Improving on perfection — where next for the spreadsheet?

Dawn Capital
Dawn Capital
Published in
3 min readDec 16, 2020

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By David Arndt and Virginia Pozzato

Futuristic lights: Excel is inimitable, so what is the future of spreadsheets?
Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

Over the course of history, a number of inventions and innovations stand out as catalysts of seismic shifts in human productivity. It’s arguable, for instance, that the plough kick-started civilisation, and laid the bedrock for our modern economy.

As we fast-forward through time to the modern day, it may feel difficult to attribute that same weight to, or even form an analogy for, software. But one everyday tool stands out as having a similarly vast impact on our world: the spreadsheet.

With more than a billion users and 30+ years on the market, spreadsheets have firmly cemented themselves as the world’s most successful piece of software.

The sheer versatility and accessibility of the spreadsheet has made it the Swiss Army Knife of modern day productivity, inserting itself into almost every workflow across every industry. Over the past three decades, spreadsheets have become the de facto way for information to be collected, distributed and analysed.

But, as our operational and computational needs become ever greater, the limits of Excel become clear, and opportunities emerge for companies and tools to replace the spreadsheet.

As we analyse what the future holds for the multitude of applications for which we currently default to spreadsheets, it’s important to to recognise a divergence of approaches.

On the one hand, there are tools seeking to augment the spreadsheet experience by providing greater utility in key functional areas such as Privacy & Collaboration, Presentations or Integrations & Workflows.

And on the other, applications and architecture attempting to replace the spreadsheet in its entirety.

As we explore the realms of the software-led augmentation (or replacement) of spreadsheets, we should appreciate the uphill battle of displacing a beloved and understood tool such as the spreadsheet.

But winners are emerging — especially where we see tools having a specific focus on core areas in which spreadsheets have historically been problematic, such as collaboration, complex workflows, and integration.

We look forward to speaking with even more founders taking on this extraordinary task.

david@dawncapital.com ; virginia@dawncapital.com

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