Smartsheet-All by themselves

Interesting interview article with CEO Mark Mader.…

Mader asserts that in the “vast majority” of customer wins, the company isn’t beating out or displacing a rival workflow automation solution, but replacing manual processes that rely on apps such as Word and Excel. Microsoft Office docs are the existing solution that Smartsheet is most likely to replace “by a factor of 10,” Mader said, and the company’s incident rate for hearing of a rival “work management” product when competing for a new deal or trying to expand an existing one is said to be “less than 5%.”

Even now, most people are still using docs to manage business workflows, Mader added. And that, he argues, indicates “it’s still very early in our category.”

Just not a lot of competition it sounds like for this new market they are entering/creating. This reminds of some commentary by Alteryx management. And SMAR has been growing just as strongly and consistently. Important thing is they have lots of headroom.

This quarter they have launched a large marketing blitz, knowing there is a demand to be filled. Will be interesting to see how that is panning out.



Even now, most people are still using docs to manage business workflows, Mader added. And that, he argues, indicates “it’s still very early in our category.”

This is typical of disruptive innovations, serving underserved markets that incumbents don’t serve for some reason or another. While these underserved markets are their initial bread and butter, the innovation becomes more robust and eventually they can go head to head with incumbents in more mature markets.

The hydraulic excavator was an example Clayton Christensen used in The Innovator’s Dilemma. Their first market were small backhoes for digging narrow urban ditches that previously were being done by pick and shovel. The older mechanical excavators were too bulky and too expensive for this new market.

I’ve been bullish on Smartsheets from the start, initially because they were based on a known and loved interface, the spreadsheet.

Denny Schlesinger


With the understanding that the board is not always thrilled with anecdotal input; I thought I quickly relay my personal experience as a new SmartSheet customer; I joined just moments ago after the expiration of my free 30-day trial period.

After investing in the company in August and learning more about it through my research, I was intrigue to give it a try after being a career long user of Excel, being introduced to spreadsheets back in the '80’s as a Lotus 1-2-3 user. I opened a 30-day free trial account in early October.

I quickly got up to speed, using the platform for project scheduling tasks related to real estate construction projects; creating reports and Gantt chart schedules to distribute to various project team members. To date, that has been the primary focus of my use.

As my free trial was expiring; I started receiving friendly (not annoying) reminders from SmartSheet about “upgrading” and becoming a customer. They indicated to me that they would hold my files for 90-days while I made my decision to purchase. I became an individual member today by paying the $168 annual rate ($14/month) as opposed to an individual month-to-month account at $19/month.

I find the product to be very intuitive with great ease-of-use for a one-man office such as myself. The on boarding for registration and payment took about 1 minute. Provided my experience continues to be positive, I could see myself upgrading to allow for additional team members to share files. For now, I will continue work with it and discover new value propositions it has for my small real estate investment company.


Thanks for your anecdote. Just curious. Would’nt MS Project be the likely comparison for what you are doing (Gantt charts) than excel.

Thanks for your anecdote. Just curious. Would’nt MS Project be the likely comparison for what you are doing (Gantt charts) than excel.

Good question; as a small business man and a one-man shop, I had never given it any thought to put it honestly and bluntly. However, I am not sure that my experience is much different than what many other micro business experiences would be. I simply gravitated to the “top of mind” product, which for me was SmartSheet based on investment research and their advertising campaign, I was then lured in by the free 30-day trial, used the product, liked the product and felt like it was an acceptable solution for my application. Then, to be able to give it a test drive for a year at $168…seemed like a rather easy decision. Like many micro businesses, I wasn’t going to put a significant amount of time and energy into researching an admin product; my time and energy is best spent on revenue items. To be quite honest again…I have never heard of MS Project. That says something about the purchase process from my perspective. My experience my not be similar to that of other micro businesses. I also am aware that my purchase is not going to move the SmartSheet needle.


I have never heard of MS Project.

It’s crazy how different of worlds some of us live in… I could only wish I had never heard of MS Project (it’s not great, I’ve endured many hours of suffering with MS Project). Looking at the surface level of Smartsheets it seems like an integrated version of Project and Excel, which I would LOVE to have as a Project Engineer.

I honestly wasn’t that interested in SMAR because it’s in such a competitive space, but taking another look along with the growth rate (>40%), P/S (<20), & market cap (~$4.5B) I think make it an interesting & compelling buy right now.


I could only wish I had never heard of MS Project

Basically my reaction, although dated. It was ok for drawing a pretty Gantt chart about the plan for the project, but painful in adjusting to the realities of when things actually did or did not get done and what the impact was on final completion. Anyone have experience with SMAR in this regard?

This company seems like it may be operating in the same space:

I don’t know enough about either company to say for sure.

AirTable is interesting. I will need to try it out. But no, does not replace SMAR. SMAR is far more specific and handles more complex problems and does so in a community manner.


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Unfortunately the article says nothing much about the product and what it does say worries me:

“Honestly, I think a lot of eyes just glazed over. I distinctly remember a few cases, even with the investors that said yes, where they said ‘we don’t really get what you’re talking about’.

Ultimately, what got those investors on board was confidence in the AirTable team itself, which Mr Liu says was perhaps of more importance at such an early stage.

It is the product that has to succeed, a bunch of Ph.Ds. with Nobel Prizes, Long-Term Capital Management, LTCM, almost brought the market down

Denny Schlesinger…

I’m going through a beginner introduction to project management with AirTable. And my inclination is correct. Like Trello, this is a more user friendly but less granular, less sophisticated tool like Smartsheets. It is much more like Smartsheets than Trello. But underneath all,of them is a database organized with cards and by spreadsheet like form w Smartsheets and AirTable.

Smartsheets is easy to learnin a few hours. AirTable in an hour or less. But AirTable is not as sophisticated or granular ormhave as much “oomph” behind it. Business people want more. AirTable is however focused on creative people who probably are not spreadsheet jockeys to begin with but they have business tasks and collaborations they need to do.

Overtime I am sure it will pick up sophistication as products do as they mature. But I see it more an alternative to Trello than Smartsheets - at least for now.

I like trying these products out to see if they can make my life better. Trello worked better for me than Smartsheets. But my needs are less sophisticated. Trello meets my needs better than AirTable as well. But I could see using AirTable for project management as I am not a spreadsheet jockey and it was more intuitive for me than Smartsheets. It does the same basic things but lacks the considerable depth of Smartsheets. That depth creates complexities that make it more difficult for my needs, but which are probably critical for your more sophisticated business projects.



Nice review, Tinker! Some things never change, when I got my first PC, an Apple II in 1979, my three applications, in order of importance, were a spreadsheet (Visicalc), a database (Visidex), and a word processor (don’t remember). I used the spreadsheet to model insurance plans for my clients and to keep track and validate my commissions. The database to keep track of my appointments and the word processor to write stuff (doh! sorry, could not resist). The basics have not changed but the implementations have grown, sometimes well past users’ needs as you point out.

It could well be that AirTable is the intermediate product between Trello and Smartsheets but I would expect that these “organizers” will exhibit the same Pareto distribution as almost everything else and, as investors, we need to find the leader. I would bet on Smartsheets as I have all along.

Denny Schlesinger

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From the most recent 10-Q:

Certain of our features compete with current or potential products and services offered by Airtable, Asana, Atlassian,, Planview, Workfront,
Wrike, and others. We also face competition from Google and Microsoft, who offer a range of productivity solutions including spreadsheets and email that have
traditionally been used for work management.


Tinker, it’s really fabulous that you try out so many of these products yourself and share your findings with us. That’s very useful, and I, for one, appreciate it very, very much. It really adds value to the board.


10 recommendations for Saul’s thanks to Tinker.
18 recommendations for Saul’s colonoscopy.

Something is wrong with the world… :slight_smile:


Going back to the original comments for the post.

Mader said, and the company’s incident rate for hearing of a rival “work management” product when competing for a new deal or trying to expand an existing one is said to be “less than 5%.”

Smartsheet can be used to solve multiple pain points in an organization that can be lumped into multiple different markets that have varying competitive products. It depends on what the organization is trying to solve. If it’s just project management than there are projects that compete there, or just collaboration tools there too.

But where I believe they have full utilization of the capabilities. That is to replace manual workflows of multiple systems in place now, they don’t see much competitive overlap in those POC processes to win new deals. He may also be saying that there is just so much white space that they just don’t come across other platforms due to the vast opportunity. It’s a little of both I think.