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Published at Sun Aug 06 2023 in
Rows HQ

2023 W31 - Mothers Milk

Blog - Plug

Every week I post about one thing that happened at Rows. We're building in public!


This is a two-parter. First, a bit about content. Then, some long due acknowledgements!


We are constantly reminded of how important it is to review the information you're showing your users. Just last week we had a situation where an important user (an investor) wasn't able to load a spreadsheet we shared with them. He sent us the error, saying that he'd tried multiple times.

Blog - error when invitingWhy is the user seeing this? We provide no info. Bad.

The user wasn't to blame. After a quick debug, we realized the invite had been sent by us to a particular email, but the user was already registered and logged-in with an account that had a different email. What was worse, we didn't tell the user that the error was due to a mismatch in accounts, all they got was this generic error.

The solution is simple:

  1. Apologize and explain, and help the user get the spreadsheet.

  2. Fix the problem for everyone! The real message should be as explicit as possible! The ideal message should be something like:

This invite was sent to m****l@******.com, but you are logged in with m*******@*****.com. To access the spreadsheet you can either:

1) Request an invite to your current account email from the person who sent you the invite. Their contact is in the invite email; 2) Log-out and log-in with the account of the invite; or 3) Log-out and register a new account with the account of the invite, by clicking the invite and registering for a new account.

Mothers milk

As people go on vacations, I am starting to catchup with email and news. I was reading an interesting piece on Rocket Internet that got me to list our sources of inspiration for Rows, as well as companies that helped us get to where we are (inspiration and help being different things).

  • Obviously, the number one source of ideas and motivation is our team.

  • Next up are the ideas of our users and our investors; they have been extremely generous with their time and commitment to our vision. They give us lots of feedback, which inspires new features.

  • Then it gets trickier. I would rank other products, and their founders and community first.

  • Excel is obviously a big influence, as I spent years on that tool, and G Sheets too; They made Rows possible by creating a demanding market for spreadsheets. Xlsx is a f***** standard. They did great, and everyday we work hard so that they can retire to a nice nursing home for classic softwares.

  • Next up is Notion, with its multi-element page interface, itself a merge between Wikis and productivity software like text processors; and Zapier, with its endless data connections. They are not quite the thing for spreadsheet users, but we frequently borrow some of their thinking. Miro and Canva are in this class, as is Slack and Discord.

  • Apple is always there, all these years shining a light into the new beije boxes - boring SaaS software. They inflicted on us the notion of a Brand and how important it is to make things simple and exciting for everyone. This is extremely hard to follow, but kind of required if we want to break into the millions of users.

  • Then there's smaller products that teach us something, like Excalidraw and Puter which inspired us to do Instant Rows⚡️.

  • I can't forget GitHub, which is where we do most of our Product conversation. It is also an inspiration for our Spreadsheet Community of clonable spreadsheets, and an inspiration for an open source vision too.

  • To circle back to the origin of this post, I would put Rocket Internet as a big influence: 1) always invest in the best talent, even if it looks expensive at first. 2) Prioritize aggressively, and leave email for mornings or before you stop. 3) be brutally honest with your opinion — "that is shit" always felt non-personal and motivating to me. 4) Always trust the team and let them experiment. More than once Oliver S. would disagree but then end with "If that is what you want to do, then do it."

  • Finally, there's a bunch of people who reach out and give us motivation and feedback: The PT community, Berlin founders, expats from SF, the Reddit and spreadsheet nerds, the creators. They're too many to name.

We're standing on the shoulders of giants! Thanks to all.

See you next week.

- h