Content is king, as the saying goes. But in actual fact, a lot of what companies do today with content, and thus the power of that content, is relatively limited by the tools that exist to present it. That is slowly changing, and now a startup called Sanity, which has built a system to make it easier to repurpose and use content assets across a number of places, and to more easily use data as content, is announcing $39 million in funding on the back of strong demand for its tech.
This round, a Series B, is led by ICONIQ Growth (the growth round investment arm of the storied ICONIQ, backed by a number of high-profile family offices including that of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg). Lead Edge Capital, Threshold Ventures, Heavybit and Alliance Venture are also in this round, some of which also participated in Sanity’s previous $9.3 million fundraise in October 2020. Others in that round included Ev Williams, founder of a few other content innovations: Blogger, Twitter and Medium.
This latest investment brings the total raised by Sanity to $51.8 million. It is not disclosing its valuation, but Magnus Hillestad, Sanity’s CEO and co-founder who is based in San Francisco (half the company is there, and half in Oslo, Norway), said the company was “very happy” with the number. In any case, it comes on the back of some very strong growth. Sanity is now being used by almost 100,000 developers, marketers, content creators and product professionals, the company said, with “active users” numbering at 30,000 (double the number of active users the company had in October, Hillestad noted).
Customers include the likes of National Geographic, Puma, InVision, Datastax and Brex — who are using it to manage their content repositories and letting them flexibly use information across a range of endpoints.
“Headless” has become a big theme in the world of technology, covering services as varied as content (by way of content management systems), commerce, banking and financial services.
Organizations that want to buy systems to, say, build websites without putting a lot of separate investment into design can use platforms that both help them manage the content of the sites, as well as the look of them.
But some might want a more customized experience, and they will opt for headless offerings, where there are systems still built to help automate and manage data at the backend, but giving the users the ability to design front ends that are tailored to their specific needs.
In Hillestad’s view, the rise of headless services has been an important development, but what Sanity has conceived of is the next step in extensibility: a platform that lets you use content on the fly in a number of ways without people having to work on that in separate systems.
“We are taking a programmatic approach to content,” he said. “What businesses need now are not just marketing, or product, or e-commerce experiences.”
These are all converging, he believes, “So you need to be able to build experiences to catch people wherever they are. Data is content, but content is also data. If you think about what we are doing, what we are giving companies is a content lake,” he continued. “Like data lakes, a content lake is structured, yet schema-less.”
This in turn gives companies the ability to use it across a number of use cases. This is notable because typically content is stored in silos created for specific purposes, part of the limitation of how CMS systems, even typical headless CMS systems, are conceived and built. That makes repurposing slow, buggy, and something a business might be more stretched to do.
For now, however, there are also limitations in Sanity: The company has yet to come up with interesting ways to enable translations between, say, audio and printed content. But that would appear to be a logical step for the company to take as it grows, given how many consumers already switch between different kinds of media formats at the blink of an eye these days. That could open the door to a lot of different ideas of “media,” too — something others like WaitWhat are also thinking about a lot these days.
“In an era of digital globalization, companies must rapidly deliver complex, multichannel and engaging digital experiences to reach customers wherever they are. This is forcing them to rethink the CMS. At the same time, developers are increasingly leading the adoption of new technologies and holding the keys to adapt effectively to this shift,” said Doug Pepper, general partner at ICONIQ Growth, who is joining the board with this round. “Sanity has created the hero product for building innovative product experiences, with an impressive developer-oriented approach to content delivery and a personalized product experience that breaks down silos for content creators, marketing and developer teams. We’re excited to support the Sanity team as they enter this next phase of growth.”