There has been a veritable explosion of connected devices that people are using these days to interact with apps and the internet, from smartphones and computers, to cars, watches, home speakers and refrigerators. Now a startup out of Berlin called Contentful has raised $28 million to position itself as the platform to manage how all that information is delivered via a set of APIs.
The Series C funding is led by General Catalyst, the VC that last year raised an $845 million fund on the back of its strong track record with Stripe, Snapchat, Kayak and other so-called Unicorn startups pushing past a billion-dollar valuation by some way. Others in the round include Benchmark Capital, Balderton Capital, and Point Nine Capital — all repeat backers of the startup. It brings the total raised by Contentful to $45 million, and we asked but the company is not disclosing its valuation except to say that it is an upround.
When many people today think of cloud-based content management systems (CMS), the names that likely come to mind are WordPress (which we use), or Medium (which people leaving their companies like to use), or Tumblr (which is owned by the same company that owns TC).
Contentful can provide some of the same functionalities as these but it’s aimed at a different end: CEO and co-founder Sascha Konietzke describes it as a “headless” CMS, not unlike Stripe’s relationship to payments: there is no front end for ingesting and formatting content, or design end for producing the final look of that content for the reader. Instead, there are a set of APIs that developers of the media product in question can use to control both of those aspects more flexibly.
“Existing CMSs are like the MS-DOS of the internet,” Konietzke said. “No one really likes to use them, similar to older payment systems before Stripe.”
First rolled out in beta in 2013, the idea has proven itself to be, in fact, very prescient. While we still do get a lot of our information from reading words published on paper or the web, the number of screens has exploded, and they are now accompanied by a whole new wave of voice-based interfaces on devices like the Amazon Echo, the Google Home or the HomePod from Apple, and visual and gesture-based interfaces by way of virtual reality hardware.
All of these take the idea of “content” but more specifically how we interact with it to a new dimension, and the idea of creating set of tools to deliver (or ingest) information efficiently, regardless of the platform, could end up becoming a key component of bringing these devices into the mainstream, not just with users needing more compelling reasons to use them, but media/gaming/content/any companies that are considering them as platforms for their business but do not want to spend an arm and a let figuring out how to use them regularly and well.
The company has 130,000 developers using its platform, with “thousands” of paying customers and many more free users (it’s a freemium product). Customers include Uber, Lyft, Samsung and Spotify, as well as companies you do not think of as “content” providers like WeWork, and a number of digital agencies (native content!) like R/GA and AKQA — in sum, “digital teams building digital products like mobile apps and using our APIs to power them.”
It’s notable that General Catalyst is backing them. The company has made some very smart calls on other quiet but powerful backend aggregators and service providers that provide essential B2B2C tools, such as Stripe and Kayak.
“At General Catalyst, we focus on user-centric products that have the potential to become hugely useful in enterprises,” said Trevor Oelschig, Managing Director at General Catalyst, in a statement. “Contentful is among this new ecosystem of platform services, which provide a fundamentally new infrastructure for building modern applications.”
The Berlin-based startup will be using the money to hire more and expand its product, and to build its business in the US, where it already has 60-70 percent of its business.