Spreadsheet startup cheat

What would you guess is the most widely used programming language? JavaScript? HTML/CSS?

It’s actually Microsoft Excel.

We don’t normally think of it as such, but spreadsheet formulas are actually a (functional) programming language.




Coming up with great startup ideas can be difficult, as it requires finding a problem to solve.

Everyday countless office workers around the world use Excel spreadsheets to solve their problems. Many of these businesses are solving the exact same or very similar problems too.

Spreadsheets aren’t the most elegant solution to these problems. The information presentation and visualization options aren’t specific to the domain of the problem. When workers create spreadsheet formulas there’s potential for errors.

FreshBooks actually got started when founder Mike McDerment saved over an invoice and thought “there had to be a better way”.

Arguably what many successful SaaS startups have done is put a much more efficient and satisfactory user interface around work that was previously done with spreadsheets.




SaaS startups tend to do well in Canada. They are a logical leap to make for web development service companies looking to become or create spin-off product companies.

If you’re looking for a SaaS startup idea, a good heuristic to follow is to try to figure out what common business problems are still being solved in spreadsheets.


  • Fraser Gorrie

    Couldn’t agree more. But as with statistics, “remember the audience”. Spreadsheets, because of their widespread use are very accessible and will always have a place in business. You can make lots of mistakes building pivotal parts of your business around them but you are also able to change anything you need to.and so they can evolve quickly. This can’t be said of applications written for you by others, especially if the vendor has many clients.