36. Airtable

Next-generation workplace collaboration

Founders: Howie Liu (CEO), Andrew Ofstad, Emmett Nicholas
Launched: 2012
Headquarters: San Francisco
$170 million
Valuation: $1.1 billion (PitchBook)
Key technologies:
Cloud computing
Database management

George Kavallines | CNBC

This San Francisco-based cloud company lets non-techies build custom apps for their businesses affordably and in a matter of days. Airtable was co-founded by Howie Liu, who sold his other start-up — enterprise software company Etacts — to Salesforce in 2011. Liu believes that software is the most profound medium for expression and economic value creation, but up until Airtable, it wasn't really accessible to most people.

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That's why he set out to make the company's platform more user-friendly to build complex software applications. Basically, it lets users create spreadsheets, like Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel, but the cells can accommodate photos and lists, not just numbers. Airtable claims that users with no coding background can build their own apps and workflows.

Apparently, there's a big market for Liu's vision. Netflix, Adobe, Atlantic Records, Conde Nast Entertainment and Tesla are customers, as well as more than 80,000 other organizations, including a good number of Fortune 500 companies. In fact, the company added 101 new Fortune 500 companies as customers last year.

Airtable has raised a little over $170 million, including $100 million in November from Thrive Capital, Benchmark and Coatue Management, at a valuation of $1.1 billion. Ashton Kutcher, who had invested in Liu's first company, is also an investor in Airtable. Though Liu won't disclose specific financials, he did reveal that revenue grew more than 400% last year. The company says an IPO is part of the long-term plan but didn't give a timetable for when that might happen.

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