How to sell a table
The easiest way to sell tabular data on the internet
Few months ago, I was collecting some data about companies and their customers. I thought that this could have been valuable to someone. In particular, this could be valuable for companies that want to understand who their competitors’ customers are.
But yeah, I started to collect some data in a table. To make it look more appealing I would have added some images, but basically, the table looked like this:
The next step would have been: to sell this table on the internet. And I couldn’t find any easy way to that.
I didn’t want to sell a CSV (Comma Separated Value) file because I was planning to add data to my table in the future. Also I wanted to keep track of my future users’ feedback in order to improve the table and the data showed. Possibly at some point, users would subscribe to my table paying a monthly fee.
Sell a Google sheet
Unfortunately, there are some problems when selling a Google sheet link:
- If you make the link publicly available, anyone with the link can access your table. It is not just that who buys your table could share its link. If your table has links itself, once clicked, it is easy to trace back the original link of your Google sheet. This is what search engines do. There is also this ugly feature that shows how many anonymous users are currently looking at your table:
- If you restrict sharing the link to selected emails, you have to manually add the permission to access the Google sheet for anyone who requests it.
And, something really ugly is that people that are connected to your sheet can see each other! This not ideal when selling to different customers.
I also liked a lot this blog post: https://www.reddit.com/r/Entrepreneur/comments/9fihsh/i_made_1440_on_launch_week_using_just_a_google/ by D12zy . This talks about the benefits of launching your product with a Google sheet. Indeed there are still benefits despites the drawbacks above; to name a few:
- Google sheets offers copy protection. This is quite strong. It blocks copying your data and maybe some more sophisticated type of scraping. Nonetheless, I think there is nothing completely secure. Once you allow people to see your table, why wouldn’t they be allowed to take screenshots of it?
- Google sheets offers advanced filtering for your table. The user interface is very good and many of us are quite accustomed with Excel as well. Not only you can sort columns, you can also add quite complex filters based on complex conditions.
Weighing pros and cons above, even D12zy opted to use a more sophisticated tool https://www.metabase.com/ . This is quite cool, but requires a lot of fiddling to make it run. And you better have a SQL data base storing your table to which Metabase can connect to.
Sell an Airtable
Unfortunately when it comes to sell a table, I tried to dig into it and, correct me if I am wrong, it has similar pitfalls as the one listed above for Google sheets: 1) sharing an open link enable access to anyone 2) manually added customers would see each other accounts. Also, it has a quite strict limit on the number of rows that you can have: https://airtable.com/pricing .
I wanted to sell my data really quickly. Thus, I tried to look up for no-code tools to build an interface to sell my table. I figured out that the smallest set of tools I should have used are: Webflow, Memberstack, and Jetboost. Webflow needs no introduction. Memberstack could have been used to add a paywall for my table. And Jetboost is a really amazing tool that allows you to show and filter a collection of Webflow items:
Needless to say, plugging in all this components together would have not been easy. Of course the final result would have been much more tailored on my problem. Nonetheless, it could have taken quite a while to implement this and still I would have had to pay subscription fees for these tools. Another major bummer is that the number of “collection items” on Webflow are quite limited: https://webflow.com/pricing
Wrapping up — how to sell a table?
I couldn’t find a solution for my problem. Thus I decided to build it myself. I am building a tool that allows to very easily plug in a Google sheet and sell it through Stripe: Tabslu at https://tabslu.com .
I built it in the hope that this could solve mine as well as someone else’s problem. It is going to be available soon.