Nowadays, almost all businesses need a way to store large amounts of information online and work on it collaboratively, which is especially true since, in the post-pandemic world, employees of a single company often work from far and wide.
You might be working from London; your manager might be working from New York, but you both need a single, easily-accessible source of truth for all your data. That’s where Airtable comes in.
Founded by Howie Liu, Emmett Nicholas, and Andrew Ofstad in 2012 and headquartered in San Francisco, California (where else?), Airtable is a cloud collaboration service with the features of a regular database but applied cleverly to a spreadsheet. This is great if, unlike me, you’re enthusiastic about data-related things.
The global cloud computing market in which Airtable operates is immense, estimated at $380.25 billion in 2021. Analysts have even predicted it could hit $1,614.10 billion by 2030, making it one of the biggest and fastest-growing markets today.
Within cloud computing sits project management software, a more niche market valued at $5.37 billion in 2020. Airtable has a 5.62% share, which sounds relatively small, but with so many competitors, few companies have managed to secure a significant chunk of the market.
As a result, many companies of a similar size to Airtable are vying for a larger share. With rapid technological advances and pressure from all sides, Airtable faces many challenges on the road to becoming an industry leader.
Learn more about how Airtable positions itself within the ever-changing project management software market and the cloud computing industry more broadly in this Airtable competitors analysis guide.
Bottom Line Up Front
Airtable faces competition from well-established companies like Microsoft, which people see as the go-to for spreadsheet software, and other startups who bring something new – and crucially improved – to the table.
The project and data management software industry is evolving rapidly; the biggest pressure companies like Airtable face is to achieve widespread awareness of their product and constant innovation.
List of Airtable’s Main Competitors
- Zoho Creator
- Microsoft Excel
- Google Sheets
Airtable Business Strategy
Airtable is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company that utilizes a freemium revenue model; the company offers all users a free, simplified version of its service but charges more for extra features.
As I have learned numerous times, it’s easy to get talked into upgrading your account to premium after you’ve already started using the basic features of a service. Freemium is, in my eyes, one of the most successful revenue models for technology – and specifically software – companies.
There are three payment plans in addition to the free version of Airtable:
- Plus – $10 per seat/month
- Pro – $20 per seat/month
- Enterprise – price negotiable depending on the unique needs of each business
Startups, especially in the crowded software industry, can often struggle to get off the ground, but this hasn’t been the case with Airtable’s journey. The company was founded in 2014 and has raised an impressive total of $1.4 billion in funding over nine rounds.
Investors include Founder Collective, Benchmark, Thrive Capital, and even Ashton Kutcher.
It wasn’t until 2021 that Airtable became profitable after a funding round that raised $735 million. As a result, the company has a value of $11.7 billion.
Following this valuation, Airtable’s business strategy is to enhance its application platform (for example, by improving integrations with highly successful services like Salesforce) and expand into Europe.
Cloud-based team collaboration tools saw extensive growth during the global pandemic, which forced many teams to move online, and Airtable is no exception. It has over 300,000 active users, including Netflix Inc. and Hulu. Further, over 30% of these users are on a paid subscription.
According to Liu, one of the founders of Airtable, the company’s annual revenue is upward of $100 million.
Airtable has achieved this partly due to its growth strategy, which was based on the product being a hit with customers and going viral. Only later, after Airtable had spent time focusing on these initial customers, would its attention shift to other businesses.
Hoping your product will go viral is risky, but the founders’ faith in their company paid off. Airtable’s focus is primarily B2B and has been since around 2018.
Airtable Competitors Analysis
Airtable competes not only with database and spreadsheet companies but also with team collaboration companies. Its biggest competitors are firms that offer comprehensive suites of tools for teams rather than one solution to one problem.
Below, you can find an analysis of Airtable’s biggest competitors.
Zoho is an Indian technology company that makes online business tools used internationally. It was founded in 1996 by Tony Thomas and Sridhar Vembu.
In particular, Zoho Creator – a cloud-based solution allowing users to build business software and custom applications in minutes – is a direct competitor of Airtable. The two businesses enable users to store data and display it in an easy-to-understand way.
Based on G2 reviews, Airtable is rated 4.6/5 stars, whereas Zoho Creator is rated 4.3, putting the two companies on almost even footing regarding overall customer satisfaction. But which is the most successful business?
Well, that’s a difficult question to answer regarding revenue alone, given that Zoho Creator is one product of many in Zoho’s line. In 2021, Zoho Corporation made $690 million in revenue.
Since Airtable has recently become profitable, Zoho Creator is ahead financially and benefits from being part of a company with many solutions to offer users. Thus, if one area of Zoho’s product line is weaker, the company can divert revenue from a stronger product into research and development and marketing for the one that needs more help.
However, when it comes to customer satisfaction, Airtable is already miles ahead, with companies reporting that it better meets the needs of their organization and is easier to use than Zoho Creator.
Like most of its SaaS competitors, Zoho utilizes a freemium business model. For Zoho Creator, users can sign up for a 15-day free trial, which fits into the company’s overall marketing strategy:
- Offer a free product (at least temporarily).
- Gain lots of users.
- Show them value.
- Turn them into paying customers.
Zoho Creator starts at €25 per user per month (billed annually) for the professional plan and €400 per month billed annually for the ultimate plan.
Zoho Creator proves that just because a company has existed for longer doesn’t mean it is guaranteed to be more successful than a startup. Airtable has achieved just as much, if not more, in less time.
Like Airtable, Notion Labs Inc. is one of the most popular no-code tools in the world. It was founded in 2013 by Ivan Zhao and is based in San Francisco, California.
The company provides a collaboration platform for teams that incorporates modified Markdown support, tasks, kanban boards, wikis, and databases. Many businesses use Notion’s all-in-one workspace for project and data management.
In 2018 – when Notion had fewer than ten employees, incredibly – Notion 2.0 was released, and product Hut crowned it “product of the month.” What impresses me most about Notion is how quickly it has gone from strength to strength, despite being less than ten years old.
The company hit unicorn status in 2020 with a valuation of $2 billion. The year before, it had reached one million users – more than Zoho or Airtable.
Notion opts for a freemium revenue model with the following plans:
- Personal – free for individuals, sync across devices, API, share with five guests, unlimited pages & blocks
- Personal Pro – $4/month, Personal plus unlimited file uploads, 30-day version history, unlimited guests
- Team – $8 per user/month, Pro plus unlimited team members, sharing permissions, collaborative workspace, admin tools
- Enterprise – price variable, Team plus audit log, SAML SSO, user provisioning, advanced security & controls, dedicated success manager, unlimited version history, custom contract
Part of the reason Notion has achieved so much so quickly is due to the funding it has raised. Index Ventures invested $50 million in 2020, and in October 2021, another round of funding led by Sequoia Capital and Coatue Management helped the company raise $275 million.
Notion isn’t short on money, so what is the strategy for spending it? You might be surprised that Notion has achieved this with relatively little paid marketing.
Instead, the company’s growth strategy is about using existing customers as brand advocates by delivering an exceptional, seamless product. Notion’s primary focus has been improving KPIs through product, engineering, customer relationships, and organic marketing.
It is a strategy that has served them well. Notion’s annual revenue is estimated to be around $67.2 million, with a 36% improvement between 2020 and 2021.
I’ll start by stating the obvious: Excel is an unbelievably successful product used by businesses worldwide. It is the go-to solution for all your spreadsheet needs, precisely what companies like Airtable are trying to reinvent.
Before we get into a more in-depth comparison, let’s go back to the basics.
Excel is a spreadsheet developed by Microsoft that came out in 1985. It features graphing tools, computation and calculation abilities, pivot tables, and a macro programming language called Visual Basic for Applications.
With 1.1 billion people using Microsoft’s productivity services (which include Excel) and 81% of businesses using Excel, according to some estimates, there’s no doubt it is the world’s leading spreadsheet software program.
However, in recent years, there has been a shift towards solutions that offer more than just spreadsheets.
While users can integrate Excel with many other applications, it still leaves the need for a database. In contrast, tools like Airtable have reinvented the spreadsheet by providing a database-spreadsheet hybrid tool.
It is unlikely now that startups will manage to achieve the same level of success as Excel. Still, as Excel ages, more users will begin looking for alternatives that can offer them extra tools integrated into one product while providing a better user experience – this is a big opportunity for companies like Airtable.
Google Sheets is another strong competitor of Airtable with a similar offering to Microsoft’s Excel. Google LLC is a multinational technology company founded in 1988 and headquartered in Mountain View, California.
As I’m sure you’re aware, Google has many subsidiaries and is one of the biggest companies in the world today. Google Sheets is a free spreadsheet program included in the web-based Google Docs editors suite. It was first released in 2006 and has since then acquired around 2 billion monthly users.
While Google’s online tools have more monthly users than Microsoft’s, Excel is used by more businesses because it offers more complex features and formulas. Airtable’s ambition, then, is to create a tool that balances the strengths of these competitors – a tool that is both powerful and complex while being utterly easy to use.
The key difference Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets is that the latter offers easier collaboration and sharing options for teams. Edits are fully tracked, updated in real-time, and saved automatically. It is also compatible with Microsoft Excel file formats, which has undoubtedly played a role in the application’s success.
Google Sheets has managed to carve out a significant market share because it caters to a slightly different demographic. At the same time, it is certainly more basic than Excel; this appeals to individuals who find Microsoft’s spreadsheets too difficult to use.
This is reflected in Google’s share of the productivity software market; in 2020, the company grew its share to 10.3%, stealing 2% from Microsoft. While Microsoft was still the leader with an impressive 89.2%, the trend is very much toward tools that are online and user-friendly, so Google Sheets and, indeed, Airtable, have the opportunity to steal some of Microsoft’s market share.
Smartsheet is an American company responsible for developing and selling the Smartsheet application. It was founded 17 years ago in 2005 and is headquartered in Bellevue, Washington.
In 2006, despite having just nine employees, Smartsheet raised $4 million in funding, putting it in a solid position to grow as a startup. By early 2012, the company had raised $8.2 million, which increased by $26 million in December of the same year.
The Smartsheet platform allows teams to manage, collaborate, and report on work in real-time, deploy new processes at scale, and automate workflows. Like Airtable, it’s a cloud tool designed to facilitate project management.
The platform’s features include automation, an admin center, forms, integrations, projects, reports, content collaboration, custom email domains, and resource management, to name just a few.
Like its cloud-based competitors, Smartsheet has a freemium revenue model, allowing you to try the service and use basic features for free. The available payment plans are:
- Pro – $7 per user/month
- Business – $25 per user/month
- Enterprise – cost varies
Smartsheet has over 4,000,000 users, and over 800,000 paid license users, making it a more popular choice than Airtable. In 2021, the company earned $385.5 million in revenue, an increase of 42% year-on-year.
Ultimately, Airtable should view Smartsheet’s success as encouraging. By offering a more comprehensive range of software solutions for project and team management, Airtable could quickly increase its customer base and annual revenue. Thus, this is a crucial opportunity for the company.
Airtable SWOT Analysis
In this section, which provides a SWOT analysis of Airtable, you can find out about the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
- No-code software
- Investors have allowed the company to be in a solid financial position
- Freemium model excels at attracting new users and turning them into paying customers
- Well-known customers like Netflix can be used as attractive success stories
- Easy-to-use product
- Product focus with an emphasis on research and development allows Airtable to retain its customers by providing updates they care about
- Provides solutions to problems that have existed for a long time in leading products like Excel
- Encrypted data provides security
- Lack of formula builder like you would get with Excel
- Higher learning curve than Excel
- Still uses a spreadsheet-like structure which can be difficult to scale
- Awareness of Airtable is still relatively low
- There are some user experience issues due to the company and product being reasonably new
- More companies are looking for cloud collaboration tools post-pandemic since many teams work remotely – Airtable could use more marketing campaigns/paid advertising to build its customer base
- Airtable could diversify its offering by providing a full suite of tools like Zoho
- Data security is a big concern – well-known products like Microsoft Excel have more trust than smaller startups
- Many rival companies are providing similar software – it’s easy to be overtaken if you fail to innovate continually
- The trend seems to be toward an all-in-one suite of collaborative tools rather than many individual tools
Airtable Competitors Analysis FAQs
Question: Why is Airtable so Popular?
Answer: In my experience, Excel – while extremely useful – is dated; people want a way of working that is easier and more versatile. Airtable offers a spreadsheet-database hybrid that solves many existing problems, is relatively unique, and is easy to use, making it a popular option.
Question: What are the Cons of Airtable?
Answer: One of the most significant challenges users describe is the lack of a formula builder. Other cons include lack of communication solutions, no auto-refresh, and charging per user instead of per organization.
Question: Is Airtable Better than Zoho Creator?
Answer: Despite benefitting from Zoho’s multiple revenue streams, users often observe that Zoho Creator is not as good as Airtable. The latter tool has a better user interface, offers a faster turnaround, and allows you to get online more quickly.
Airtable faces fierce competition from several direct and indirect companies. The SaaS industry is growing rapidly, showing no signs of slowing down, which means the challenges Airtable faces are twofold.
First, it must position itself as a viable alternative to Excel, which has long been the go-to spreadsheet tool. Second, it must continuously innovate to stand out among the sea of startup firms trying to achieve similar success in the project/team management cloud software industry.
Thanks to several successful investment rounds, Airtable is now profitable and can begin carving out a more significant market share.