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No-code database Airtable adds a bit of code back in as investors bump its valuation to over $2.5B

It's introducing apps after it raised another $185 million in series D funding.

Airtable CEO Howie Liu

"It's about getting the best of both the expressiveness of code and then allowing non-coders to still participate and piece together really, really useful apps," says Airtable CEO Howie Liu.

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

No-code companies have become one of the hottest trends in startups. The industry has moved past the idea that you need code to build things, and companies are instead offering tools that make it easier for people to build anything — from websites to databases — without having to write a single line of code.

Airtable is one of the early startups that jumped on the trend, having worked on its no-code database software since 2013. But now its co-founder and CEO, Howie Liu, is taking a different approach: adding some of the code back in.

"I think no-code is great, and it will always be an important aspect of our offering. You shouldn't have to code to be able to use Airtable," Liu said. "It's about getting the best of both the expressiveness of code and then allowing non-coders to still participate and piece together really, really useful apps."

The goal is for its no-code product to take its users most of the way there with what they need to do. But now it's launching a new platform, complete with an app marketplace, to allow companies and developers to build their own custom apps on top of Airtable and share them with others. It's also introducing new automations, similar to IFTT commands, that will help companies automate things like sending emails or reports.

Investors have bought into Liu's bigger vision, too. Airtable closed a $185 million series D round at a valuation of nearly $2.6 billion, doubling its valuation from 2018. The round was led by Thrive, with participation from new investor D1 Capital and existing backers including Benchmark and Coatue.

Part of expanding into apps was the realization that there was never going to be a one-size-fits-all solution. Liu admitted that he thought the initial users would be a lot of startups and SMBs (and they have been, in droves), but he's seen everyone from cattle farmers use it to track herds to lawyers using it for case management. The nonprofit Frontline Foods, which was started during COVID-19 to have restaurants cook up meals for hospitals, created its own app, allowing people to easily see which hospitals were in need at a glance rather than having to comb through a spreadsheet.

"I think the significance of that is, we go from being able to replace or being an alternative improvement to spreadsheets or project management tools to now actually being able to replace or compete against custom software at large," Liu said.

Airtable is also adding a sync feature, similar to Slack Connect, so people from multiple teams can build their own applications on top of a database, like production and marketing teams both building off the same list of TV shows being filmed. It now counts over 200,000 businesses as customers, including entertainment powerhouses like HBO, Netflix and Condé Nast Entertainment.

Despite the growth in use cases and its new expansion into becoming a more customizable platform, one area that Airtable has notoriously shied away from is optimizing for mobile (though it does have iOS and Android apps). Liu is holding firm in his belief that the kind of database work Airtable does is better-suited for desktop and that mobile is more complementary to it.

"I think smartphones are really important for consumptive experiences, but I think that it's important — even for the countries that have leapfrogged desktops to go into a smartphone first digitization or computer internet access — that they eventually also gain access to full, rich desktop experiences, because I just think there's so much that you can do on a full desktop, that you can never do well on a smartphone," he said.

Protocol | Workplace

The pay gap persists for Black women

"The pay gap is a multifaceted problem and any time you have a complex problem, there's not a single solution that's going to solve it."

For every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, Black women are paid just 63 cents, according to the American Community Survey Census data.

Photo: Christine/Unsplash

Last year's racial reckoning following the murder of George Floyd led many tech companies to commit to promoting equity within their organizations, including working toward pay equity. But despite efforts, the wage gap for Black women still persists. For every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, Black women are paid just 63 cents, according to the American Community Survey Census data.

Black Women's Equal Pay Day on Tuesday represents the estimated number of days into the year it would take for Black women to make what their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts made at the end of the previous year, according to the organization Equal Pay Today. And while the responsibility to fix the pay gap falls mostly on companies to rectify, some female employees have taken matters into their own hands and held companies to their asserted values by negotiating higher pay.

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Amber Burton

Amber Burton (@amberbburton) is a reporter at Protocol. Previously, she covered personal finance and diversity in business at The Wall Street Journal. She earned an M.S. in Strategic Communications from Columbia University and B.A. in English and Journalism from Wake Forest University. She lives in North Carolina.

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What comes to mind when you think of AI? In the past, it might have been the Turing test, a sci-fi character or IBM's Deep Blue-defeating chess champion Garry Kasparov. Today, instead of copying human intelligence, we're seeing immense progress made in using AI to unobtrusively simplify and enrich our own intelligence and experiences. Natural language processing, modern encrypted security solutions, advanced perception and imaging capabilities, next-generation data management and logistics, and automotive assistance are some of the many ways AI is quietly yet unmistakably driving some of the latest advancements inside our phones, PCs, cars and other crucial 21st century devices. And the combination of 5G and AI is enabling a world with distributed intelligence where AI processing is happening on devices and in the cloud.

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Alex Katouzian
Alex Katouzian currently serves as senior vice president and general manager of the Mobile, Compute and Infrastructure (MCI) Business Unit at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. In this role, Katouzian is responsible for the profit, loss and strategy of the MCI BU, which includes business lines for Mobile Handset Products and Application Processor Technologies, 4G and 5G Mobile Broadband for embedded applications, Small and Macro Cells, Modem Technologies, Compute products across multiple OS’, eXtended Reality and AI Edge Cloud products.
Protocol | Workplace

Tech company hybrid work policies are becoming more flexible, not less

Twitter, LinkedIn and Asana are already changing their hybrid policies to allow for more flexibility.

Photo: FG Trade/Getty Images

Twitter, LinkedIn and Asana are all loosening up their strategies around hybrid work, allowing for more flexibility before even fully reopening their offices.

In the last week and a half, Twitter announced it's adopting an asynchronous-first approach, and both Asana and LinkedIn said they would increase the amount of time their employees can work remotely.

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Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.
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Activision Blizzard scrambles to repair its toxic image

Blizzard President J. Allen Brack is the first executive to depart amid the sexual harassment crisis.

Activision Blizzard doesn't seem committed to lasting change.

Photo: Allen J. Schaben/Getty Images

As Activision Blizzard's workplace crisis rages on into its third week, the company is taking measures to try to calm the storm — to little avail. On Tuesday, Blizzard President J. Allen Brack, who took the reins at the developer responsible for World of Warcraft back in 2018, resigned. He's to be replaced by executives Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra, who will co-lead the studio in a power-sharing agreement some believe further solidifies CEO Bobby Kotick's control over the subsidiary.

Nowhere in Blizzard's statement about Brack's departure does it mention California's explosive sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit at the heart of the saga. The lawsuit, filed last month, resulted last week in a 500-person walkout at Blizzard's headquarters in Irvine. (Among the attendees was none other than Ybarra, the new studio co-head.)

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Nick Statt
Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.
Protocol | Workplace

Alabama Amazon workers will likely get a second union vote

An NLRB judge said that Amazon "usurped" the NLRB by pushing for a mailbox to be installed in front of its facility, and also that the company violated laws that protect workers from monitoring of their behavior during union elections.

An NLRB judge ruled that Amazon has violated union election rules

Image: Amazon

Bessemer, Alabama warehouse workers will likely get a second union vote because of Amazon's efforts to have a USPS ballot box installed just outside of the Bessemer warehouse facility during the mail-in vote, as well as other violations of union vote rules, according to an NLRB ruling published Tuesday morning.

While union organizers, represented by the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, lost the first vote by more than a 2:1 margin, a second election will be scheduled and held unless Amazon successfully appeals the ruling. Though Amazon is the country's second-largest private employer, no unionization effort at the company has ever been successful.

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Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @ anna_c_kramer, email: akramer@protocol.com), where she writes about labor and workplace issues. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

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