Grist Case Study

showcasing my own use of Grist

11 Mar 2023 | in apps

19 Dec 2022

Grist reached out a few weeks ago to ask if I'd be willing to do a case study.

I love the product and have been using it for more than a year now (Grist | The Evolution of Spreadsheets), so I was happy to oblige.

Only now getting to do this write-up, but here it is:


What is your company’s name? What kind of work does it do?

I am now freelancing in B2B Sales, helping US B2B SaaS companies expand their business in Europe: https://BtoBSales.EU

I was previously VP Sales & MD EMEA (2x) of VC-backed US & Australian SaaS startups which IPO'ed, and then bootstrapped 2x platform/SaaS startups which were acquired.

What is your title, role, and responsibilities?

I'm the principal at BtoBSales.EU and sole employee - so I do everything, relying on freelancers for specific tasks (outsourcing data tasks is one of the many uses I have for Grist).

What problem were you trying to solve when you set out looking for a tool like Grist?

Mainly lightweight data management combined with automations.

What tools were you using? What was the former process and its pain points?

A few years ago, the startup we were building back then (in the private jet industry) combined both a platform compoment with a lot of data, and back-office automations for our members (eg automated invoice processing).

I couldn't find a CTO for our bootstrapped startup.

So I decided to start learning programming (quite late in life, aged 37), and build a platform and automations behind, with a combination of code, no-code and freelancers.

I chose to learn Python as it was the most popular language for automation, and a pillar of AI which I had also intended to learn.

For the first few years, when managing data that did not warrant spinning up a whole database on AWS (most of my needs), I used Excel files.

I became quite proficient with manipulating Excel using Python, but it was still a pain to manage the data, files and lack of sharing.

The visual grid interface is a must for me (I'm visual) but I also wanted something more purpose-built than Excel.

I tried a few solutions, but none really stuck.

How did you find Grist? What made you decide on Grist?

I can't remember how I found Grist - I think it might have been via ProductHunt, or one of the many apps newsletters/Reddits, etc.. I follow.

When I came across Grist, it was a no-brainer to me as it seemed to combine everything I needed:

  • Excel-like interface & logic
  • Database-like features
  • Sharing and collaboration
  • Custom views
  • Built-in backup & versioning
  • most importantly: Python API (and Python logic underpinning everything actually)

The one limitation I came across is the "document" size (equivalent to an Excel file, with tabs).
For the few cases where I need a larger database, but still don't want to spin up a cloud database for it, I have started using local SQLite database files.

How are you using Grist now?

I have now many workspaces, and documents within each.

I separate workspaces as follows:

I have many Python scripts & automations that will run with Grist as the data backbone.

My use cases are:

  • mainly: for lightweight databases, and automation management.
  • lightweight CRMs
  • timesheet management with freelancers

For example, out of frustration with the existing emailing automation tools, I built my own (just based on Python scripts).
Grist is where I will have leads lists, along with the email campaigns management.

You can see more here:

I'm also a big fan of lists in general 🤷🏻‍♂️

For example, I'm putting together now the following lists, all using Grist as the data backbone:

All these lists start with some data import to Grist using public sources.
Data cleaning & enrichment is done in Grist, using Python scripts.
I will then keep adding to these lists in batches (if I come across a full list), or one by one - I have various scripts and keyboard shortcuts to add new entries quickly to Grist.

I really like that I can configure my view, adding multiple tables as "widgets", to be able to see all records associated with a given master record.
Here for example is a view combining 4 tables, with 3 of them being "widgets" (the 1st one is the master record upon which selection is based):


I also use Grist as a custom-built lightweight CRM for my own activities with my clients - each seggregated in its own workspace.
This allows me to control the data better across clients, from which I can generate custom reports and automations (including updating the client's CRM with the data they want to see).

On the personal front, I manage for example my top movies list.

See here for my project notes:
and here for the published list:
I do the same with books, apps and links I want to keep track of - all of which I publish using Python scripts fetching data from Grist and generating the needed HTML files.

I don't do much outside of database-like use cases, but I will use Grist occasionally for other things, like for example timesheet management with freelancers.

Do you work in a team, and if so, how many team members?

Only with freelancers.

As mentioned, this is a good use case also for Grist: I can share a document with a freelancer, and they can work on it, without having to give them access to the whole Grist account.

How has Grist affected you/your team's workflow and data management?

Grist has become a staple of my data management & automation workflows.

I keep an open note here if anyone is interested: Grist | The Evolution of Spreadsheets