Interview with Jason Crawford, CEO at Fieldbook

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Fieldbook lets anyone create a database as easily and simply as a regular spreadsheet. It is for anyone who has been using spreadsheets as a database. It is a really useful business tool for managing projects, tracking clients, tracking inventory, managing workflow, etc. It visions to become the platform for custom enterprise apps, replacing both overgrown spreadsheets and expensive in-house tools. It is so lightweight and easy to use that it can replace the regular spreadsheets for even the simplest of tasks and the user need not understand the inner workings of a database.

Fieldbook is an outcome from the vision of its CEO Jason Crawford who realized that there is a requirement of something that replaces the overgrown spreadsheets and lets users create databases as easily as they create spreadsheets. It has a UI that is pretty similar to that of a spreadsheet and gives a familiar feel but lets the users easily handle data in multiple dimensions.

We interviewed Jason on behalf of the Digifire readers and the conversation went like this:

What motivated you to start the company and what is it all about?

Fieldbook lets anyone create a database, as easily as a spreadsheet. It’s a vision I’ve had for a very long time. The spreadsheet for most of us is the go-to tool for managing lists and creating small “databases”—it’s the best lightweight tool for working with structured information. But it breaks down on you if you use it to manage a workflow or run a business. The only alternative is a custom app that you develop in-house, but that’s very expensive. Fieldbook is built to be as simple, lightweight, and easy as a spreadsheet, but optimized for database applications. To do this, we had to re-build the database from the ground up, prioritizing usability and ease of getting started.

Our readers would like to know about your core team and their roles?

We’re a very small team. The company was co-founded by me (CEO) and Ben Bernard (CTO).. I’m on my second startup; previously I was the co-founder and CTO of Kima Labs (sold to Groupon). Ben is the co-author of the open-source project RecordStream (https://github.com/benbernard/RecordStream). We had worked together before and got along well. It helped that we had both worked at Amazon in the past—we have a lot of shared Amazon DNA and similar ideas about how to run a company.

How did you hire your initial team?

When it comes to recruiting, you have to work all channels, because you never know where the next great hire is going to come from. However, one of the most reliable is referrals. If someone you trust says that they’ve worked with a person and he/she is a great hire, that’s a strong signal.

In candidates, we look for intelligence, ownership, drive, and the ability to get things done. What we don’tlook for is overly specific experience. For example, in an engineer, we don’t look for experience with any particular framework, platform, or programming language. Great developers can learn any particular technology; in a very short time they’ll be more productive on a new platform than a mediocre developer is on a platform he has used for many years.

According to you, how much is the competition in your vertical?

We try not to worry about the competition. Our real competition is the spreadsheet. That’s what people end up using in practice, so that’s what we have to get people to switch from. And in order to do so we have to be 10x better than it, for some use cases.

What are your marketing strategies? Do you take help of social platforms to promote?

We’re still in a very early-stage and in private beta, but we’ve gotten a lot of great early users from platforms like Beta List and Product Hunt, as well as word of mouth, including Twitter. Digifire readers can get access to the private beta with this link:https://fieldbook.com/?bc=DIGIFIRE

Based on your experience, would you give any advice to the new entrepreneurs/startups?

Starting a company is one of the biggest challenges you can take on, for a few reasons. First, in a profitable company, if you’re not sure what to do today or this year, you can pretty much keep doing what you’ve been doing, and things will usually be alright. In a startup, you can’t just keep doing what you’ve been doing—in part because you just started, and more importantly because you start out losing money. It’s like every startup is a turnaround job, going from unprofitable to profitable. Second, when you have a regular job, someone gives you goals, and you just have to figure out how to achieve them. When you’re a founder, no one gives you the goals—you have to figure out the goals, *and* how to achieve them. You can fail even after hitting all of your goals, if you chose the wrong goals—and many startups do.

These challenges are inherent in doing a startup. But there’s one way that founders make things harder for themselves than they need to be: They get their self-esteem wrapped up in their startup. It’s very easy to do. If you don’t separate your self-image from your startup, you’ll take all the ups and downs personally and the startup will be more of an emotional rollercoaster than what it needs to be. A threat to the startup will feel like a threat to yourself and your sense of self-worth. Remember: you are not your startup. And you’ll be OK even if the startup fails. Once you take that perspective, you can focus on what you need to do to succeed.

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