Low-code database APITable is another Airtable challenger • businessupdates.org

by Ana Lopez

Airtable’s whopping $11 billion valuation reached end of 2021 has lured a slew of aspiring entrepreneurs into the low-code database space. They covet even a small piece of the pie enjoyed by the ten-year-old American juggernaut. While SaaS has long been a proven business model in the US, in emerging markets, and even in China’s fast-growing technology industry, many users still expect software to be free.

To grow their paying customers, Asian SaaS startups, built by seasoned and affordable developers, are moving to the West. The Hong Kong-based low-code database APITable is one of them (it’s setting up a Canadian base). The company is unabashed about its ambition to take on Airtable. In this case, the blog contained a step-by-step guide on how to migrate from Airtable to its own platform (the page disappeared at the time of publication).

APITable competes with a handful of emerging startups, such as Amsterdam-based Baserow and San Francisco-based NocoDB, to provide an open-source, visual solution for creating smart, streamlined databases. The name suggests a focus on system interoperability. Going forward, users will be able to connect the low-code tool to platforms like Zapier, Slack, Google Workspace and the red-hot ChatGPT using the APITable API, the company’s co-founder and COO Gary Li said in an interview.

For users who want a turnkey product that requires minimal technical skills and third-party hosting, the software comes with a paid premium version. As of today, APITable has been “starred” about 6,500 times on GitHub, an indicator of a project’s popularity among developers. While Li declined to disclose the company’s revenue size, he claims that by 2022, “organization users,” including freemium and paid users, will grow from 6,000 to more than 20,000 in 30 countries.

APITable’s founding team first tested the water in China. The Chinese version Vika was launched in 2019 at a time when venture capitalists, buoyed by the rise of Zoom, Stripe, Canva, Figma, Airtable and other cloud-based solutions in the West, rushed to bet on local alternatives.

APITable itself raised funding from prominent VCs such as IDG Capital, GL Ventures (Hillhouse’s early-stage arm), and 5Y Capital, which is considered by some to be a benchmark for enterprise technology investment in China. The startup had raised $10 million in total funding by early 2021 at a valuation of approximately $75 million.

Back in China, Vika has had no shortage of rivals. Companies from giants like ByteDance and Tencent to underdogs like Hipacloud and Treelab clamored for their answers to Airtable. In the future, the parent company will pay more attention to expansion in the West via APITable. “Being open-source is a way to market yourself. However, to generate revenue, we still depend on Saas sales,” says Li.

CEO of APITable Kelly Chan seems to know a thing or two about making tools for non-technical users. He was previously the CTO at HeyTea, a venture backed company that revolutionized the bubble tea business in China. Not only did the chain pioneer the new cheese-on-the-top flavor, but more importantly, it invested heavily in a sizable development team, a rather unusual move in the food and beverage industry. The results were reassuring. Under the helm of ChanHeyTea created an app to speed up ordering, reduce waiting time and increase recurring revenue through a membership program.

Related Posts