Whether you're an Etsy seller or a multi-national conglomerate, maintaining a sync'd and stylish web and mobile is presence is harder than it should be. You either use a cheap toy website creator or an agonizing enterprise content management system. But now there's Brandcast. Founded by a former Salesforce engineer with $1.8 million from his old boss Marc Benioff, Brandcast could fill the void.
Hayes Metzger was a Salesforce platform engineer from 2008-2010 before he co-founded RootMusic (later renamed BandPage). The company built powerful Facebook profile apps for musicians, allowing them to easily customize a cheap or free presence where they could stream their music or show off tour dates. Metzger got to thinking that a similar product could be a hit with businesses, and that unlike poor musicians, they'd be willing to pay big for it.
Then BandPage got torpedoed. Once the Facebook app developer with the second most users behind Zynga, the 2012 Page Timeline redesign stopped allowing bands from setting their BandPage as their default landing Page. In what could only be described as a startup nightmare, BandPage lost 90% of its users in two months by no fault of its own, and just 8 months after raising a huge $16 million Series B.
Meanwhile, Hayes ran into Benioff at Saleforce's yearly conference and said he used to work for him. Benioff apparently said “What do you mean ‘used to'? What are you doing now?” Hayes told the CEO about BandPage and the opportunity he was seeing in marketing automation. Make a tool good enough, and both garage bands and Rihanna will use it. The same could be done for brands.
Hayes pushed for BandPage to widen its scope, but its team investors were all from the music business.They remained focused on bands, so despite his loyalties to the company he helped start, Hayes departed with a seed round led by Benioff for Brandcast in the bank.
Benioff Bets Big
Now he could actualize his vision of a sleek, simple, and strong web presence platform for brands. He looked at Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management and saw an enormous hole. Once a business graduated from basic website creation tools there wasn't much middle ground before getting to wildly expensive, sluggish, and complicated tools from enterprise leaders like Adobe. Mid-size businesses, merchants, and entrepreneurs couldn't afford to have a professional trained to build pages in Photoshop and CQ5, or deal with messy output from services like Acquia.
It makes sense, as Brandcast offers something Salesforce doesn't. While the enterprise giant bought Buddy Media last year to aid brands with their social media presence, it doesn't have as strong an offering for the general web and mobile. I figure Benioff sees his Brandcast investment as a way to get his foot in a growing market as more businesses and small merchants get serious about going online, but also as a way to incubate and forge a relationship with a company Salesforce might acquire if it succeeds.
However, Metzger maintains that “There have been lots of acquisitions in the space, especially social related stuff, and its my general feeling that those events stifle a lot of the innovation that was going on at those companies. Our end goals are not financial, they're about making a difference. I've worked at a large company. I don't have an immediate ambition to do that again.”
Strong Enough For A Brand, Made For Anyone
Today, Brandcast launches. The licensable platform lets businesses organize content in the cloud and push it to custom webpages and their social presences on sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Etsy. Brandcast web pages can pull in content from these services as well, and automatically reformats it to be optimized for mobile.
Metzger explains to me, “It's not like ‘pick a template and stick with it'” the way most website creators begin. “But that's someone else's design and you're just shoving your content into it.” Brandcast gives you more control. It also offers basic analytics (something that it should strengthen in future iterations). One very cool feature is that when you go to publish updates, Brandcast can offer best practice tips plus suggest content and current events to discuss.
“A small business needs all the things a big business needs, but if you're using the cloud there's no reason you can't make it accessible to everyone. And we're willing to accommodate larger brands [with custom work]” says Metzger. “It's the same way Salesforce or Dropbox work. They are essential and large businesses use them but there's no reason a small business can't use those tools, too.”
Some uses for Brandcast include:
- Fundraising through PayPal donations for non-profits, politicians, and crowdfunded projects where Brandcast can serve as a conversion point
- Direct ecommerce through its easy store-front importer
- Lead-based business through its contact form widget and Salesforce CRM integration
- General awareness campaigns and presences for organizations and local businesses
Ideally, a presence platform should be about helping communicate a brand's true identity by improving the organization, efficiency, and presentation. That's what Brandcast aims to deliver. It will face tough competition from established players and other nimble startups, but in my time with Hayes I saw deep industry knowledge and serious vision. He concludes, “it's about democratizing organization of information”. Because the web is ours, and everyone deserves a chance to express themselves.