Today we’re announcing v1.0 of our first integration, Blockspring for Spreadsheets, and our first round of funding. Let's start with the product.
Blockspring for Spreadsheets lets Excel and Google Sheets users connect to any web service, public or even private to their company, using a tool they already know and love (and of course without writing any code).
Spreadsheets are one of the world’s most popular applications. Globally, there are 1 billion Office and Excel users. We use spreadsheets for personal tasks and for complex business tasks. When you setup your personal budget - you use a spreadsheet. When you split vacation expenses among friends - you use a spreadsheet. And when you manage billions of dollars in investments - you use a spreadsheet too.
What most people don’t realize is that spreadsheets are also the world’s most popular programming language. But they suffer from a horrible limitation: they’re disconnected from the rest of the programming community. Spreadsheet users only have access to the functions Microsoft and Google decide to provide (think SUM, IF, VLOOKUP). For the software engineers out there - imagine doing all of your work in a programming language’s standard library. Your work would take hundreds if not thousands of times more effort.
Blockspring gives spreadsheet users access to any API in the form of a simple function: =BLOCKSPRING(). That means your spreadsheet is now capable of doing things like searching for public data from Data.gov, getting and posting files to Dropbox, and getting real-time information from your internal data warehouse - all with the single =BLOCKSPRING() function.
Why would spreadsheet users need access to APIs? Well in short, it gives you the full power of software engineering without needing to teach you to code. But specifically, there are some wonderful use-cases you can get started with today.
First - you can access any data source that’s available as a web service. Today, you might manually copy/paste or export data from various applications, you might ask IT to pull data for you, or you might even convince IT to build new applications for you. With Blockspring, you can run a spreadsheet function to get any data source. IT connects their services to Blockspring, and you can consume them directly. No training required. This is great for IT and it’s great for you.
Second - you don’t have to manually refresh your spreadsheet with new data. Blockspring functions recalculate like standard spreadsheet functions. You connect directly to the data source. So, if you are getting data from a database or even an external service like Facebook, as soon as you recalculate your spreadsheet, real-time data is there. This prevents hours of manual effort, and also ensures that real business decisions aren’t made on faulty data thanks to spreadsheet errors.
Finally - you can combine web services in your spreadsheets. This is by far the most transformational use-case. Software engineers do this all the time: they build technology by combining APIs. You can now do that without writing any code. For instance, we’ve seen insurance analysts with zero development experience:
- Pull Chicago crime data into a spreadsheet with the Socrata API.
- Visualize crimes on an interactive map by day using the Google Maps API.
- Find real images of crime locations using the Google Street View API.
- And save these hundreds of images to a shared folder using the Dropbox API.
...all from a spreadsheet. In minutes.
We’ve seen many amazing use-cases like this. Non-developers combining building blocks to achieve something that would’ve required a software engineer in the past. And doing it faster than engineers could themselves.
Of course, there are countless tools that connect you to specific data sources or APIs. These tools come and go all the time. Even spreadsheets may one day no longer be the tool of choice for business. Blockspring isn’t a tool. It’s a single integration that connects the tools you use everyday to the growing network of APIs.
We’re also excited to have raised $3.4 million led by the team at Andreessen Horowitz, and SV Angel. It’s not every day that three long-time friends from Chicago get to have the world’s best VC, Angel, and Seed (Y Combinator) investors on their side. And it’s even rarer to find a partner who is a brilliant entrepreneur, advisor, and technologist like we did with Balaji Srinivasan, from Andreessen Horowitz.
Here’s what Balaji has to say about Blockspring:
“Blockspring turns a company’s business users into an army of engineers able to quickly and easily connect spreadsheets and other applications to web services without any coding experience. This is significant for companies of all sizes as it helps to alleviate the backlog of one-off integration projects lumped onto over-strapped IT departments, while also empowering people in HR, finance, legal, sales and marketing to build their own tools and share them with colleagues. We’re excited for Blockspring’s potential to reduce IT costs while significantly increasing the productivity of its customers.”
What’s next for us? We’re focused on growing Blockspring for Business, which lets enterprises easily access their own internal services, and we’re going to continue partnering with the world’s best API providers and business tools. Look forward to Tableau and Slack integrations in the coming months.
The Blockspring Family