Over my many years monitoring the CMS / Website Builder space, I've seen a number of solutions come and go. I remember when products like Concrete5 launched and how much of an impact it made on the market. Few products, however, land on the market with such an impact as PageCloud. What I found surprising wasn't the 2.2 million dollars in seed funding they raised before launch but rather the impressive $1 million plus presales they managed to achieve before the product even went live.
If you haven't seen a demo of PageCloud, you may not understand why people are so excited about it. Rather than try to explain it myself, I think this video below from TechCrunch Disrupt will do a bettter job:
If you watched the above video and didn't get excited about the possibilities, I'd be surprised. I've had my finger on the pulse of this market since 2007 and I have yet to see a product that initially impressed me so quickly. With such a significant amount of buzz surrounding PageCloud, I was eager to reach out and get more insight into the reasoning behind the product, where it came from and where Craig and his team plan on taking it. Read on to find the results of that conversation with Craig.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? What experience have you had in the web design / development space prior to PageCloud?
Well I got my first computer at age 9 and from then I was hooked. By age 16 I knew what I wanted to do with my career – build products that people loved. The great thing about thinking of your career as a child is, it’s not about money or adult concerns. It’s simply about ‘how do you want to spend your life?’. By the time I got to University age, I had a portfolio of software I’d written as a hobby, that got me my first job as a professional developer at age 19. So I quit school and never looked back. That first gig was unusual in that there were 2 designers for every developer. All the lessons they taught me would be a guiding influence for the rest of my career… PageCloud represents the 7th startup I’ve been a part of. 2nd time as a founder, and 5th as an executive.
What spurred you to enter the website builder market /What do you feel was lacking before your product came out?
10 years of frustration! In using the products that everybody used, I intuitively knew they were broken. Too few people could figure them out, when compared to desktop publishing, which is essentially the same problem. My philosophy has always been “walk up and use” – that you shouldn’t need a computer science degree to use software on a daily basis. Setting up hosting, DNS, CMS’s – all that is too much for most people to put up with. Though, PageCloud started just as a hobby for me. I personally never wanted to hand-code HTML again. It was really just solving a personal problem. Only as I was leaving another startup and looking around for my next phase, did I start shopping the product around to judge response. And things blew up from there.
To what do you attribute the success of your presages?
There’re always 2 attributes to being successful in business: 1) you need to have something that actually makes a difference to peoples’ lives. Not incremental, but substantial. 2) almost more importantly, you need to be able to package it up and demonstrate that to people in a compelling way – and reach them at scale. In other words, product + marketing. I’d like to say the product sells itself, but no product does. During our pre-sale campaign, we got really good at reaching people and demonstrating the product in a way that made people feel something. The TechCrunch stage demonstration was the perfect packaging.
Can you talk a bit about how your product has been received since the official launch?
We’ve gotten beautiful voicemails and emails about how PageCloud has changed things for people – that they are now able to create and share on the Web where they never could before. It has exceeded expectations. Of course, there’s a lot of feature feedback and things people would like to see. That’s normal. I find it interesting how we are immediately compared to the giants (WIX, WordPress, SquareSpace) who are pushing 10 years old and billion dollar status, and we have been in market for about 6 weeks. It’s a blessing and a curse. But we are off to a great start.
What is your target audience?
The market is a spectrum. Our sweet spot is sites between 1 and 20 pages, for professionals and small to medium sized businesses. In other words, most of the internet. While the biggest (enterprise) sites get most of the web traffic, in terms of publishing, the vast majority of pages are on the long tail of sites. Professional designers stand a lot to gain – there are so many world firsts baked into the technology that is a designer’s dream. Like being able to copy layers straight out of PhotoShop and paste them right onto a web page.
What makes your product the best choice for said audience?
It’s not what we do, but how we do it. I’d say simplicity, but everyone says that, so it’s meaningless. There are really 2 industry changing advances: 1) spot edit: the ability to press and edit button, drag something around or make a quick change, and hit save. There is nothing on the planet that can match this speed and ease. 2) create from scratch: while we have templates like everyone else, the main point is the ability to not be restricted by them – in most other CMS’s you can’t even move an image one inch to the right – the templates won’t let you without writing code.
How do you plan to compete against the big players like Squarespace, Weebly and Wix?
We deliver the Web the way people have always wanted it – as familiar as desktop publishing. There’s not much of a comparison on that basis. We’re only 6 weeks into market, so we’re fast and furiously adding capabilities, but the fundamental principle is our advantage. At 14,000 paying customers 6 weeks in, we’re growing quickly, despite all these alternatives.
What should we expect to see from PageCloud in 2016?
You’ll see the product mature to parity with some of the other CMS features people like to see that weren’t in our Minimum Viable Product. At that point, people will get the best of both worlds. CMS feature sets in a PageCloud experience. We are also working on our own app store and canvas (template) store, to open the platform up to 3rd party developers.
What do you think of products like The Grid? Do you consider them as the future or more as gimmicks?
The Grid has some awesome features. My favourites are intelligent color selection, and font selection. However, it’s based on a belief that people don’t want to create their own vision, they just want a robot to do it for them. Our belief is that people have an innate desire to create and share – like they do on the desktop. Different philosophies.
Any final thoughts you'd like to share.
We are just getting started!