Reimagining the spreadsheet for a new era of collaboration
Nov 11, 2019
It’s not a stretch to imagine that a day without spreadsheets might be more catastrophic to the global economy than a day without all other business applications combined. Take them away and the working world would all but screech to a halt. Other than email, the absence of no other application would have such a dramatic impact.
We can all attest to the continued growth in use and importance of spreadsheets for just about every kind of work, despite the creation of so many purpose-built tools by vendors who want to take us away from them. This staying power, combined with unparalleled flexibility, a standard file format, decades of shared files, and a 1 billion user base, makes the spreadsheet an ideal foundation to build upon for the next-generation of collaborative work.
Spreadsheets are used for everything
Of course, it didn’t start this way. VisiCalc, the first commercial spreadsheet launched on October 17th 1979, was designed solely for numerical modeling — more specifically, accounting. It was quickly adopted for both personal and business use, and hailed by Steve Jobs as critical to Apple’s success:
“There have been two real explosions that have propelled the [PC] industry forward. The first one … was the spreadsheet … VisiCalc. And that’s what really drove — propelled — the Apple II to the success it achieved.”¹ - Steve Jobs, 1996
Over the decades spreadsheets have behaved true to their name and spread far and wide, for much more than just numerical modeling. Today we use them for managing work in just about every function of every organization, in every industry. Every company has a spreadsheet fabric. From tracking and sharing lists of information, to managing projects and tasks, customers and contacts, workflows and business processes, inventory and assets, quotes and invoices, and much more. Their speed, power, ease of use, and unmatched flexibility have led them to be used far more than even today’s most successful enterprise applications.²
Spreadsheets are made for analytics, not collaborative work
According to Microsoft³:
“Excel is the #1 tool for making sense of data in the world today.”
Data analytics has always been Microsoft’s primary focus for Excel. The same applies to Google Sheets, and for good reason:
“… the world of data is evolving so rapidly… 90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years, and the demand for understanding data is increasing across all different industries … but our brains and our skills aren’t necessarily expanding at the same rate.”
While the world clearly needs spreadsheet vendors that are focused on analytics, it is precisely this focus that has created so many opportunities for the unbundling of spreadsheets. Beyond analytics and numerical modeling, spreadsheets are used for managing all kinds of collaborative work that they were never designed for.
The rise of Collaborative Work Management (CWM)
This has led to the creation of a whole category of software called Collaborative Work Management (CWM), with vendors such as Smartsheet, Airtable, Asana, Monday.com and many others fueled by significant venture capital funding and $1B+ valuations. The primary user adoption flow for these CWM products consists of moving people away from spreadsheets to their proprietary platforms.
While many of these products are seeing success, none of them is an actual spreadsheet.⁴ This means that moving away from spreadsheets to any of these products requires users to sacrifice most of the familiarity, flexibility, and function of the spreadsheets they are coming from in order to gain new capabilities. The level of sacrifice varies by product, but we think this is a major disservice to users.
Rather than improving collaborative work with tools that replace spreadsheets, we believe the world needs a more capable spreadsheet for collaborative work.
A better spreadsheet for collaborative work
That’s why Spreadsheet.com was designed from the ground up as an actual spreadsheet, maintaining the simplicity and flexibility of traditional spreadsheets, while introducing a whole new set of features that give it the power of an easy-to-use database and project management system, all with real-time updates and messaging. And because the foundation of Spreadsheet.com is a standards-compliant spreadsheet, users can import existing spreadsheets as XLS and XLSX files without loss of worksheet data, styling, formatting, and formulas⁵.
We like to say that Spreadsheet.com makes spreadsheets come alive as applications.
To accomplish this, Spreadsheet.com contains many new capabilities that do not exist in traditional spreadsheets, such as:
A rich set of column, range and cell-level data types that go beyond numbers and text, such as ratings, icon sets, collaborators, and attachments that live in cells, with drag and drop upload and preview.
Rows that link together across worksheets, even across different workbooks, like tables in a relational database.
Row hierarchies with parent-child relationships for things like project plans, task lists and org structures.
New ways to work with worksheet data that go beyond the traditional grid of cells, such as Kanban views for managing workflows and responsibilities.
Shared views with powerful filtering and sorting criteria to keep people focused on the right information.
A growing library of pre-made templates to get started quickly with common use cases such as Agile Project Plan, CRM, Employee Directory, Asset Management, Inventory Management, Applicant Tracking with Hiring Budget, Due Diligence Checklist, and Cap Table with Shareholder Database.
These are just a few of the unique capabilities in Spreadsheet.com. To learn more about how Spreadsheet.com works, and to see how it’s different from traditional spreadsheets, watch our 4 minute demo video.
Our vision and mission
Our vision is to empower anyone to quickly and easily create solutions for collaborative work. We think the best way to accomplish this is with a product that leverages how most people already work together. That’s why Spreadsheet.com has the same familiar interface and features that hundreds of millions of spreadsheet users already know — but with a whole new set of database and project management capabilities that go far beyond traditional spreadsheet products.
We believe a more capable spreadsheet for collaborative work will be used as the foundation for one of the next great enterprise software platforms. We believe this future is inevitable and our mission is to be the company that delivers it.
If you’re as excited as we are about the future of collaborative work, we’d love to hear from you. We’re looking for people with a passion for spreadsheets, a healthy penchant for questioning the status quo, and an eagerness for empowering people to create. Contact us at email@example.com.
Looking at independent mobile app downloads in the Google Play store as a proxy for spreadsheet usage, we see that Excel just passed 1B downloads in September, 2019 only after having recently passed the 500M downloads milestone 13 months earlier. Meanwhile Google Sheets passed 500M downloads in May, 2019. Comparing this to Salesforce and Workday at less than 5M each, there is a 100x difference between spreadsheets and the most successful CRM and HR applications of our time. This would not be a fair comparison if Google counted pre-installed apps or apps included as part of a bundle, but this is not the case. Google does not include as part of its download counts any of the following: pre-installed apps, apps that are part of a bundle, app updates, or multiple downloads from the same user account on different devices.
Over our collective decades of experience in the software industry, we’ve developed a deep conviction about the staying power of spreadsheets and the massive opportunity that awaits a next-generation spreadsheet purpose-built for collaborative work. Ultimately this conviction led to the creation of our product and company.