Unvalidated Ideas #015
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Cellplates - Templates for Excel
Recently I read an excellent article called "Excel never dies" from notboring.co. The sentiment isn't new, but the article is spot on -- Excel isn't going anywhere, just like Craigslist hasn't gone anywhere.
Fun side note before we get into it, Craiglist was estimated to make 1 BILLION dollars a year in revenue in 2019. Just... sit with that and think about it for a bit. Craig's photo is right in the article there, and the company has 50 employees.
Anyway back to Excel -- just like the article mentioned (you read it right?), lots of apps like ReTool are trying to chip away at the Excel monolith but there's just too much value in there. Not only that, as far as I can tell Excel is actually beloved (or at least revered/feared) by it's users -- people covet Excel skills. Excel empowers it's users -- and users don't forget that feeling or the results.
Krazam has a great parody of Excel warriors as Twitch streamers worth watching (WARNING: video is a little loud).
So what's the play here? Well, developing Excel plugins of course! It's not sexy or glamorous -- most developers are too busy trying to make the 5873rd Flappy Bird or Wordle. It just might be free real-estate, but obviously it's too good to be true -- you need to find the right thing to offer people using Excel.
Businesses have more money to spend than individual consumers, so let's focus on what we can offer businesses with many Excel users. What do those businesses need?
Businesses need a simple, easy way to share templates for commonly used spreadsheets.
The vast majority of employees do work that has already been done at least one time before, well-run companies will document, share, and reuse templates and update as necessary.
Projects like Baserow (a F/OSS alternative to AirTable) have an extensive suite of templates for different projects and business situations. Simply mirroring these templates would be a lot of value already, but what will really sell the enterprises is the ability to make sure their internal templates and versions stay up to date and actually get used by employees.
You probably already know at least a few people that spend their whole day in Excel. Sit with them, ask them an open-ended question about templates, and see where they take you (then start asking them about other pain points).
Read my raw notes >
NOTE This won't be the last Excel idea you hear about. I know just little enough about the ecosystem to think that lots of things are under-explored.
Validation is key -- these ideas are meant to be validated first (unless you just really want to build then go nuts). No one knows what will work until customers are involved and money is being traded for value in the real world.
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