The meteoric rise of collaborative design startup Canva — now valued at $40 billion — and conversely, the viral interest we’ve been seeing in the market for NFTs where you can “buy” a share of a limited-edition digital asset, are two examples of how the tech world today revolves around — and values — catchy ways of engaging with visual media online. Today, another startup that’s built a business around tackling the same concept — as it applies specifically to brand management for organizations — is announcing some funding as it finds some traction of its own.
Frontify, which provides a cloud-based platform for businesses to centralize and distribute all of their brand assets to those who work in and with their companies, has closed an equity round of $50 million, funding that the Swiss startup (based out of St Gallen) will be using both to invest in building out its technology, as well as to move deeper into new markets like the U.S.
Revaia (the VC formerly known as Gaia Capital Partners) led the round, with new backer High Sage Ventures and previous backers EQT Ventures, Blossom Capital and Tenderloin Ventures also participating. EQT led the company’s previous round of $22.3 million in January 2020.
That last round was just ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic going global, and as with other tech companies built on the concepts of distributed, cloud-based and remote work, that disaster ironically turned out to work in Frontify’s favor: the company picked up some 300 customers as the pandemic hit. It now has 5,000 customers in total.
For some context on that number and the startup’s growth, in January 2020 it had around 2,500 organizations already using the Frontify platform — companies it discloses publicly that include Facebook, Pepsi, Lufthansa, Sennheiser and Vodafone.
Frontify’s platform today provides a repository for companies to manage and distribute brand assets used both in-house and by external partners. But what is notable about it — and what sets it apart from a number of other companies providing digital asset management tools (others in the same space include Bynder and Canto) — is that it covers not just digital media files but how they can be and are getting used.
In other words, Frontify is not just a storage folder for fonts and logos, but focuses a lot of its business on being a wider collaboration suite that tracks usage, and the status of projects where those assets are appearing.
In areas like digital advertising, for example, it allows companies to create templates that lock in certain design details so that they can remain consistent as a company looks to create multiple versions of one piece of artwork for a larger campaign, and critically it’s set up to allow for this kind of work in a distributive way, by design, which is one reason why it has gained a foothold in the current market, where teams that might have previously been centralized are now working in as distributed a way as they used to work with external partners.
The bigger picture for digital media online is a rapidly changing one. NFTs may or may not end up being a speculative flash in the pan, the twenties’ answer to Tulipmania, but they have put a strong focus on how the market wants and strives to “control” visual artifacts. Canva, meanwhile, is at the other end of the spectrum, a huge repository for designing and sharing work that will live in the digital world. Frontify has essentially created a B2B platform that lives in the same realm: it has identified the value of the asset, and the value in being able to collaborate with it in a way that lines up with an organization’s wider design goals.
And in keeping with the concept of design consistency, this is very much in line with how Frontify has seen itself from the start. As Roger Dudler, Frontify’s CEO and founder, described to me back in January 2020, “We think design tools might change rather quickly [while] the single source of truth for all brand resources will stay,” he said. “That’s why we bridge that gap by integrating with as many existing tools as possible.” He described the templating features that the company created to expand beyond basic digital asset management as tools to “bring Canva-like functionality to brands with a much more targeted offering for complex enterprise needs.” (Frontify integrates with all of the standard software used in the design industry, including Figma, Sketch and Adobe XD.)
“We instantly got excited about Frontify’s brand management platform and its capacity to capture the whole branding process in one place, making it the single source of truth for employees and collaborators,” said Elina Berrebi, founding partner of Revaia, in a statement. “They have demonstrated their ability to convince some of the most trusted brands globally in all industries, while delivering strong and efficient revenue growth. We’re also buying into the passion and the people at Frontify, and are thrilled to contribute to building its global leadership.”
The company is not disclosing its valuation, but we have asked.