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What, exactly, does the $11 billion software company Airtable do?

Low code workflow hub lands mega-capital influx

Workflow application provider Airtable has raised $735 million in a Series F funding round that values it at a huge $11.7 billion in what is a huge endorsement of its opportunity to peel off enterprise workloads.

The company describes itself in various places as a low code specialist, a workflow specialist and a “real time, collaborative database with a spreadsheet-like interface”. It is hosted in AWS. Described by one watcher as a "turbocharged Google Sheets" it has a wealth of integrations and also provides an API for outside developers to create apps and functions that run within its ecosystem. It has grown hugely fast on a freemium land-and-expand-to-premium offerings approach with strong word-of-mouth-driven expansion across blue chips.

Airtable claims to have 80% of the Fortune 100 as customers, with marquee brands like Amazon, IBM, Netflix, Nike, and Red Bull, Restoration Hardware, and Under Armour all listed as users of its software. Airtable was co-founded in 2013 by CEO Howie Liu -- who sold his previous enterprise software company Etacts to Salesforce in 2011 – alongside CTO Emmett Nicholas, a former Microsoft and Stack Overflow software engineer, and Andrew Ofstadt, previously a product manager at Google who led a Google Maps team.

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The company provides a workplace productivity and workflow hub that can act as a central point to manage everything from GitHub to Slack, Outlook to Zendesk, Stripe or social media tools. Alongside acting as a central location for product roadmaps, campaign workflows, or operations (including inventory and vendor management, through pre-made or custom templates) it is also aiming to peel off workloads from traditional ERP firms by offering highly flexible HR, finance and sales tools. The huge inflow of capital will be used to build up its low code offering, executives said in a release on the funding round this week (December 13, 2021).

“As we’ve sharpened our focus on the needs of enterprise businesses, customers are scaling their use of our products to department- and company-wide processes, establishing Airtable as a source of truth for their most valuable operations,” said CEO Howie Liu, citing Gartner research that suggests by 2023, there will be four times more people developing software apps outside of IT at large enterprises than there will professional developers: “This additional capital will allow us to invest even more aggressively in product development and to scale a team and infrastructure capable of supporting a much larger, worldwide customer base.”

This Series F round includes participation from public market and private investment firms: XN, which led the round, Franklin Templeton, J.P. Morgan Growth Equity Partners, Michael Dell’s MSD Capital, Salesforce Ventures, Silver Lake, and funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. Existing Airtable investors including Benchmark, Caffeinated Capital, Coatue, D1 Capital Partners, Greenoaks, ICONIQ Growth, and Thrive Capital also participated in the round. Founder of XN, Gaurav Kapadia said: “The decentralization of software development represents one of the largest opportunities in all of technology and will unleash a critical wave of innovation and productivity," said Gaurav Kapadia, founder of hedge fund XN.

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