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Revolutionizing data import (again!): The birth of the Flatfile Data Exchange Platform

Four years ago, Flatfile set out on a mission....

To bring to life the idea that data import could be an exceptional and simple experience for customers. In my first blog post I talked about how my personal frustration with the status quo cascaded into a passion project, and floods of feedback from users asking for more. 

That solution has scaled over the last few years to be the file-based data import experience for some of the largest software companies in the world. With millions of end users importing CSV and excel files each year, we’ve learned so much. But consistently, our customers and prospects have led the way.

Today, I’m super excited to announce that we’re releasing the Flatfile Data Exchange Platform. A powerful set of APIs, open source plugins, and event streams that allow developers to use the building blocks of Flatfile to solve nearly any data exchange problem, from one-click import buttons to complex, multi-stage enterprise workflows.

This is the result of working closely with hundreds of customers and thousands of developers, from small startups to fortune 100 companies. We’ve researched every aspect of the data import journey, learning about technical implementation considerations, ecosystem integration challenges, customizations, workflows and approvals, business logic, access control and more.   

I’m extremely proud of what we built, but how did we get here

We’ve all been there, dealing with the inevitable misery of handling file imports. Be it an attempt to import a file, only to end up with a jumble of incorrect dates (I’m looking at you Excel), or the struggle of handling a customer's uploaded file riddled with inconsistencies, incorrect formats, and missing fields. The world of importing data-files often looks like a chaotic mess of information and constant back and forth.

It was this recurring frustration, faced at multiple companies, that ignited the spark to create Flatfile. We knew there had to be a better way.

We started our journey with an embeddable CSV importer solution. The overwhelming response from companies eager to become customers showed us that our solution resonated deeply with the market's pain points.

As Flatfile grew, we recognized that simply validating, cleaning, transforming, and standardizing data was insufficient. Our customer’s expressed the need to handle more complex scenarios, especially those involving multiple stakeholders, necessitating intricate workflows and human intervention.

We needed to build something that met all of our customer’s needs

The challenge is that data importing is inherently an edge-case problem. Each legacy file type, each audit requirement, each validation, each integration are essential pieces to the puzzle.

The reason building software for this is hard (and valuable) is that every company has such unique needs and constraints that must be solved in order for them to operate. For Flatfile to keep meeting the needs of our customers, we needed to expand our one-size-fits most solution into something more.

So about a year ago, we went back to the drawing board

Instead of trying to create a universal solution, which would be applicable to all businesses with some “customization”, we pivoted towards creating a developer-first platform that empowers organizations to build their own ideal solution, tailored specifically to their unique needs. 

We took what was bottled up inside of our existing solutions as a baseline (Flatfile Portal and Workspaces), incorporated everything we learned across hundreds of customers, and made it fully extensible.

The Flatfile Data Exchange Platform provides developers full control of each step of the user experience, business, and data logic, without having to deal with the challenges of building it yourself from scratch.

Key decisions for the new platform:

  • API-first Enabling seamless integration into any existing application or system, and adaptability to meet future needs or changes.

  • Event-driven architecture Providing complete control at every step of the data flow and user journey, while also offering easier testing, monitoring and debugging.

  • Yes code The ultimate flexibility to collect, clean, validate, and convert data. Every process is driven by reusable code - roll your own or use community plugins.

Fast forward to a few months ago, the Platform was ready for feedback. We started extensive beta testing with existing customers and developers across a wide range of use cases. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, reaffirming our confidence in the Platform’s potential.

In addition to the numerous high-fives we received from developers, end-users also appreciated the familiar workbook-style user interface, the option for collaborative microsites, and customizable workflows.

From an enterprise perspective, larger organizations told us the Flatfile Platform checks all their boxes: ability to handle any business use case, privacy and compliance adherence, robust security, scalability, and a clear Return on Investment (ROI).

Up until now the build-vs-buy equation was tilted towards “build” for most enterprises. There was no “buy” option that could fully support their complex and ever changing needs, giving them full control and flexibility without the headaches of building it in-house from scratch.

“I believe the Flatfile Platform is truly a game-changer by finally providing a solution that enables any organization to solve their data import and collaboration needs.”

Which brings us to today, the official release of the Flatfile Data Exchange Platform for everyone

The platform so significantly increases the scope and value of problems Flatfile solves for our largest customers, that today we’re not only launching a new product, but we’re also doing something I’ve dreamed of being possible for a long time.

Flatfile now starts completely free for everyone, with a simple pay-as-you-grow pricing model for when you need more than what the free plan provides. Flatfile is now accessible to companies of all sizes, from large enterprises, to one person startups. 

We’re making it easy for anyone to start building and I invite developers to try the platform and experience its capabilities first-hand. Watching the huge unlock this has created for our customers has been one of the most exciting product moments at Flatfile.

I can’t wait to see the remarkable things you build with Flatfile.

Official Launch Webinar! July 19th!

Watch as our CEO, David Boskovic, unveils the next generation of the Flatfile Data Exchange Platform. New features, more customization, and developer-first functionality.

Watch here