When Dominik Angerer and Alexander Feiglstorfer was working at an agency in 2017 they noticed noticed a problem. Marketing technology platforms were being built for a highly technical audience, not the marketers who were using them regularly. That meant adoption of technologies like headless CMS was slow, even though the technology was great and offered huge benefits to those who could get their heads around the system.
Their answer was to found Storyblok, where Angerer is CEO. Storyblok is the world’s first headless CMS designed for both developers and business users, based in Austria. “Our view was that the problem wasn’t the technology, it was the complexity of the platforms. They were being built for highly technical audiences such as developers,” explains Angerer. At the same time, “traditional CMS weren’t made for the 21st century and the different channels, platforms and devices and the personalized omnichannel experiences that come with that.”
The duo decided to focus on offering a unique combination of visual editing tools and highly customizable content blocks for marketers on top of a modern headless architecture that gives developers the flexibility to build fast and reliable digital platforms.
That approach has been a success – Storyblok has now raised over $11 million in funding and won over customers like Pizza Hut, Coca Cola, Happy Socks, Decathlon and Fundbox.
Bridging A Technical To Non-Technical Divide
The MarTech industry is one of the many sectors where non-technical users often end up using systems designed for those with a technical skill set. “On one side, the tech industry should do more to make solutions more accessible and user friendly. It’s in everyone’s interest because history has taught us that when a tech solution becomes truly democratised, mass adoption and rapid innovation soon follows,” comments Angerer.
“The best MarTechs solve a problem in the most elegant and easy way. To do this, you need to understand that marketing isn’t just for marketers. It’s an increasingly technical, cross-departmental and multi-skilled function. This means that a platform must, at a basic level, cater to a number of different audiences to be effective,” explains Angerer.
He argues however that there’s a need for change on the business side too. “Nearly every job function now has some reliance on the outputs of a company’s tech infrastructure. Whether that’s using data insights, automating processes or leveraging a single customer view. It therefore makes no sense to have workers entirely reliant on a single department – usually IT or DevOps – to do their jobs.”
Angerer says that success comes down to how businesses are able to upskill across departments and develop the infrastructure that means data, insights and information are able to move quickly throughout the business. Businesses who want to achieve this should start by breaking down barriers between departments both from an organisational standpoint and processes, committing to widespread upskilling and retraining, and developing infrastructure that enables insights and information to be easily shared and used across the business.
Enabling this flow of data is key part of the MarTech ecosystem, as Angerer puts it, “data and content is the lifeblood of marketing”. Partnerships, APIs and integrations are crucial to moving this sector forwards and it’s essential for new platforms to integrate into a customer’s existing MarTech stack. Storyblok’s own product includes integrations and partnerships with the likes of Shopify Plus, BigCommerce and Netlify.
“The MarTech landscape will be defined by a best-of-breed approach, giving businesses a future-proof-technology that propels their digital customer experiences. These days, we see enterprises and basically companies of all sizes, make the switch from a monolithic, traditional all-one-solution to a new technology environment based on cloud-native headless microservices that share data via an API-first approach,” explains Angerer.
This approach results in both time and cost benefits for their customers. “Fundbox was having a lot of problems with their content management system but had previously had bad experiences switching systems due to very long lead times and complex integrations. As they were now moving to Jamstack on top of their website they wanted a flexible and user friendly system to compliment it. Working with us, Fundbox completed their switch to CMS in less than a third of time they had projected.”
Innovation Within The DACH Ecosystem
Storyblok raised its first capital in 2019, with a $2.5 million raised led by 3VC, and the company has just completed an $8.5 million Series A round.
With over 45,000 developers, SMEs and large brands as customers, Storyblok is on track to be Europe’s leading headless CMS solution. “Our first round was spent on recruiting our core team and developing our platform. We recently raised an $8.5 million Series A and this will be used to further grow our team, develop our partnership network and speed up our international expansion. Over the next five years we plan to expand our offering and increase our physical presence across the world,” comments Angerer.
That’s a quick turnaround between seed funding and Series A. Angerer puts this down to high levels of growth which opened the door to new funding opportunities. Putting that deal together in a pandemic also brought its own set of complications.
“Naturally, the pandemic made it impossible to meet people face to face, so there were plenty of Zoom meetings and emails. In actual fact, at the start of 2020, a group of team members moved to London, to join the incubator program of Founders Factory who participated in the seed round. Due to the pandemic though, the incubator moved online and the team at Storyblok went back in being a 100% remote company.”
Angerer remains an optimist, “I think the past 18 months has taught us just how adaptable humans can be. Investment in tech has continued to grow uninterrupted and investors and founders have become comfortable closing deals despite never actually meeting in person. That’s something that would have been very odd a year or so ago.”
Storyblok is one of a number of recent successes to emerge out of the DACH technology ecosystem. Dynatrace (which went public in 2019) and Bitmovin (Series C stage) have also thrived in the environment. The region also has access to great academic research which powers its R&D into emerging technologies.
Dominik’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs:
Don’t be afraid to get started, get involved with other people and tell them about what you’re building. If you’re going for the VC route make sure to select your investors as well as you recruit your key employees. Be aware that your responsibilities will change over time, at Storyblok Alexander and I started both as developers but moved into a management role with completely different responsibilities. And last but not least: if you get the chance to hire early, hire early!