Howie Liu is an entrepreneur known for being the founder and CEO of Airtable, a low-code platform for building collaborative apps. Founded in September 2012, Airtable became a unicorn following a series C round of funding in 2018 that valued the company at $1.1 billion. Airtable is used by 450,000 organizations, has raised over $1 billion in funding, and has opened offices in six locations. Prior to founding Airtable, Liu cofounded CRM startup Etacts in 2009 at the age of twenty. Etacts was acquired by Salesforce in 2010 for an undisclosed amount. Following the acquisition, Liu led the social CRM product at Salesforce. Liu is also an angel investor, helping to fund a number of startups.
Liu was born in College Station, Texas, in 1989 to Korean parents who immigrated to the United States from China. He grew up in College Station, Texas, where his father earned a PhD in biochemistry at Texas A&M. Liu taught himself to code C++ at the age of thirteen, using a training book he found in his dad’s office. In 2005, Howie Liu began studying mechanical engineering and public policy at Duke University at the age of sixteen. Liu began working on computational airfoil design at Duke University in January 2008, using genetic algorithms and neural nets for an independent research project. He graduated from Duke University in 2009 with a degree in mechanical engineering and public policy. While at Duke, Liu helped with the formation of early-stage venture fund Freestyle Capital in January 2008.
In February 2010, at the age of twenty, Liu cofounded CRM startup Etacts with Even Beard. Etacts developed a CRM tool for salespeople to manage their contacts and emails. Etacts' investors included Y Combinator, Powerset, Delicious, Ron Conway, Ashton Kutcher, and Eric Hahn. In December 2010, Etacts was acquired by Salesforce for an undisclosed amount.
After the acquisition, Liu joined Salesforce, leading the social CRM product. As a product manager, Liu communicated with clients in various industries, working with Salesforce’s president of products, Alex Dayon, on a daily basis.
In January 2013, Liu cofounded Airtable with Andrew Ofstad, and Emmett Nicholas, and became the company's CEO. Liu, Ofstad, and Nicholas founded Airtable with the intention of creating a spreadsheet that worked like a database. Liu made the following comment when explaining his plans for Airtable in 2018:
People think we’re building an Excel or Google Sheets replacement, but we’re out to build the next Microsoft or Apple. This is a $100 billion-plus revenue opportunity.
In 2018, Airtable raised $100 million in a series C round that valued the company at $1.1 billion. Airtable grew into a company valued at $11 billion, offering more than fifty collaboration apps to more than 450,000 companies, including S&P 500 corporations like Amazon, Netflix, and Nike.
Liu has invested in a number of companies, including Golden, participating in the company's $5 million 2019 seed round.
Airtable's Howie Liu Wants To Help Companies Build Their Own Software | Forbes
November 27, 2018
Howie Liu | Building a $1B Software Giant Emphasizing Substance Over Speed
March 5, 2019
No-one understood our idea, but now it's worth over $1bn
November 4, 2019