54. Catch the Tornado with Humberto Ayres Pereira, CEO of Rows.com

Humberto Ayres Pereira

Humberto Ayres Pereira

Rows.com

Transcript

Piotr Karwatka 

Hello, everyone, I'm super excited to host Humberto Ayres Pereira, founder of Rows.com, the spreadsheet where teams work faster, what this exactly means and how this product differs from the other ones. Like we all knew, like Google Spreadsheets and airtable. And why are the locals and no Coast products growing so rapidly? Let's begin. Hi, Humberto. I'm super happy You accepted my invitation.

Humberto Ayres Pereira 

Thank you for inviting me. It's great being here.

Piotr Karwatka 

Rows.com. Really cool naming. The domain must cost, you know, millions. Can you tell us a little more about how you started the company?

Humberto Ayres Pereira  

Awesome. So my co-founder and I, we were both living in Germany, and we were both co founders of a previous business, an online food business. And, and we're both practically nerds. So we were both consulting before, we both felt this pain, right of trying to do more with spreadsheets, trying to build your own tools, engineering, being slow, you know, you there's always something else, there's always another priority. And we really wanted to build something that would empower people. And I guess we started it right at a time where other people were starting other no code tools. And so it was pretty amazing to be to be a part of this vibrant community of makers.

Piotr Karwatka   

Gotcha. You launched in February now with a public BETA right? And how long did it take you guys to get to this point, like from the early days, and from when you started to the public beta?

Humberto Ayres Pereira  

Yes. So our first engineers, we started building the product in January 2017. Four years. So sweet, actually, yes, four years ago. So it took us about four years to actually build a spreadsheet that is compelling. It is a pretty, complex and terrific product to build, right? There's so many little things with the product: does the computation, all the side effects, all cells, older relationships with dependents and precedence? It's pretty amazing.

Piotr Karwatka    

It's super difficult to start a product that you can only validate after a few years. I mean, you know what I mean? Like, there's a lot of things you can do for our MVP in three months. And a spreadsheet? Doesn’t sound like this?

Humberto Ayres Pereira   

Yes. So we did some smaller validations. Right. So yeah, I think about one year in, we had our first group of cells, which you could render on a browser, and the cells would have some formulas, and you could execute them. And then we started putting some very basic, very, very nascent API's in there, like you could do the HTTP verbs get put and post from the cells. And people just got excited, right, and we got validation from there. And so we started building more and more until the point where we had our coherent vision already set up. And I guess, where we want to get to is, we want to have a spreadsheet that has these modern components, and modern components means integrations. So a way for you to communicate with API's and services. And, also superior sharing for more collaboration. So something that is pretty nice, which you can actually use to sell to your teams and to customers, etc.

Piotr Karwatka 

Gotcha. So we will go into the product in a minute. But just to summarize this early traction, because on the pre call we had two weeks ago, or three weeks ago, something like this, you told me that you actually had 8000 users on the waiting list. So it was gathered from this small validations of proven concepts, or did you have oh, yeah, the way to you know, do the whole, you know, marketing?

Humberto Ayres Pereira   

Well, we actually had many, many thousands of users. At some point, we have more than 10,000 users on the waiting list. And this was all because well, we built the company and so people around us started noticing that we were building people knew that we were building a spreadsheet. We never made a secret out of it. And we talked about building the company kind of like which is a trend right now in this building in public, but we instinctively We're talking to people like our billing spreadsheet, that is what we want you to have. And so again, this also served as a validation, the number of interested people in, in a super powerful spreadsheet is gigantic. And so we saw that since the very early time for two people sort of joining our waiting list.

Piotr Karwatka 

That's really cool. Yeah, this somehow answers this question I asked you a few minutes ago, like, it's difficult to start a project with such a scope like a spreadsheet. But on the other hand, if you have, you know, 1000s of people waiting for it, it makes it easier, right?

Humberto Ayres Pereira   

Oh, yes. And, you can also see it from the market side. But there are two spreadsheets, which have combined 1 billion users, right. So it's like, 1000 million users, right? It's, and you need only a very small fraction. If you have this predicate, if you have 1 million users, you're very successful. Yes. Right. So you only need 0.1% of the market to really be super big. And so this is our game we were playing, this is what we want to do.

Piotr Karwatka 

Absolutely. It's a very generalistic tool. And as you said, everyone, everybody's using spreadsheets this way or another, maybe some just read only a lot of people creating spreadsheets. And there are those tools like Google Spreadsheets, and Microsoft. And as you said, they are covering, you know, billions of users. So the question is what makes ross.com different? And yet, what is the USP?

Humberto Ayres Pereira 

Yes, so the USP is that we are the only true spreadsheet, so we are compatible with Excel and Google Sheets, but that serves these modern components, again, so integrations connections to services API's, to your email, to your calendar, to your CRM to LinkedIn data to CrunchBase data. So we are the only ones who can do this natively. And then also the sharing layer. So these ways to share spreadsheets and an interactive spreadsheet, but where users cannot break the formulas, etc. So a much better presentation layer for the spreadsheet. And this is what we offer. So spreadsheet plus integrations plus a better sharing of documents. And you don't get these in Google Sheets, or Microsoft Excel.

Piotr Karwatka 

Or it's way more difficult. When all those scripting requirements you need.

Humberto Ayres Pereira 

Yes, you would have to connect to services, you have to learn VBA, or Google Apps Scripts, which is our scripting language is pretty, pretty complex, or install an add on which might work or might not work and might have led to what you want or might not have, or what you want. Right, and to actually create beautiful, beautiful spreadsheets, this presentation layer, you'd actually actually have to invest a lot in actually getting a front end to connect to your spreadsheets. Gotcha.

Piotr Karwatka  

My first thought was, it's like Airtable. And I suppose it's a wrong relationship. It's not like Airtable.

Humberto Ayres Pereira  

It is? Well, there is some overlap in all of these tools. Right? So there's overlap between the air table and, and Google Sheets, and as well to some point, but I think that the way to visualize this air table wants to be a table, they want to be a database, they want to own versus right, for me exactly. Exactly like MS Access. It's so much better, much, much more modern Microsoft Access, right? It's relational, relational tables that connect to each other. And it's like people input data and create these, these DCMS functions, right. Whereas we want to be a real spreadsheet, right? So a tool, which lives on your talk on your Start menu, which you use everyday to make small computation, small experiments, but also big files, control the big operational tools for your business, right? So expressions have always been the sandbox of business users, right? And they are in need of a serious upgrade. And we want to be in that space.

Piotr Karwatka 

Absolutely. So do you focus on competing with something or doing something against somebody like no Basecamp story was that they wanted to be anti MS project. So not competing with MS project, but rather doing something everything, you know, completely different way and what was your way? And if competition then who's your biggest competitor?

Humberto Ayres Pereira  

Well, I would say the biggest competitors are still the spreadsheets which have more users, right? We are trying to digitize the market in that respect. The market of people who want the access to API's, and the business people want access to API's and the reason people who want access to a better presentation layer, a better sharing layer for their spreadsheets, right? So this is a market where we are competing. And in that regard, we are probably fighting against Google Sheets plus Zapier plus Webflow, something like this. Or Airtable plus Zapier plus some other presentation layer. I think this is what we're, this is what we're really fighting against.

Piotr Karwatka

Yeah, that's, that's really, that's really cool. And when I was checking Rows.com, what struck me is the number of integrations you're having. It's really like Zapier, it's not that the closest Zapier I think, on the market, the number is really huge, and there are a lot of templates in the kind of marketplace that I really liked.

Humberto Ayres Pereira  

Oh, yes, yes, this is the development of of integrations is there to satisfy these basic needs. So there are a number of standard tools which people use, like Google Maps, is the best tool to get made the map data LinkedIn, is the best way to search for company data related to hiring a number of employees etc. And, and, there are services like CRMs, like you have Salesforce and HubSpot, and a few others. And so it makes a lot of sense to digitize those as inputs and outputs to your spreadsheet, right? Because spreadsheets are about displaying and manipulating data. But where is your data coming from, right? Typically, people just Alt Tab and you go and grab the data from a tool. But what we want is that people natively have access to  resources and can replace them fast.

Piotr Karwatka

Yeah, the spreadsheet is one of the most natural glues for all kinds of data, you can Oh, yes. And this marketplace of integrations, is it somehow, you know, implying your business model? Because you know, the standard business model, as I saw in pricing, is like a typical SaaS kind of you pay also for the resources spent on the integrations like the number of API calls. I got it right. Yeah. Do you plan also to monetize this marketplace somehow to make it commission based and to let the developers and template makers earn something on this? Or is it just like, you know, an add on.

Humberto Ayres Pereira   

This is a very, very good question. So I think what will come first for us is to let people create their own integrations, but not necessarily developers, even just general makers. So if you if you know, the author that people want a function that is a left or a right of a sum ifs of a VLOOKUP, of a get of a post of a parse right, you just yeah, you create your own law, called a large formula into a single one, I just call it the “Piotr super formula”, right? And in that sense, you will be able to publish your own functions and your own integration, which is a group of functions. And then when people start using them, for sure, we will get away to reward the beings created by this is gonna take a while, but definitely indirection. And the same thing about templates and live spreadsheets, right? So when you share a spreadsheet, if a lot of people start consuming that spreadsheet and duplicate it, kind of like on GitHub, people clone repositories, pulsar cloning, cloning your, your repository, your data, your models, a lot, then you will be you will go up on a leaderboard. We want to create this community that's off creators of spreadsheets.

Piotr Karwatka 

Gotcha. So kind of GitHub for spreadsheets, not that interest. Oh, yeah, that's interesting. I think that this is enabling a lot of people. And the funny thing is that I had a thought last year, when we were preparing new storefront to spin off from demand that my my child was that developers are usually first commerce to use new tools, you know, they started using GitHub for code versioning like good for even before you find the geek for code versioning and now content, staging versioning is something you have everywhere, like any tool, like CMS, even tools like Photoshop, have those features. So it's getting wide adoption, but I haven't seen it for spreadsheets yet. You know, the versioning is in Google Sheets of course but it's very basic and leave you to find a way to make it more visually easy to use, and those collaboration features could be something really huge. Like, collaboration.

Humberto Ayres Pereira   

Yes, because you already see there's many forums for specs. users, Mr. Excel, Excel forms.com that have more than a million users. And and you also have Stack Overflow and a lot of people asking questions about

Piotr Karwatka 

There is a benchmark.

Humberto Ayres Pereira 

Yeah. But what what, what we don't have right now is a place where people are natively trading spreadsheets right? Where you have your own vanity URL, right, which we will have rose.com/pauthorroad.com/umberto Rosa's comm slash your company, and there, you will be able to publish your solutions. And when people use them, you will be able to get the credit for that. And you'll be able to establish yourself as, as, as the Creator as the proficient professional, who can who can manage that it might be you created the super special marketing or sales spreadsheet, or you have this special way of finding leads somewhere or you just created a let's say, a replacement for pager duty with with the with integrations and automations and an introduction to Twilio fighter send SMS and all this, like I did what comes after that the monetization of this market. Right and, and letting people trade their skills and actually charts for them. This is a step further. But I say that in 2022. This is going to be the bulk of our action. So all of this community, which has this obviously great benefit for the business, right, it makes it more viral. Yeah, but all of this community is what we will be empowering in 2022.

Piotr Karwatka 

Sounds pretty exciting. Like next year. It will be absolutely exciting. Okay, so the next thing I wanted to ask you is, is general and specific in the same question. So the question is, what are the typical use cases? So this is the specific part, what are the typical use cases people are using ROVs for so you know, all those marketing out? I can imagine gathering leads or whatever, like, please share with us what they're using it yet mostly. And then the next part is, why do you think this low code and no code tools is getting so much traction? Right? It's very late. 

Humberto Ayres Pereira 

So the first one is, I would say there's three big groups of spreadsheets which people are using. And those are the most engaged users. And those are the users who started to pay for the solution, right? And so the first one would be in sales. And there, we have lead generation and sales automation. So can you generate CRM in spreadsheets? Use Case? Yeah, well, CRM is perfect, but also just finding companies, right? I want to look for companies that use this technology, yes, then we have the built, built with integration I want. And then you want to find companies in such a location, right. And you can use link searching companies on LinkedIn. And so this is one and then that's the stuff which you were talking about, which is okay, I want to connect these data to Salesforce only connected to HubSpot, or to such such CRMs are these the first cluster of spreadsheets. The second one, I would say it's marketing. So creating dashboards that match multiple sources of data. So you get some data from Google Analytics. But then you want to merge that with data from Facebook ads, or Twitter ads, or something like that. You want to mix organic and paid sources, and you have all of these analytics tools, right. And you can just create super simple dashboards with our tool, right? This is the second big cluster, that's the third one, I would say is operations. So people who are actually building internal tools. And so these people creating their ERPs is for their online restaurant operations. So for tracking API's, their custom API's for their back end, I took we have a lot of we have in here. It's a large, long tail, but we have crypto people negotiating smart contracts on top of our spreadsheet. We have people experimenting with their own API's internal API testing them. We have people searching for API's from third parties and testing once again when it gets further. And we have people building full tools with your eyes and buttons and input boxes and stuff like that. So there's really a lot. It is super exciting. Actually, one of our challenges is, how do we because all of the data inside spreadsheets is encrypted. And so we don't have access, we do have access, we do have access to the types of formulas which people use. So we know that a certain company uses a lot of gaps, or we don't know what they're putting inside the gate. But we do know that they're using gates, or we know that they're using a lot of linking information. We don't know what they're searching for. How do we cluster different users? It has been a super cool challenge. But well onto your second part of the question about no code Local,

Humberto Ayres Pereira 

I guess that people are very attracted to local, local and local no code is successful for a number of reasons. The first one is I think that IT has been there for quite a while. And as you tackle the largest segments of an operation, the other parts which remain to be optimized, are no longer viable for typical engineering backgrounds and solutions. For example, let's say you are an Ecommerce right, and you adopt and Magento or Shopify, you adopt your big trunk of software, which is a very professional software built by hundreds of engineers very tested, and you want that, but then marketing people, people in procurement, they will want to do their daily analysis, they will want to grab data, they will want to experiment. And Magento is not built for that, like a business person cannot manipulate Magento. And maybe it's not supposed to be manipulated. And so all of these people, all of these groups around the main trunk of a website are really where you can frequently find the best new products, or find the best new client, or find out how you're going to squeeze some efficiency out of the operation. So the first reason why it's successful is engineering has produced many great amazing blocks of software. But specialization and jobs and ideas are much faster than that are 1000 times faster than engineering is good. But I'm so and so you can never tackle them. The second one is emotional and the HR component engineers right now in 2021, are these very highly paid positions, right. People are getting paid a lot to get all these perks and other positions, their salaries haven't even grown as much for as many people right. And so I think that no code local is empowering many people who are very creative, but whose job or whose dream or skill is not engineering, right? If you're in engineering, you're golden, right? You can solve these complex mysteries in Java, or C, or Python or JavaScript. And you can be very successful and very well rewarded. But if you're a person who has amazing content, but then you want to build your custom tool to deliver this content, then how are you going to make it thanks. People were trapped inside their own skills. And I think that no code, low code is actually releasing those budget people out into the market. I think the last tool is just this is a mode of building products, right? As engineers also started to build these large platforms, the need for customization sort of became bigger, and then say, Okay, how are you going to deliver customization? Are you going to deliver customization through these very complex interfaces and APIs and blocks of code or libraries? Or is there a way where you can just have these configurators like Zapier, which just say, I want to thank the service service, I want to connect this to this, or like air table, I want to create this formula for this column or like growth, right? I want to connect these integrations in the cell, and then I want to have an input and a UI element. And then I want to send the result to some other API. Right? I think that's no code. Low code is more than everything, a way of building products which are accessible by more people and customizable, much more customizable, right, it's so customizable, that they themselves look like software's. Rows is a complex product in engineering, but what you can build in Rows already looks like a software built by engineers by the same thing for Zapier, etc. So you're really trying to build to bring the fire, the creative fire of engineers, to other people. There's many challenges here, too.

Piotr Karwatka 

That's really cool. And I think you know that tools like Rows are super important because in the end, pretty simple, right? Because, you know, you had Zapier beforehand, but it was like, connecting dots, but you need to in the end, you know, build something on top or integrated. And here you have everything, you need that and the integrations are there. But I'm still wondering about the more complex tools. I mean, you know, something like Amazon Honeycomb, or Retool those kinds of products that are, you know, fully fledged IDE. For me, it looks like Visual Basic in the cloud, or maybe Delphi in the cloud, you know, things we knew before right now super boosted with web technologies, and you know, all of these API's, what do you think about those tools, do they think that they are gonna, you know, stick and be with us for a while. Maybe they are too complex.

Humberto Ayres Pereira 

I will start by saying that I'm not the best person to ask this question. I have an opinion. I think founders should have opinions and I thank you for that. But take my opinion with a big grain of salt. I think that every couple of generations there are these rapid application developments, API's and IDs, which people use to build software right? I was right there.

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Humberto Ayres Pereira

Humberto Ayres Pereira

Rows.com

Humberto Ayres Pereira is the co-founder & CEO at Rows (previously dashdash.com). He has studied Engineering at the University of Porto, and has also obtained his MBA Degree. He is an angel investor and Board member at AirCourts.

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