How I Built An Airtable Plugin That Lets Users Manage Their Data Better [$80K/Year]

Published: March 7th, 2022
Andy Cloke
Founder, Data Fetcher
Data Fetcher
from London, England, United Kingdom
started August 2020
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi! My name is Andy Cloke and I am the founder of Data Fetcher. Data Fetcher is a way to import data from anywhere into Airtable. For anyone that hasn’t heard of Airtable, it’s basically Google Sheets on steroids. It lets you visualize and manage your data in amazing ways, but sometimes it’s hard to get the data you need into it in the first place. That’s where Data Fetcher comes in!

My customers are all Airtable users but their use cases are very varied. Many are importing financial (stock prices, exchange rates) data, cryptocurrency prices, or marketing (e.g. Google Analytics) metrics. I also have a customer connecting to a vineyard CRM and another importing sewing patterns from a sewing social network called Ravelry! People have connected to over 1000 different applications using Data Fetcher. The way my friend described it recently was ‘the long tail is much longer than you think’.

Just over a year after launching, Data Fetcher has reached 190 paying customers and $6500 in MRR. I’m really happy with this consistent growth and it seems to be speeding up! The app has also become a critical part of many businesses’ operations around the world.


Revenue growth since launch in November 2020

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I studied engineering at university but never loved it, so after graduating I taught myself to code to get a career in software. I liked the idea of building my own projects and being able to work from anywhere. Whilst learning to code, I launched Verbly, a way to learn Spanish verb conjugations. It got to the front page of Hacker News and lots of people were using it! The dopamine hit of lots of people using something I built in my bedroom is something I’ve been fairly obsessed with ever since.

I worked for a few startups as a freelance software (JavaScript & React.js) developer and launched more projects on the side. The first one to make any money was Influence Grid, a directory of TikTok influencers. I bootstrapped it to $3k MRR and then sold the app to another company for $55k. This was the first time one of my projects had made real money and it felt like massive validation of all the evenings/ weekends I was spending on my side projects.

I follow a simple framework for coming up with business ideas, explained in this Tweet. Basically, you find a new platform that is growing massively, look at existing successful tools for more mature platforms and build an equivalent tool for the new platform. I noticed a Google Sheets add-on called API Connector and built the equivalent for Airtable.

I did not copy API Connector mindlessly, as there are big differences between Sheets and Airtable, but the core app idea came from following this. I also gave credit to the founder of API connector when I launched. We now have a great working relationship and she has even copied Data Fetcher features into API Connector.

After getting the first few Data Fetcher customers, I knew this was an idea I wanted to work on for the next few years. Looking at other app marketplaces, e.g. Shopify & Slack, it’s possible to bootstrap an app to life-changing revenue as a solo founder. That is the goal I’m working towards now.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

The timing of my idea for Data Fetcher was fortunate, as Airtable had just opened up their app marketplace to third-party developers. Airtable apps also use a technology (React.js) I had lots of experience with. I spent a month developing the first version of the app, and another three months getting it through Airtable’s app marketplace review process.

The first version of the app was pretty terrible, but it had the core functionality of being able to connect to an API. The Airtable app marketplace does not yet have a way to charge users for your app, so I had to build this myself. Although it was rudimentary, it was enough to get a few paying customers and know I was onto something! I then started working through the backlog of essential features. I also started getting user requests for features and adding these to the product too.


Airtable apps are released like mobile apps, where you must submit to the app marketplace and wait for the approval. This means it’s hard to push quick fixes/ updates. Therefore I spent lots of time thoroughly testing every version of the app before release and making sure it did not break things for existing users. I also wrote a thorough Help Center with guides to all the features, to reduce the support after I launched.


Describe the process of launching the business.

There were minimal startup costs for the app. I did all the software development myself, so the main investment was simply my time. I had the funds from selling Influence Grid, which I used to live off and pay for a few things like the domain (from Namecheap) and Heroku servers.

As I developed the app, I tweeted about what I was building and sent people who were interested in Twitter to a landing page, where I collected their emails. When the app went live, I emailed these people and posted on some Airtable social media groups/ forums. This helped drive some initial awareness and customers within the first two weeks. Shortly after that, I launched Data Fetcher on Product Hunt, which drove more customers.

The biggest lesson here was being patient. I also had to trust my gut that the app would attract customers and my hard work would be worth it. It took 3 months to get the app through Airtable’s app review process as the marketplace was so new at the time. There wasn’t much I could do to speed this up, so I had to sit tight.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

One thing that’s really helped is how early I was in the Airtable app marketplace and the relative lack of competition. Around 70-80% of my customers simply discover the app through the marketplace. I’ve focused on improving the app marketplace listing with testimonials, clear feature descriptions, and links to helpful resources.

The fact that Data Fetcher has a freemium pricing model has really helped me get the most out of the marketplace channel. Users can install and try it for free and only pay once they reach certain usage limits. A healthy 10% of my free users convert to paying customers. People use the fact that ‘Freemium is a marketing strategy, not a revenue model’ as a way to bash freemium. But if it’s done correctly and you are aware of the risks (e.g. increased server costs and support), it can be very powerful.

One thing that has really helped is looking at where most of my customers are already coming from and reducing friction in this funnel.

There will definitely be more competition in the marketplace soon, so I’m working on developing other marketing channels. I’ve focused on content marketing, by creating Data Fetcher’s no-code blog and YouTube channel. The content is fairly simple. Each video/ blog post shows how to use Data Fetcher to do a certain task, e.g. import stock prices to Airtable, but it works very well! About 20% of my customers are now coming through these channels.

I want to scale up this content marketing soon and start publishing content more consistently. As a technical founder, I think the easiest way to start marketing is to look at what channels similar products use and focus on those. But it’s good to try new ones occasionally. For example, I recently created a TikTok profile to test this channel. If there are any results, I’ll double down.


How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Data Fetcher is making $6.5k from subscriptions each month. Servers and other tools (e.g. email marketing software) cost about $500/month, meaning a healthy 90% profit margin before my salary. It continues to grow by $500+ in new subscriptions each month.

I recently launched a new version of the app that lets anyone use it. Before you needed to understand APIs, but now it’s truly a no-code tool. I’m focusing on improving this version and marketing it to a wider range of people.

I’d love to take Data Fetcher to $30k+ in MRR and hire people part-time to handle customer support and produce marketing content. I have not taken any investment, so I can do this in my own time, but I am wary of competition in the app marketplace. I’ve also got some other Airtable apps I’d love to build in the next year or two.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

One thing that has really helped is looking at where most of my customers are already coming from and reducing friction in this funnel. For example, I added Google login to the app and free sign-ups immediately increased.

The next was the value of doing proper user testing. Rather than just interviewing customers, I asked people to do certain tasks within the app. As a result of this, I improved the app’s UX more in a few hours than I had in the preceding few months.

Avoid looking for a silver bullet rather than taking action.

Finally, I’ve learned the value of reaching out to people you respect for guidance and mentorship. I reached out to two well-known bootstrappers on Twitter and they’ve both become mentors to me. I also joined an amazing bootstrapping community, Weekend Club, where I get lots of support and even met people to form a mastermind group with. Bootstrapping as a solo founder can be lonely without this. Learning to reach out has made a huge difference to both my business and my well-being.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

I am in love with Heroku and how easy it makes it to host a backend, set up a database, etc. as a predominantly front-end developer. I send newsletters using Mailerlite and transactional emails using SendGrid’s fantastic dynamic templates feature.

I organize my work in Airtable of course! It has some lovely features like letting me connect a form that lets users send a feature/ integration suggestion. The Data Fetcher Help Center uses GitBook, which has an amazing free plan. Similarly, the blog uses GraphCMS’s free plan to host blog and media content. I’m happy to pay for tools when needed, but you can get a long way on free tools like these.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Paul Graham’s book Hackers & Painters and Cal Newport’s So good they can’t ignore you are the reasons I got into software entrepreneurship and love what I do every day. Lost & Founder by Rand Fishkin helped me question a lot of the conventional wisdom around starting and running a company.

Startup To Last is my favorite podcast as it shows the realities of running a bootstrapped software business beyond the first couple of years. Finally, I’d recommend reading Tyler Tringas’s Micro-saas ebook if you want to follow a similar path from a software developer to founder.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

A huge thing is considering what market you are entering and how the specifics of it will affect your business. With Influence Grid, I struggled with 30% churn each month, and a lot of it was simply the campaign-based nature of the influencer marketing industry. I would never have even thought of that starting, but it seemed obvious in hindsight.

With Data Fetcher, I’m often selling to ‘prosumers’ so I’m never going to make $100s per customer, and I must carefully consider the price/ usage limits as people are fairly priced sensitive. But it also means the end-user has access to the credit card and self-serve billing works really well.

The next is to avoid looking for a silver bullet rather than taking action, particularly on the marketing side of things. I often get people on Twitter asking how to find customers, or asking for feedback before they launch. Their time would be better spent launching and trying 3-5 marketing channels, doubling down on what works. I had so many failed projects, but you learn loads just from launching and trying to market them.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!