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What is Airplane's positioning compared to Retool and what are the benefits and limitations of PaaS vs. SaaS positioning?

Ravi Parikh

Co-founder & CEO at Airplane

So, we have a very self-selected audience of people and our acquisition strategy is all inbound for now. I mean, 10% of the time it is versus Retool but most of the time, they're like, "We've seen Retool before," or, "We've used it in the past,” or, "Used it in my last company," and decided not to use it already before ever talking to us.

The reason they don’t use Retool sometimes is related to a lack of functionality. We have the scripts and that's unique. But a lot more of the time it's due to the way Retool's built. We'll talk to a lot of people who will be like, "Hey! I'm not really into all the low-code, no-code stuff. We were going to build this internal tool in-house, that was going to be the preferred way to do it. Then, I came across Airplane and realized, this actually might be a best-of-both-worlds sort of thing." So, we get a lot of people who really resonate with Airplane’s philosophy.

There's a customer of ours that we closed a month ago where a couple months before that he had tweeted something like, "I want Retool, but actually built for engineers." We reached out to the person and he was like, "Oh! This actually is the thing I was looking for." Within a couple weeks, we closed a large agreement with that customer. 

Customers usually know that Retool and many other things exist but they've chosen not to use it, due to being a poor technical fit for the way they need their platform to work. But by virtue of being code-based, Airplane is a fit for them.

Retool is a drag-and-drop system where the underlying representation is a domain-specific language that's very Retool-specific. It's not something you can easily debug, version control, do code reviews against, extend with your own code, and so on. Whereas Airplane is normal JavaScript or Python. You own it. You version-control it. You can stick an Airplane folder in your monorepo and do stuff with it.

That's the big differentiator. By the time they're even talking to us, most people already know that because they've seen our marketing material and found us via word of mouth. That's the positioning I guess.

Find this answer in Ravi Parikh, CEO of Airplane, on building an end-to-end internal tools platform
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