Since launching in 2014, Seattle-based AppSheet has focused on helping businesses develop their own data-based apps without requiring those businesses to hire a team of developers or requiring that users learn how to code.
Now the startup is taking another step in easing that process for customers, integrating artificial intelligence and natural language processing to further speed the creation of mobile apps.
AppSheet CEO Praveen Seshadri said his company’s newest feature, known as Spec, makes app development simpler still by asking users to explain, in plain English, the app they want to build. From there, Spec taps into a historical database of other apps and creates the new app in real time. The feature will get smarter as more people use it, Seshadri said.
“So far, AppSheet has relied on the structure of user data (spreadsheets and databases) to auto-create sensible mobile apps,” Seshadri said via email. “This doesn’t need any programming skill but it does require users with data skills. So that has still been a barrier to entry. With Spec, we can eliminate that barrier. Spec understands what a user wants to build in high-level, natural language terms. We expect that as this technology evolves, truly anyone can create mobile apps.”
Seshadri launched AppSheet with Brian Sabino, a former student in his database systems class at Cornell University. The pair had been exploring how mobile apps can make businesses more productive. They said they discovered that businesses were hungry for modestly priced custom-built apps. Another epiphany came when Seshadri and Sabino started building apps for trade shows and exhibitors started providing data in spreadsheets. The two realized how easy it could be for businesses to build their own business apps from a spreadsheet.
Examples of apps that AppSheet’s customers can create include those designed for requesting and tracking equipment maintenance, generating daily construction reports or, for surgeons, completing a pre-surgery checklist. AppSheet says more than 200,000 people have built apps using its technology.
Spec offers “a fast path from idea to app,” according to Seshadri, letting the user specify the really important aspects of the app in just a few steps.
“To use a space travel analogy, Spec will move you at warp speed to the right galaxy, and then you take over the controls to manually land on your destination planet,” he said.
Americans now use mobile devices more than PCs, driving a spike in demand for enterprise mobile apps, Seshadri said. AppSheet is among a number of platforms touting themselves as quick and easy app development platforms. The company competes against products including Microsoft PowerApps and others.
Seshadri said the ultimate goal is to empower anyone to create their own apps.
“There are a billion people in the world who create and use spreadsheets and documents for work,” he said. “Yet we live now in a mobile-centric world where those desktop artifacts are fast becoming irrelevant. We think every single one of those people can and will build apps.”
AppSheet, which has 15 employees, has raised approximately $3.6 million in total funding. Seshadri said the company has more than 5,000 paid accounts in 50 countries and annual recurring revenue of $2.2 million — with growth of more than 125 percent in the last 12 months.
AppSheet, including Spec, is free for people building apps for personal use or prototypes. Customers pay a subscription fee of between $1-$10 per employee for apps deployed in a business setting.