Moonfruit secures $2.25m funding to accelerate internationally

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You would think most people know how to get a simple web site up and running these days just on something like WordPress, but the fact remains that millions of people don’t have these skills. As a result Moonfruit, the web site building business which has survived the dotcom bust to return in the age of Web 2.0, is on a charge. It’s profitable, growing internationally and as a result has chosen to fundraise to really take the market on. It’s just secured $2.25m from U.S. investment bank Stephens. The bank originally helped Moonfruit to buy Gandi.net, the domain registrar but since then Moonfruit has been spun out to go for accelerated international growth.

Moonfruit competes with Weebly, Yola and Webnode, and many others that provide services for building simple but elegant web sites, as opposed to blogs. Clearly its drag and drop Flash interface appeals to ‘design aspirers’ who want to customise their own site styles.

Moonfruit is a real blast form the past come good. It was founded in the UK in 1999, went through the whole VC-backed-to-bust cycle but fought back and now over 2.8m websites have been built using its DIY software. Over the last year it’s partnered with Edgecast to put all of its tools and websites on a CDN, serving North American and Far Eastern users much better. Thus most of this new funding will be put towards sales and marketing to acquire new customers.

Wendy Tan White, founder and CMO of Moonfruit says the company has been profitable for seven years “But the self-publishing market is only just starting to gather serious momentum, and we want to accelerate our growth… The time is right now for a calculated risk to take the business to the next level.”

Moonfruit managed to re-invigorate it’s brand last year by being among the first to trend on Twitter for a laptop giveaway contest. #Moonfruit thus became the top trending term on Twitter three days in a row, reaching 2.5% of all twitter traffic. Yes foks, it’s only a year since that kind of marketing started. Now you couldn’t trend for a giveaway for love nor money, unless maybe Ashton Kutcher pushed it.

That campaign led to a 20% increase in new subscriptions per month, with the bulk of them coming from the USA. Now, 26% of Moonfruit’s customers are in the USA, 49% are in the UK, with the remaining 25% scattered around the rest of the world. Not bad for the price of 10 Mac laptops.

What of the competition? Weebly and Yola (rebranded from Synthasite) are their main US competitors. While Moonfruit has been profitable on a subscription model, these competitors have entered the market more recently and are focused on a free, no ads model. There is also the German-born Jimdo which has since concentrated on Asia. Moonfruit has moved towards a freemium model, with a premium upgrade path for users.

  • http://www.zolda.com vincent cassar

    But why raise money, when your company has been profitable for 7 years … The claim to have close to 3 M site. Assuming a conservative 1.5% Free > Paid conversion that’s well over 1M in revenue per year.

    Perhaps management is keen to loose control ;)

    • http://www.moonfruit.com Wendy Tan White

      Good question Vincent. We’re going for real international acceleration!

      • http://webwizco.com Seriously?

        I visited about 10 sites. Could not get any of them to load the graphics in Chrome. Safari and Firefox loaded everything ok.

        Are these site using iframes for some reason? Very odd how they load.

    • http://www.moonfruit.com Wendy Tan White

      Just to expand the profits on £1m revenues are nice but is unlikely to accelerate growth of a business internationally.

      We also make significantly more revenue than £1m!

      Wendy

    • http://freewebsitemaker.co.uk/ Nicholas Black

      They have some stiff competition… checkout this partial list here: http://freewebsitemaker.co.uk/category/reviewed-website-builders

      • http://www.moonfruit.com Joe White

        Hi Nicolas,

        3 of those top 10 are actually resellers of ours. I’ll let you figure out which ones ;-)

        Joe

      • http://freewebsitemaker.co.uk/ Nicholas Black

        Now that’s impressive! :-)

    • Darren Catterall

      Hi Wendy,

      saw this article and just wanted to say congrats! Excellent staying power through difficult times and the right move at the right time to step up the game :)

      Good luck and all the best from HK

      Darren

  • http://uk.linkedin.com/in/damonoldcorn Damon Oldcorn

    Well done Wendy, in the week that I saw (Gavin Breeze’s) Datacash get an exit from another having being founded in the dotcom, may be setting a trend. Also one of the more level headed and pleasant people I have met on the London circuit recently, its a long game as they say.

  • http://www.theredcouchreview.com The Red Couch Review

    I didnt know there was so much money in DIY

    • http://www.moonfruit.com Wendy Tan White

      :) B&Q would disagree!

  • http://www.thewayoftheweb.net Dan Thornton

    Always interesting to see companies which have been quietly getting on with a profitable business. It’ll be interesting to see how the international expansion plans go…

  • http://www.footballvine.co.uk Ben

    I have built sites using moonfruit for 6 years now. They are an excellent company, no hassles, just fast effective and there if you need them.

    Highly recommended, just checkout my site and see.

  • caveat emptor

    “Google has launched a new tool to allow British businesses to set up their own websites in just 15 minutes. ”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/yourbusiness/businesstechnology/7309104/Google-aims-to-get-100000-UK-businesses-online.html

  • http://www.reason8.com Greg Marchant

    The sites do look good but they are created in Flash. which is ok for a hobby site but I’d like to see one of their sites on the first page of Google without paying for it.

    There are website builders out there who create true HTML websites like http://www.reason8.com and http://www.eversoft.com

    Google doesn’t actually have a website builder. Although they are currently sponsoring a ‘Get UK businesses online’ campaign.

  • http://www.moonfruit.com Joe White

    Hi Greg,

    All our sites are rendered in Flash and HTML. We use progressive enhancement to detect the browser capability and upgrade the experience accordingly. So the full content of the site (text, images, etc.) is fully rendered in W3 compliant HTML alongside the Flash version.

    Our sites do rank extremely highly in SEO terms and we did a few tests around this and produced some case studies for customers based on our own experience. If you search for ‘west london taxis’ you’ll see my experimental joeslondontaxis.com site (build on moonfruit of course!) as number 1 on most search engines (inc google). Our full case study/guide is here http://www.moonfruit.com/guides.html#seotips.

    We see our job as providing the user with the best/easiest web building experience and the Flash editing interface has allowed us to do this. Our job is then to make sure we render the contents of the site appropriately to whatever device is viewing it.

    I hope that helps!

    Joe

  • http://Demotix.com Turi

    Congrats Moonfruit!
    great to see such a great company – great value, great product, great people and great principles – grow so well. Great to see the good guys win.

  • http://notmoonfruit bob

    i did have a website with moonfruit ? did ? images etc dont load you can have your dinner made and take a walk with the dogs and come back to well just a mess

  • Iqbal Gandham

    Hi

    I think this is the change that is needed in the industry, I’ve been in hosting and co-founded the largest provider over in India a few years ago, however the biggest problem is the creation of the site…and then the content. Which is why blog platforms took off.

    But what is needed is to make the platform free, and then charge for the addons to the site, i.e ecom support (In India it still takes months to fill paper work out to get credit cards support on a website, hence Naaptol doing really well).

    If you could charge for say ecom support, even crm/support/newsletters etc etc, and all these were drops ins for your base website, now that would be interesting, even tools per vertical.

    And if all these websites were on a network, where searching for a estate agent, would automatically bring up say packers and movers websites, they could all cross promote each other, and hence have more benefit for signing up.

    I would love to get a website built, whicj would allow me to pick and choose out of the 10K+ web 2.0 sites/apps and add those tools to my website….

    Iqbal

  • Pete Moran

    Well done Wendy, Joe and of course Eirik :)

    Knowing you guys, this cash injection will be well utilised!

  • http://www.websitelaundry.com Paul Senior

    Well done Moonfruit – excellent product! I was disappointed to find that many of the great fonts you supply do not support international character sets. Also, some features, like the forum feature, cannot be translated from English.

    Do you intend to expand into the massive German market?

  • idroid

    I’ve been a user for 5+ years and while i’m happy you’re going from strength to strength and I’ve been happy with what I can achieve mostly within your own software, I think creatively you need to move up to the next level with more options. I’m not a user who makes sites for selling stuff, I use it to make website art. Give us more ways to play about within the software please. More transition effects, longer timings ect. It’s 2010. We want to wow people without it being overly complicated to do so and needing to use lots of external software to achieve it. Websites should be visually stunning as well as fuctional. We all want to make, view and use exciting websites. You’ve done functional very well, but the creative options feel a bit limiting now. They were fine for a few years, but I’ve explored them all and feel I’m being limited to what I can achieve when I want to progress.
    I want to be a paying user for many years to come. Thanks.

  • http://www.ukservicesseo.co.uk UK Services SEO

    I have to say I think Moonfruit is brilliant I setup the website within a couple of hours. I just think its the best in the market place for low budget hosting and design websites. Well done and a big thank you.

    I have several other business websites and they cost me a small fortune to run!!

    from UK Services SEO

  • http://www.itservices4.me/website-design-lincoln/2010/11/21/elevator-pitch-website-builder-moonfruit-aims-to-go-global/ Elevator Pitch: Website builder Moonfruit aims to go global | ITServices4.me Website Design Lincoln

    […] – officially making them old school dot com survivors. Now with 30 staff, Moonfruit recently scored $2.25m investment from the investment group Stephens to grow the business internationally. This time next year, Tan […]

  • http://jetlib.com/news/2011/03/09/500-startups-bites-into-moonfruit%e2%80%99s-simple-site-builder-for-design-fans/ 500 Startups Bites Into Moonfruit’s Simple Site Builder For Design Fans | JetLib News

    […] is designed to springboard Moonfruit’s business development in the US. Moonfruit already raised $2.25m in a Series A last September from the US-based Stephens Inc. bank to grow in the US, and is […]

  • http://www.innoitalia.it/newsfeed/500-startups-bites-into-moonfruit%e2%80%99s-simple-site-builder-for-design-fans 500 Startups Bites Into Moonfruit’s Simple Site Builder For Design Fans | innoitalia - MockUp

    […] McClure is designed to springboard Moonfruit’s business development in the US. Moonfruit already raised $2.25m in a Series A last September from the US-based Stephens Inc. bank to grow in the US, and is […]

  • http://www.website-builder-review.info Website Builder Review

    It’s interesting how website building platforms such as Moonfruit and a few others have taken substantial amount of venture funding to grow their businesses, where as I think its competitor Weebly has taken minimal funding.  Both are great platforms and I think the free website building experience has worked well for them in upselling to paid platforms.  I believe Weebly is a profitable model according to its founder.  Further, whenever I do searches on Google on website builders, Moonfruit is always advertising on Adwords which where as other competitors such as Weebly and Jimdo are not.  Perhaps this is due to the venture funding which allows Moonfruit to be more aggressive in acquiring customers via advertisements.

  • http://www.website-builder-review.info/weebly-review.html Weebly Review

    Interested in knowing what others think about the variety of website builders.  I’ve tried using builders such as Wix, Jimdo and Weebly and I think they are fantastic.  Some of them are better than others obviously depending on your needs.  for example, Wix is flashy but it is not as easy to use as Weebly in my opinion.  But Weebly is more “down to earth” type of website builder but it gets the job done quickly and for free.  

  • desoc

    nmnoc

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