Sep
14
2020
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Airtable raises $185M and launches new low-code and automation features

The spreadsheet-centric database and no-code platform Airtable today announced that it has raised a $185 million Series D funding round, putting the company at a $2.585 billion post-money valuation.

Thrive Capital led the round, with additional funding by existing investors Benchmark, Coatue, Caffeinated Capital and CRV, as well as new investor D1 Capital. With this, Airtable, which says it now has 200,000 companies using its service, has raised a total of about $350 million. Current customers include Netflix, HBO, Condé Nast Entertainment, TIME, City of Los Angeles, MIT Media Lab and IBM.

In addition, the company is also launching one of its largest feature updates today, which starts to execute on the company’s overall platform vision that goes beyond its current no-code capabilities and brings tools to the service more low-code features, as well new automation (think IFTTT for Airtable) and data management.

As Airtable founder and CEO Howie Liu told me, a number of investors approached the company since it raised its Series C round in 2018, in part because the market clearly realized the potential size of the low-code/no-code market.

“I think there’s this increasing market recognition that the space is real, and the space is very large […],” he told me. “While we didn’t strictly need the funding, it allowed us to continue to invest aggressively into furthering our platform, vision and really executing aggressively, […] without having to worry about, ‘well, what happens with COVID?’ There’s a lot of uncertainty, right? And I think even today there’s still a lot of uncertainty about what the next year will bear.”

The company started opening the round a couple of months after the first shelter in place orders in California, and for most investors, this was a purely digital process.

Liu has always been open about the fact that he wants to build this company for the long haul — especially after he sold his last company to Salesforce at an early stage. As a founder, that likely means he is trying to keep his stake in the company high, even as Airtable continues to raise more money. He argues, though, that more so than the legal and structural controls, being aligned with his investors is what matters most.

“I think actually, what’s more important in my view, is having philosophical alignment and expectations alignment with the investors,” he said. “Because I don’t want to be in a position where it comes down to a legal right or structural debate over the future of the company. That almost feels to me like the last resort where it’s already gotten to a place where things are ugly. I’d much rather be in a position where all the investors around the table, whether they have legal say or not, are fully aligned with what we’re trying to do with this business.”

Just as important as the new funding though, are the various new features the company is launching today. Maybe the most important of these is Airtable Apps. Previously, Airtable users could use pre-built blocks to add maps, Gantt charts and other features to their tables. But while being a no-code service surely helped Airtable’s users get started, there’s always an inevitable point where the pre-built functionality just isn’t enough and users need more custom tools (Liu calls this an escape valve). So with Airtable Apps, more sophisticated users can now build additional functionality in JavaScript — and if they choose to do so, they can then share those new capabilities with other users in the new Airtable Marketplace.

Image Credits: Airtable

“You may or may not need an escape valve and obviously, we’ve gotten this far with 200,000 organizations using Airtable without that kind of escape valve,” he noted. “But I think that we open up a lot more use cases when you can say, well, Airtable by itself is 99% there, but that last 1% is make or break. You need it. And then, just having that outlet and making it much more leveraged to build that use case on Airtable with 1% effort, rather than building the full-stack application as a custom built application is all the difference.”

Image Credits: Airtable

The other major new feature is Airtable Automations. With this, you can build custom, automated workflows to generate reports or perform other repetitive steps. You can do a lot of that through the service’s graphical interface or use JavaScript to build your own custom flows and integrations, too. For now, this feature is available for free, but the team is looking into how to charge for it over time, given that these automated flows may become costly if you run them often.

The last new feature is Airtable Sync. With this, teams can more easily share data across an organization, while also providing controls for who can see what. “The goal is to enable people who built software with Airtable to make that software interconnected and to be able to share a source of truth table between different instances of our tables,” Liu explained.

Image Credits: Airtable

Sep
01
2020
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InCountry raises $18M more to help SaaS companies store data locally

We’re seeing a gradual expansion of national regulations that require data from SaaS applications to be stored locally in the country where it’s sourced and used. Today a startup that’s built a service around that need — specifically, data residency-as-a-service — is announcing some funding to continue building out its company amid strong demand.

InCountry, which provides a set of solutions — comprising software as well as some consultancy — that helps companies comply with local regulations when adopting SaaS products, has raised $18 million in funding.

This is technically an extension to its Series A, but in keeping with the growth of its business, it comes with a big bump to its valuation: the startup is now valued at “north” of $150 million. Founder and CEO Peter Yared said this is more than double the valuation of its previous round a little over a year ago

The money is coming from a mix of strategic and financial investors. It’s being led by Caffeinated Capital and Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala, with participation from new investor Accenture Ventures and previous investors Arbor Ventures, Felicis, Ridge Ventures, Bloomberg Beta and Team Builder Ventures. Accenture is one of InCountry’s key channel partners, reselling the software as part of bigger data management and integration contracts, Yared tells me.

The company has seen a decent bump in its business in the last year, expanding to 90 countries from 65, where it provides guidance and services to store and use data in compliance with legal requirements. Alongside that it has an increasingly long list of software packages that it covers with its products. The list currently includes Salesforce, ServiceNow, Twilio, Mambu and Segment, with customers including a large list of enterprises including stock exchanges, banks and pharmaceutical companies.

“This company was based off a crazy thesis,” Yared said with an almost incredulous laugh (he has a very jocular way of talking, even when he’s being serious). “Now it’s 20 months old, and our customers are banks, pharma giants, stock exchanges. We are proud that large institutions can trust us.”

A big bump in its business in recent times has been in Asia Pacific and the Middle East, which are two main regions when it comes to data residency regulations and therefore ripe ground for winning new customers — one reason why Mubadala is part of this round, Yared said.

“At Mubadala we are committed to backing visionary founders whose innovations fuel economies,” said Ibrahim Ajami, head of Ventures at Mubadala Capital. “Since day one, InCountry’s cloud solution has addressed a massive challenge in this era of regulation by giving businesses the tools to grow internationally while remaining compliant with data residency regulations. We’re doubling down on our investment and are supporting InCountry’s expansion into the MENA region because we believe they are the best team to help drive global business forward.”

Partly due to the growing ubiquity, flexibility and relatively cheap cost of cloud computing, software as a service  has been on a fast growth trajectory for years now. But even within that trend, it has had a huge boost in 2020 as a result of the global health pandemic.

COVID-19 has given the need for remote computing, and being able to access data wherever you happen to be — which in many cases today is no longer in your usual office space. On top of that, we have a lot more “wiggle room” in business, with organizations quickly scaling up and down with demand.

The knock-on effect has been a big boost for SaaS. But that growth has come with some caveats, and one of the biggest alongside security has been around data protection, and specifically national requirements in how data is stored and used. Arguably, SaaS companies have been more concerned with scaling their software and business funnels than they have been with how data is handled and how that has changed in keeping with local regulations, and that’s the opportunity that InCountry has stepped in to fill.

It provides not just a set of software to store and handle data in a secure way, but also an extensive list of legal advisors with expertise at the local level to help companies get their data policies in order. It’s an interesting model: While InCountry’s been an early mover in identifying this market opportunity and building technology to address it, it’s buffered its competitive position not with a sole focus on technology, but an extensive amount of human capital to get each implementation right.

That can prove to be a costly thing to get wrong. In the EU in July, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) put down the EU-US Privacy Shield — a framework that let businesses transfer personal data between the European Union and the United States while ensuring compliance with data protection regulations. This has impacted some 5,000 companies, which now have to rethink how they handle their data. The fine for not complying with storing data locally means that they can be fined up to 4% of their revenues.

Yared tells me that for now, the main competitor to something like InCountry has been companies building their own policies in house. Some of those solutions would have been done completely in house and some in partnership with integrators, but all of them were hard to scale and were painful to maintain, one reason why companies and their business partners are turning to working with his startup.

“Accenture Ventures is pleased to support InCountry as it continues to expand globally,” said Tom Lounibos, managing director, Accenture Ventures, in a statement. “InCountry’s software solutions are helping companies address the critical issue of becoming and remaining compliant with a multitude of data residency laws. This expansion will help support enterprises as they unlock their business across borders.”

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