Blockspring, the data services startup that allows spreadsheet users to connect to any web service, is announcing a key integration with Tableau, the business intelligence and analytics tool. Blockspring recently raised a $3.4 million round led by Andreessen Horowitz in July of this year. The startup is said to be announcing upcoming integrations with other wildly popular business tools, like Slack.
Blockspring is a particularly compelling company because it gives one of the biggest groups of business users the ability to essentially become instant software engineers…minus the whole, you know, coding part.
Why would spreadsheet users need access to APIs?
Well, spreadsheets are actually among the world’s most popular programming languages. But they’re incredibly limited in that they’re disconnected from the rest of the programming community. What Blockspring does is lets you connect to any API with a simple function in the spreadsheet: =BLOCKSPRING(). Globally, there are around 1 billion Office and Excel users. Blockspring also integrates with Google Sheets. That’s a big audience for Blockspring to sell enterprise services to, and the Tableau integration continues the company’s vision of powering all the tools business users already know, trust, and use daily.
There’s an API for that
There are tons of API’s out there, but the trick has been getting them centralized in one place. Software engineers build technology by combining API’s all the time. Now you can do it without writing any code with Blockspring. I’ve tried it, and it’s incredibly cool. Within a few minutes, I was able create a spreadsheet that pulled in articles from different news sources via the news API and scraped the articles for their virality — in this case, social shares, and even made a little graph of the most-shared topics on different days of the week.
But that’s just one tiny use case. If you’ve ever copied data and entered it into a spreadsheet — and have maybe forgotten to update that data — Blockspring could help you.
With Blockspring, users can load up Excel or Google Sheets, install a plugin, and voila: gain access to hundreds of web services. Without ever having to leave your spreadsheet, you can pull a self-updating database on competitors, download raw data — from census data to crime data, or weather, or any of the hundreds of available public data feeds — get real-time pricing for products on Amazon, compare Bitcoin with stock prices, or analyze the social sentiment on your company. Since Blockspring is pulling in a live data feed and then standardizing it, there’s no need to update it. It’s truly a real-time data source for any API.
This is even true for users of data in a non-traditional context — maybe you’re an enterprising lawyer with no technical skills and you want to use Blockspring to identify the political affiliation of people involved in court cases. Or maybe you’re in HR, or corporate finance, or are an investor and are tracking companies in a spreadsheet. You could use Blockspring to pull in a data feed from Glassdoor and see who’s hiring, where, with what frequency, etc.
Remember Radian6, the social startup that let you build visual dashboards connected to social media API’s, like Twitter and blog searches? It sold for a tidy $340 million to Salesforce. Blockspring connects to the same social API’s (and so many more), and gives you more powerful data visualization with Tableau. And that’s just a marketing use case.
“Where it gets really interesting is when companies have private data services. What that means is end users and analysts don’t have to go to a developer or data scientist to pull data manually —so whether it’s a search in Dropbox, marketing data from Google Analytics, or a private data service from your company, it’s all standardized,” CEO and cofounder Paul Katsen told me in a demo of the product.
The reality is, beyond business intelligence analysts and data scientists, regular folks are getting more data-driven in their decision-making, and Blockspring is a dead simple tool allowing anyone to connect live data feeds together in infinite ways to facilitate that process.