bloomberg Finance LPAmid booming stock prices for publicly-traded software companies, cloud software startup, Airtable, has raised $185 million in a Series D round. Existing investor Thrive Capital led the round, which included previous backers Benchmark Capital, Coatue, CRV, Caffeinated Capital, and newcomer D1 Capital Partners. With the investment, Airtable has raised $350 million since its 2013 launch. The post-money valuation is $2.585 billion—more than double Airtable's last fundraise in November 2018.

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"We didn't need the money," says Howie Liu, Airtable's cofounder and CEO."Once Covid hit, we wanted to seize the opportunity and not have to worry about what the economy is going to look like if there's a second wave. We are building for the long term without being distracted by broader market fluctuations."

Fluctuations have beensurging upwardfor software and cloud companies since the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed most businesses remote and virtual. (Near-zero interest rates have helped too). Shares of Wisdom Tree's cloud computing ETF WCLD, a basket of 54 software companies, has climbed 85% from the markets' mid-March lows—trouncing both the S&P 500 (up 35%) and the frothy NASDAQ composite (up 50%).

"Before the pandemic, the phrase 'digital transformation' felt like a buzzword. Now it feels like an existential transition that if you get wrong, you're the next Blockbuster video," says Thomas Laffont, the cofounder of Coatue and an Airtable investor."The urgency around it has fundamentally changed. Every boardroom is thinking, what's our strategy? How do we fend off Amazon? How do we fend off Peloton? How do we operate in this environment? All those questions are being answered through better software—and Airtable has a great solution."

"It's a huge trend with tough competitors."Coatue Cofounder Thomas LaffontAirtable is part of a new crop of no-code companies that lets users build and customize software without knowing how to program. As FORBESpreviously wrote, Airtable is an easy-to-use spreadsheet with the power of a database. Cloud-based and collaborative, with Airtable you can store and sort data, images, documents, and videos in an intuitive drag-and-drop interface. It feels like a turbocharged Google Sheets but has the computing chops to run companies with thousands of employees. 

But its real differentiating feature is Airtable Blocks. These small apps allow you to add new functions and programs to tailor the software to your specific needs. With Blocks, you can integrate with Slack and Dropbox, send SMS messages and emails, overlay Google Maps, and publish content directly to the Web. Think of them as Lego pieces that let you build bespoke software that once required a team of engineers or pricey consultants to create. 

“Down the road, we're very open to enabling for-profit businesses to start on top of the Airtable ecosystem.”Howie Liu, Airtable Cofunder and CEOToday, more than 200,000 organizations use Airtable, including Netflix, IBM, HBO, and Conde Nast. While Liu won't share numbers, he says that Airtable's business growth remained steady. During the pandemic, they doubled their headcount to about 300 people—many of whom have never entered the office.

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Liu is preparing for what he calls a “good second wave” of software demand amid the shift to remote work. As Liu sees it, the first wave centered around communication companies likeZoomand Slack."Covid hit, and everyone was flailing to figure out how to literally talk to each other. That was the first essential need," Liu says over a Zoom interview."The next wave of Covid-accelerated adoption will be around Airtable and other products that let companies build structured workflows that are more remote-work compatible and digitally native."

To ride this second wave, Liu is launching software to streamline the new virtual work reality. There are new features for automation and integration of teams from different companies. But the most significant change is the debut of Airtable apps that will replace the current Blocks offering. More than a rebrand, the new app ecosystem will allow outside developers to build custom programs and share them with the Airtable community.  

Before, Airtable built all of the add-on functions. Now outsiders will be able to develop and design open-source software to live on Airtable."There's an enormous and high-value developer community out there—11 million JavaScript programmers. We are integrating the value that a true developer can bring to the platform," says Liu, who adds that Airtable's code-light features remain critical to the product."If you don't want to code, you can use all the pre-made apps that the community has made." Think Airtable App Store—but everything is free, for now. 

"We are going down an altruistic, open-source path," says Liu."Down the road, we're very open to enabling for-profit businesses to start on top of the Airtable ecosystem—just as there are on the Salesforce ecosystem." Read more: Forbes »

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