Move Slow and Make Things
airtable’s Howie liu has quietly built a software giant by emphasizing substance over speed. but can a tech tortoise win the data race?
the frenetic world of tech, where the ruling ethos is to move fast and break things, Howie Liu moves at a glacial pace. With Andrew Ofstad and Emmett Nicholas, he launched Airtable in 2013. They wanted to create a spreadsheet with the power of a database. Then they spent three years building a prototype.
The trio pored over academic papers on collaborative software theory, agonized about the Node.js architecture and obsessed over the speed at which windows popped open. After reading Kenya Hara’s design book White, Liu spent months focusing on the interplay of color and empty space.
Liu, 30, is sitting in his San Francisco headquarters dressed in a black leather jacket and` black shirt, slacks and shoes. It’s a minimalist uniform à la Steve Jobs, the guy who would fuss for-