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NocoDB: Democratizing Access to Data with a Smart Spreadsheet

Today, we are excited to announce our investment in NocoDB, a rapidly growing open-source platform that turns any data store into a smart spreadsheet. Data now lives everywhere - in databases, cloud data warehouses, and SaaS apps - and frequently relies on technical users such as developers and data engineers to make the underlying data accessible to everyone. NocoDB makes it possible for non-technical users to access data with the power and familiarity of a collaborative spreadsheet, unlocking the potential for anyone to integrate data into their business decisions. Since launching NocoDB, the open-source project has seen several millions of downloads and is used by 2000+ organizations worldwide on a daily basis including American Express, Google, and Walmart.

NocoDB was founded by Naveen Rudrappa, a longstanding open-source creator who set out on a mission to enable every non-technical user to become a software creator. We asked him to share his vision to create “a billion software no-coders” in our founder Q&A:

What was your childhood like? How did you discover computers?

I grew up in a small town called Davangere in India. My dad was a college lecturer and was the first one from his family to go to college - he wanted me to be an academic but to his disappointment, I was much more interested in playing cricket. My parents ultimately pushed me to spend less time on the field and focus on art and computer science in my free time. These were foundational years: I remember I had an amazing art teacher who taught me the power of using your imagination to drive your work, and at the same time my father took me to programming courses and I eventually mastered Basic at age 12. I found that programming itself was a form of art - a way for digital creators to imagine what was possible in software and help people experience our world through unique user interfaces. I knew software development would be my future and I’ve considered myself a digital “artist” ever since.

The cricket ground in my neighborhood where I spent many, many hours of my childhood

What inspired you to start NocoDB?

Two years ago I lost my full-time work visa status in the UK and could only pick up side consulting projects for a living. This ended up being a blessing in disguise as in one of my projects I had a large MySQL database and needed to create API access in order to build a user interface that would allow everyone to see the data inside. This was not the first time I had run into the frustration of trying to access a data store that did not already have a flexible API, nor was it the first time I was building a collaborative app that would allow everyone to see and share the data. After getting several consulting requests for similar kinds of functionality I tried to come up with an easy-to-use way for developers to connect to any data store, and turn that data into a collaborative experience. I released NocoDB on GitHub, and the next morning woke up to see a thousand GitHub stars for my project. The problem was much more widespread than I had imagined and my initial prototype had struck a chord with the users. It didn’t take long for us to cross a quarter million downloads and that ultimately inspired us to start NocoDB as a full-time project.

Our mission at NocoDB is to turn any data store into a beautiful and collaborative experience

What inspired you to open source NocoDB? How has it grown since then?

In college I wrote my first open-source tool - it was an emulator for a microprocessor that enabled students to run their assembly code on their home computers instead of commuting on campus at odd hours and waiting for the actual hardware to become available. Once I saw how my project made a real difference in my classmates’ lives and saved them valuable time, I realized the power of open source and have been contributing to the community ever since. We decided to open source NocoDB and were completely surprised by how quickly it took off - we now have over 30,000 stars on GitHub, more than 100 contributors, over 3,500 members in our Discord channel, and thousands of organizations using us every day. The overwhelming passion is not just from developers, but also from business users who were looking to access production data sitting in databases and had never been able to access it easily until now. We get notes from companies all the time thanking us for creating such a powerful tool that is simple and intuitive for both developers and non-technical end users.

NocoDB is one of the fastest growing open source projects in history

What is the long-term vision for NocoDB?

Every organization understands that its data is strategic, but the number of places where data resides is increasing exponentially. Most companies have dozens of databases, at least two or three data warehouses, and countless numbers of applications, CRMs, flat files, and APIs. In the past, it would have taken 4-5 developers at least 6-8 months to build a unique user experience on a production database, and NocoDB makes it possible to do so in under an hour. My personal vision is that the world needs a no-code solution that allows business users to work collaboratively with any form of business data, and NocoDB is uniquely positioned to solve this problem. A true zero code experience can enable every business user to build like a software engineer, and to unlock the creative insights and intuition that is inside of all of us. We are excited to empower the next generation of “NoCoders'' and hope you will all join us!

The early NocoDB team spread across six countries, three continents