Fivetran hates desktop spreadsheets

But the San Francisco startup loves smart ones that live in the cloud.

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San Francisco-based startup Fivetran launched today. The pitch? Its "smart" online spreadsheets will bring you the programming-style functions that you crave, from the cloud.

Built to handle sizable information loads -- it's built on Amazon's EC2 platform -- Fivetran's offering marries queries with more typical spreadsheet functionality to sit somewhere in between Microsoft Excel and Matlab, as TechCrunch's Frederic Lardinois aptly put it:

The service is more like a regular spreadsheet with extensive wizards that guide you through complex data transformations (including regression models) and the SQL-like selects and joins, as well as the tools data cleaning and text-mining features.

You can upload Excel documents, CSV files, JSON files and -- eventually -- make direct database connections. In-database analytics without the degree? Exactly.

The startup's pricing spans the individual (free, $20 or $80) and enterprise (call them). For the latter, you get the "CEO's direct phone number," which is just about the best thing I've ever seen on any startup's pricing page. A free 30-day trial is available at each level.