(this article originally appeared in TechCrunch and was written by Ron Miller)
Many workers today are still stuck doing a bushel of manual tasks, copying and pasting data into spreadsheets, sending out the same emails every morning, and generally lacking any kind of automation because they lack coding skills. Parabola wants to change that with a simple drag and drop workflow setup, and today the startup announced an $8 million Series A investment.
Matrix Partners led the round with participation from Thrive Capital and various individual investors. Ilya Sukhar from Matrix will be joining the Parabola board under the terms of the agreement. The company has now raised $10.2 million, including a $2.2 million seed round in 2018.
At the same time, the company also announced a new Shopify connector. As COVID has forced a dramatic increase in online shopping, Parabola has seen a corresponding increase in demand for its workflow automation services from e-commerce vendors, and they have added functionality to support that.
Company founder and CEO Alex Yaseen sees the tool as a way to bring programming-like automation to anyone who deals with data tasks on a regular basis, particularly in a spreadsheet. “We’re a drag and drop productivity tool, and we like to say we bring the power of programming to everybody,” Yaseen told TechCrunch.
They do this by providing a library of pre-built steps that you can drag and drop onto a workflow canvas. Each of those steps helps you automate what was previously a manual, repetitive data task in Excel or Google Sheets.
Lead investor Sukhar says that while low code is becoming more popular right now, he and Yaseen have always seen it as a way to bring programming-level productivity enhancing skills to a much broader set of users, and to bring that focus to e-commerce in particular.
“The real trick is finding the right set of users, the right abstraction, the right niche to start with and that’s where I think this goes back to the e-commerce focus. I think that’s what’s super exciting about the approach Parabola has taken, and what got me excited,” he said.
As e-commerce in general surges during the pandemic, Yaseen says he has seen a corresponding increase in usage on the platform over the last couple of months as retail companies move online or increase their online presence and need to find ways to automate more of their internal processes to keep up.
While the company is still in its early stages of development with around 20 employees, it is actively hiring and looking to build a diverse workforce as it does. Yaseen sees this tied to the company’s overall mission of bringing programming level skills to a larger group of people who don’t know how to code, and they need a diverse set of workers that reflects society at large to build that effectively.
“We talk about this as a core authentic value, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job so far. I think we have a lot of room for improvement, as does the tech industry as a whole, but we are pushing very hard,” he said.
The company wants to use the money from this round to keep refining the design of the platform to make it even easier for non-technical users. “This round is very much for product and design work to make it increasingly comfortable for these users who are today really familiar with doing their tasks in spreadsheets […] and increasingly working towards a less and less technical user, as we make products easier and more approachable,” he said.