Airtable Raises $185M, More Than Doubling Its Value to $2.5B. Meet Some Key Players Growing the Company

Anna Bradley-Smith September 18, 2020
Airtable
Image credit: Airtable

Airtable has closed a Series D funding round raising $185 million and increasing its value to $2.5 billion.

That more than doubles the spreadsheet-based cloud collaboration startup’s last valuation of $1.1 billion, which gave the no-code to low-code platform unicorn status. The new investment was led by Thrive Capital, with existing investors including Benchmark, Coatue Management and CRV.

Airtable CEO Howie Liu told Forbes the latest round of funding wasn’t needed by Airtable, but when COVID-19 hit, the team didn’t want to worry about the economy long-term. 

He said the new investment would be used to take huge steps towards customization, setting Airtable apart from its competitors.

Democratizing software creation

Launched in 2013 and headquartered in San Francisco, Airtable’s mission is to democratize software creation by letting users build and customize software without needing to know how to code.

It’s marketed as an easy-to-use spreadsheet, and with its database it can cater to companies with thousands of employees, using cloud-based collaborative software to organize and share images, documents, data and more (think a ramped-up Google Sheets). The basic version is free to use. Its signature feature has been Airtable Blocks, small apps allowing users to tailor and integrate different functions, including Slack and Google Maps, depending on their software needs. 

Along with the latest funding, Airtable announced it is replacing Blocks with new low-code and automation features, including the new Airtable Apps which will allow developers to build custom, sharable, open-source programs for the platform. New features also include Marketplace, where users can share new developments, Automations, to automate workflows, and Sync, for teams to more easily share data securely across an organization.

Airtable CEO Howie Liu told Fast Company the rollout was one of the biggest company shifts in its eight-year history.

Steady for the win

Although the company competes with giants Amazon, Microsoft and Google, Liu has said it aims to create a more design-focused user-friendly platform.

Airtable now boasts more than 200,000 business customers, including Netflix, Robinhood and HBO

Liu has spoken about Airtable being part of a second wave of demand for online products brought on by the pandemic, with the first being basic communication tools such as Zoom and Slack. The second wave includes software productivity and workflow optimization tools.

Although the company hasn’t shared sales numbers, it has doubled its headcount to 300 during the pandemic.

Leading team

Liu, who cofounded Airtable with Andrew Ofstad and Emmett Nicholas, will be a primary driver for Airtable’s future growth and development.

Airtable org chart

Previously a product leader at Salesforce (which he joined when the company he founded, CRM Etacts, was acquired) Liu taught himself to code at age 13. By 16, he was at Duke University. He landed a job at Accenture after graduating, but got cold feet the night before and never showed, instead launching Etacts and gaining a spot in Y Combinator.

Before launching into Airtable, Liu spent time travelling and delving into design theory. His focus has always been to build something quality over time, and he’s said he spends time talking to potential investors making sure philosophy and expectations are aligned.

Beauty and function

Helping guide the company’s new direction will be cofounder and CPO Andrew Ofstad, a fellow Duke alumni.

When Ofstad reconnected with Liu, he was on sabbatical from Google, where he led the redesign of Google’s flagship Maps app as a product manager. Prior to Google, he was a product manager at Android.

At Airtable, Ofstad keeps everything running smoothly, unblocking projects, guiding priorities and recruiting for a strong team.

He said he gets inspiration from foundational books and papers on personal computing and architecture, saying similarities exist between the best architects and the best product designers. “They’re both working to combinate form and beauty, but the building also has to stand up, and the product needs to be functional and work.”

Emmett Nicholas, Airtable cofounder and CTO, will be another key player in the company’s shift to becoming a low-code platform. Nicholas was a founding engineer of Stack Overflow, which he helped scale to hundreds of millions of users, and he is also a Duke alumni.

Nicholas will no doubt play a guiding role in Airtable’s R&D, and will keep the company on track for long-term growth.

Helping to ensure that, will be Head of Growth Darius Contractor. Contractor, a growth-focused engineering leader, is overseeing Airtable’s new phase and will be assisting with scalability, management and strategy.  With all the new developments and increased valuation, there is speculation about a possible IPO for the company. 

However, Liu said he’s in no hurry to go public, saying his team was too busy chasing the $100 billion opportunity ahead.

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