Last month, for the first time in history, Americans used mobile devices more than PCs to access the internet. As consumers spend more time on mobile than ever before, businesses are increasingly compelled to develop apps. Although demand for apps is increasing, they can be costly and talented developers aren’t exactly ubiquitous.
That’s a pain point AppSheet wants to solve. The Seattle-based platform allows businesses to build custom apps without any coding knowledge. Consumers provide data from spreadsheets and the AppSheet service does the rest.
“Almost everyone was interested in using apps to improve their business,” said CEO Praveen Seshadri. “The interesting thing was one, they wanted the app to be custom to their business needs, and two, the cost of building a custom mobile app was orders of magnitude more than most of them could afford.”
Seshadri launched AppSheet with Brian Sabino, a former student in his database systems class at Cornell. The two began exploring how mobile technology could be used to drive business productivity and eventually realized there was a problem across a variety of businesses they could solve.
We caught up with Seshadri for this installment of Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “AppSheet gives the non-developer the power to create powerful mobile apps instantly. Anyone who can create a spreadsheet can build a mobile app. It is quick, easy, and affordable. You don’t have to be a developer. My mom can do it, my kids can do it. A billion people can do it.”
Inspiration hit us when: “In an earlier pivot, we were building mobile apps for tradeshows. We also found business exhibitors giving us their catalog data in a spreadsheet for us to include in our app. This was the genesis of the idea that we could empower anybody, a non-developer, to build themselves a useful mobile app. Today, anyone who wants to can build a website. We believe anyone who wants to should be able build a mobile app — in fact, many mobile apps to help with any facet of their life or work.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We are funded by angel investors from the Seattle area and Silicon Valley. We are fortunate to be working with a group of investors who are technically deep, have a strong grasp of the market opportunities, and who know our team well and understand our technology.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Our apps from a spreadsheet data-driven model. There are several hundreds of millions of spreadsheet users today. AppSheet’s platform gives them the ability to translate their data into a mobile environment, making that data interactive, shareable, and available in real time. Every user of cloud file systems (Dropbox/Google Drive/Box/Smartsheet/Office365) and every spreadsheet user now has the power to create mobile apps and drive personal/professional productivity.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Listening to customers. Not just what they’re saying, but what their true need is.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “If we’d listened to customers better, we’d have pivoted earlier.”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Zuckerberg, because building apps should be as obvious as using Facebook.”
Our world domination strategy starts when: “We’re into synergy and peaceful coexistence. We benefit from and augment so many existing eco-systems — Google Docs, Microsoft Office, Dropbox, Android, iOS, Windows, etc.”
Rivals should fear us because: “We address the unserved ‘non-developer’ segment. It is a huge opportunity and there is room for many sensible approaches. Our rivals should work with us.”
We are truly unique because: “At AppSheet, we really are excited about a do-it-yourself (DIY), code-free approach to apps. We allow users to utilize data they already have in a spreadsheet, as is, and instantly turn it into a mobile app. This makes app creation accessible to hundreds of millions of people who are already using spreadsheets and storing them in the cloud.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “We automatically create mobile apps from spreadsheets. That’s easy to say now, but it has taken a leap of faith for us to imagine it, invention to implement it, and great early adopters to shape it.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Take all advice with respect, gratitude, and a grain of salt. Learn from actual experiences, actual users, and actual data.”