Howie Liu, the cofounder and CEO of cloud software start-up Airtable, has raised a $270 million Series E round at a valuation of $5.77 billion.
Neil Mehta of Greenoaks Capital led the round, which included a first-time investment from Jeffery Katzensberg’s WndrCo and earlier investors Caffeinated Capital, CRV, and Thrive.
Howie Liu, CEO of Airtable
© 2018 Bloomberg Finance LP
With the new funding, Liu has more than doubled Airtable’s valuation since September 2020, when he raised $185 million Series D at a $2.5 billion valuation. Liu says that he wasn’t actively raising more capital—or considering going public—when Greenoaks reached out to invest. “The new round lets us bet even longer-term, but more aggressively,” says Liu, who says that Airtable now has roughly $500 million in cash on hand. “We are going to aggressively invest into improving the stability and scalability of the product, go into new service areas, and increase our sales and marketing. But we’re doing it in a disciplined way where we still are in control of our business.”
Airtable is a slick, cloud-based spreadsheet and robust relational database with a twist. Its no-code product lets you build and customize software without deep programming skills. As I’ve written before, it feels like a turbocharged Google Sheets but has the computing chops to run companies with thousands of employees. Recently Liu opened Airtable’s API to allow outside developers to create apps and functions that run on its ecosystem—much like how independent companies build apps for Apple’s App Store.
Airtable’s software has thrived in the current Covid remote work environment. Its product lets teams create software to collaborate, manage projects, share and catalog critical data sets, content, and information to employees worldwide.
More companies are doing just that. Airtable is built on a freemium model, giving away basic functions gratis and offers more powerful products via subscription and enterprise plans. Today more than 250,000 companies use Airtable. The number of paying enterprise customers has grown nearly 350% over the last year—a rate twice as fast as the subscription growth for lower-tiered plans. “From the investor lens, the corporate growth signals there’s so much more room for us to grow,” says Liu. “Especially as we start aggressively investing into enterprise products, focus on enterprise needs, build out our sales and marketing engine.”
“Airtable represents a fundamental shift in how software can be used and created,” says Neil Mehta, the founder of Greenoaks Capital (and Forbes Under 30 alum) who initiated the Series E round. “Its software can penetrate an infinite number of use cases across the modern workforce.”
Mehta says he is also impressed by how Airtable quickly spreads throughout companies by word of mouth without spending much effort or money on sales. He says it’s typical to have one department, say marketing or accounting, start using Airtable, and soon the entire company will adopt the software.
Jeffrey Katzenberg, the famed Hollywood executive, was an Airtable fan before he was an Airtable investor. “Airtable’s ability, in a customized way, to connect everything and everyone in an organization is transformative,” says Katzenberg. “It’s an incredibly powerful and empowering collaboration platform. In the world of make you smarter, make you faster, and save you money—it’s the trifecta.”
Katzenberg says Airtable was the foundation for the tech infrastructure for his short-lived media company Quibi. (He jokes that he wishes he had a better example). “We had hundreds of projects being shared across production, post-production, marketing, finance—every facet of the business,” says Katzenberg. “Airtable allowed us to communicate and share in a way that I’ve never been able to do before.”
Katzenberg met Liu through his former Quibi CFO Ambereen Toubassy, who now serves as Airtable’s CFO. Toubassy was part of the new c-suite team of tech veterans that Liu recruited in 2020 to professionalize and grow Airtable. “I don’t know if we could have raised this fundraising round if we hadn’t assembled this executive team,” says Liu. “The investment was predicated on now having the leadership to scale up our products, execute our growth strategies, and ultimately beat the competition to aggressively take the market.”