Interview with Howie Liu, co-founder and CEO of Airtable

“It’s one thing to create a product that is useful. It’s another to create a product that is so much better that people change their habits. In our case, the habit was probably using Excel or Google Sheets. And, that’s a pretty strong habit to break.”

Howie Liu is the co-founder and CEO of Airtable, a low-code platform for building collaborative apps. The company has taken the world by storm since its creation and has recently raised $185 million in a Series D round, reaching a valuation of $2.585 billion. However, even as the company’s valuation soars, Howie has clearly expressed no interest in exiting. 

In this episode, Howie walks us through his entrepreneurial journey from building his first company Etacts (acquired by Salesforce) to launching Airtable. We talk about product development,  the low-code movement, Airtable’s long term vision to democratize software creation, and a lot more.

Listen to the full episode on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Deezer & Google Podcast.

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Topics

0:22 – Intro

1:12 – Why getting acquired is not an end goal for Airtable

2:40 – Howie’s background: Etacts (first company acquired by Salesforce) and launching Airtable

4:03 – How the idea of Airtable came about

5:20 – Building a product that goes up against big players: Salesforce, Excel, Google Sheets

8:02 – Building Airtable: what did the V1 of Airtable look like, how did they iterate subsequently, the importance of changing how did they get people to use the product, etc.

12:40 – The importance of picking a smaller sub-problem rather than taking on big players head on

13:16 – Why did Airtable take 3 years to build: focus on the technology

15:18 – Investors

16:22 – Number of businesses that use Airtable

16:40 – Airtable’s growth story

18:47 – Airtable vs. a productivity tool: a distinction in product depth

21:20 – The low-code movement

25:19 – What can we expect to see from Airtable in the coming months and on the long term

27:13 – The most surprising use case of Airtable (spoiler: 🤠 included)

Produced by

Cindy Yang
[email protected]

Hosted by

Roxanne Varza
@roxannevarza