Airtable today announced that it quietly acquired Walrus.ai, a no-code software testing platform, earlier this year.
“Acquired” may be overstating things a bit, though. Best I can tell, Walrus.ai’s homepage became unavailable a few months ago and Airtable tells me it has no plans to use any of the service’s technology. “Acqui-hire” may be a better description, but neither Airtable’s Chief Product Officer Peter Deng nor Walrus co-founder Scott White was quite ready to use this term.
“I think, at the end of the day, you want to work on things that align with the vision and the arc of what you’re trying to accomplish,” White told me.” Airtable is the natural evolution or the opportunity to fulfill the vision of what you set out to accomplish on a grander scale. And so I think of it as an evolution of what we’re working on, to be able to take that to the next level. I think it was an awesome opportunity.”
White and his co-founders Jake Marsh and Akshay Nathan will join the company, with White becoming the product lead for solutions at Airtable, Nathan an engineering manager in the company’s enterprise organization and Marsh joining as a software engineer. Only the co-founders are joining the company. Walrus.ai had previously raised $4 million is seed funding from investors like Homebrew, Felicis Ventures and Leadout Capital.
The two companies argue that their overall vision was very much aligned. While the Walrus team aimed to make building end-to-end software tests easier by helping users write their tests in plain English, Airtable wants to turn all of its users into app developers.
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“Democratizing software creation — really kind of making it easy to build software, it all started there,” said Deng when I asked him how this deal came about. “I got introduced to Scott and the Walrus team and it was very immediately apparent that we share the same vision. The vision of Walrus was to make building high-quality software easy for developers. But, you know, when we started talking, I was like: ‘well, let’s just make building software easier for everyone. Right? And how about that?’ I think there was just immediate click on the DNA of the co-founders and things that they were doing and things that we were doing, and we just started talking and it just felt more and more natural to just work together.”
At Airtable, Deng and White argued, the Walrus team would be able to expand on its original vision and that their skills would transfer to building a different kind of product. As White noted, Airtable aims to make it easy for its users to do very complex things and make that process easy and seamless. And at the same time, with enterprise being Airtable’s fastest-growing segment, its service is also now being used to manage very complex workflows.
“I think about our work on those two dimensions: About how to make the floor very low for a net new creator to come onto the platform and start building — and then making sure that our core capabilities and infrastructure will allow us to scale to these massive enterprise engagements,” White said about the work he is doing at Airtable now. Neither White nor Deng would say what exactly the Walrus team is working on now, beyond Deng saying that they are “working on big things together” that involves a number of initiatives to solve “end-user problems in a very elegant way.”
The End Of The Acqui-Hire?