If I were a VC, my fund would be focused on attacking Excel.
I would finance startups that develop software for people looking to escape Excel Hell. People could say adios to spreadsheets, pivot tables, and macros. Instead, they would use software that was automated, efficient and reduced manual work.
My investment thesis has been bolstered by conversations with startups that see Excel as a big target for disruption. These startups are focused on everything from wireless customer service, retail planning to oil and gas operations and event planning.
Excel is a juicy target because there are better ways to do business. Excel is powerful but it is used to do things that stretch its utility. People hack Excel and pray they won’t drown under the weight of error-prone spreadsheets that undermine their productivity.
There are places in which Excel makes sense but many businesses would see big benefits from not using it. Advances in software and cloud computing are creating opportunities for innovative startups to attack Excel. They can provide software that is user-friendly, powerful and designed for specific tasks.
The biggest obstacle facing Excel-killers is many people like Excel, or they think they do.
They take pride in their macros and expertise manipulating Excel to meet their needs. The idea of abandoning Excel is absurd. Why leave something that works and they know well? That’s just crazy talk.
This die-hard belief in Excel is, in many cases, misguided because change is hard. It is easier to keep using Excel as opposed to learn something new. People are afraid of the unknown so they get defensive and irrational.
As a result, it takes time and patience to show people there is a better way. This includes::
- Showing people work habits will not dramatically change. Instead, new tools will make them more productive and happier. They will use technology designed to meet their needs. What could better than that?
- Highlighting the benefits such as how new software will eliminate mistakes, duplication and save them time.
- Showing how many manual tasks will be automated.
Once people see there is future that doesn’t include Excel, change becomes a lot more palatable.
If you have a few million dollars kicking around and want to finance my fund, let me know!
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