Spreadsheet software – led by products like Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, and Apple’s Numbers – continues to be one of the most widely used categories of business applications, with Excel alone recording over a billion users only on its Android version. Now, a startup called Rows that builds on that ubiquity, with a low-code platform that allows people to populate and analyze web apps using only spreadsheet interfaces, announces funding, and launches a freemium open beta version of its extended service.
The Berlin-based startup – which changed its name from dashdash late last year – closed a $ 16 million Series B, money it is using to continue investing in its platform as well as sales and marketing. The platform’s move to an open beta comes with some 50 new integrations with other platforms such as LinkedIn, Instagram and more, as well as 200 new features (using known spreadsheet shortcuts) use.
The round was led by Lakestar, with former investors Accel (who led its $ 8 million Series A in 2018) and Cherry Ventures also participating. Christian Reber also invested in this round. Reber knows a thing or two about software disrupting legacy productivity software – he’s the co-founder and CEO of presentation software startup Pitch and the former CEO and founder of Microsoft-acquired Wunderlist – and he’s joining including Rows’ advisory board with the investment.
A little detail about this B series: CEO Humberto Ayres Pereira, who is based in Porto, Portugal, where part of the staff is also based, tells us that this cycle was closed over a year ago, in January 2020 – just before the world stops amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The startup chose to announce this cycle today to coincide with the addition of additional features to its product and the move to an open beta, he said.
This open beta is free in its most basic form – the free tier is limited to 10 users or less and minimal use of the onboarding. Paid tiers, which cover more team members and up to 100,000 onboarding tasks (which is measured by the number of times a spreadsheet polls another department), start at $ 59 per month. .
A strong sign of interest in this latest iteration of the software is the enduring popularity of spreadsheets. Another is Rows’ traction so far: In invite-only mode, it has removed 10,000 users from its waitlist and hundreds of businesses as customers. Currently, most of them are free, Ayres Pereira said.
“Our goal is to have 1,000 paying businesses as customers within 12 months,” he said. This process is only just beginning, he added, with numbers paying off in the modest “tens” for the moment. He pointed out, however, that the company was very efficient in terms of cash flow and had, even without raising more funds, two years of track with the money it now has in the bank.
The growing appeal of low-code
Codeless and low-code software, which allows people to create and work with applications and other digital content without delving into the lines of code that underlie them, have continued to gain traction in the market. during the last years.
The reason is simple: non-technical workers may not be coding, but they are increasingly adept at understanding how services work and what can be achieved in an application.
Codeless and low-code platforms allow them to become more familiar with customizing and building the services they need on a daily basis to do their jobs, without the time and effort required to involve an engineer.
“People want to create their own tools,” Ayres Pereira said. “They want to understand, test and iterate.” He said the majority of Rows users so far are based in North America, and typical use cases include marketing and sales teams, as well as businesses using Rows spreadsheets as a dynamic interface. to manage logistics and other operations.
Stephen Nundy, the Lakestar partner who led its investment, describes the army of users using no-code tools as “citizen developers.”
Rows is precisely the type of platform playing in the low-code trend. For people who are already familiar with the types of tools you find in spreadsheets – and something like Excel has hundreds of functions – it presents a way to build on these familiar functions to trigger integrations with other applications, and for later use a spreadsheet created in rows to both analyze data from other applications and update them.
You might ask yourself why is it more useful, for example, to watch content from Twitter online rather than from Twitter itself? A Rows document can allow a person to search for a set of Tweets using a certain string of keywords, and then organize those results based on parameters such as the number of “likes” received by these Tweets.
Or users who respond to a call to action for an Instagram promotion can then be benchmarked with a company’s existing customer database, to analyze how those respondents overlap or present new leads.
You might also be wondering why existing spreadsheet products might not already have authoring functionality like this.
Interestingly, Microsoft went to great lengths to create a way to link Excel to some rudimentary computer functions, in the form of Visual Basic for Applications. It did, however, achieve the dubious distinction of surpassing developers’ list of “most feared” languages for two consecutive years, and so, as you can imagine, it’s kind of dead.
However, this points to an opportunity for incumbents to disrupt their disruptors.
Besides these more obvious and ingrained competitors, there are a number of other startup building tools that provide similar no-code and no-code approaches.
Gyana focuses more on data science, Tray.io provides a graphical interface for integrating how applications work together, Zapier and Notion also provide simple interfaces for integrating applications and APIs together, and Airtable has its own vision. of the reinvention of the spreadsheet interface. For now, Ayres Pereira considers them more as compatriots than as competitors.
“Yes, we overlap with services like Zapier and Notion,” he said. “But I would say we’re friends. We are making everyone aware that people can do more and not have to use old tools. This is not a zero sum game for us. “
When we covered Rows’ A-series two years ago, the startup had built a platform to allow people who are comfortable with data in spreadsheets to use this interface to create and populating content in web applications. It had a lot of extensibility, but was primarily aimed at people who were still willing to do the job of making those connections.
Two years later, while the spreadsheet remained the anchor, the platform grew. Ayres Pereira, who co-founded the company with Torben Schulz (both pictured above), said there are currently around 50 new integrations, including ways to analyze and update content on platforms of social media like Instagram, YouTube, CrunchBase, Salesforce, Slack, LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as some 200 new features in the platform itself.
While people can import data into Rows from Google Sheets, he noted that everyone’s big daddy Excel isn’t supported at this time. The reason, he said, is that the vast majority of product users are using the desktop version, which lacks an API.
Meanwhile, Rows also has a number of templates available for people to guide them through simple tasks, such as finding LinkedIn profiles or finding emails for a list of people; tracking the number of social media and so on.
However, one of the most common aspects of spreadsheets has yet to be created. The interface is still grouped around rows and columns, but without graphing tools to visualize the data in different ways, such as pie charts or charts, like you might have in a regular spreadsheet.
It is for this reason that Rows has not yet exited the beta. This feature is in high demand, admitted Pereira, describing it as “the final frontier”. When Rows is ready to ship with this feature, probably in the third quarter of this year, it will upgrade to the general version “1.0”, he added.
“Humberto and Torben have truly impressed us with their ambition to disrupt the market with a new spreadsheet paradigm that addresses significant gaps in current solutions,” said Nundy of Lakestar. “The data integrations are native, the collaboration experience is first class, and the ability to share and publish your work as an app is unique and will create more ‘citizen developers’ to emerge. This is essential to meet the growing needs of today’s literate workforce. The level of interest they have received in their private beta is proof of the interest from platforms like Rows, and we’re excited to support them throughout their public beta launch and beyond. beyond with this investment. “Nundy also joins the Rows board with this round.