“It is safe to say that the martech industry as a whole is thriving”: Interview with Storyblok’s founder, Dominik Angerer

Storyblok‘s Content Management System (CMS) is a user-friendly and powerful IT solution able to deliver content experiences on any platform: corporate websites, ecommerce sites, mobile apps, and screen displays.

The solution adopts a unique component-based approach (headless CMS) that allows the user to publish and repurpose their well-structured content across multiple channels. More specifically, Storyblok makes content accessible via an API for display on any device and channel, and makes use of a visual editor to preview changes in real-time and to eliminate the risk of publishing outdated or duplicate content. 

Beside its one-of-a-kind, tech-centered approach to martech, Storyblok has also recently established very specific work arrangements for its workforce.

The Austria-born startup has, in fact, successfully switched to long-term full remote work and now counts 40 employees coming from a variety of backgrounds and 14 different countries. Storyblok founder, Dominik Angerer, swears by this choice: “[working remotely] means that everyone brings different ideas and experiences to the table. As a result, we don’t get caught in an echo chamber and constantly challenge whether what we are doing will provide the best experience to our customers.”

We recently spoke with Dominik Angerer about his startup’s impressive and sudden growth, their recent profitable expansion into different European markets and how the pandemic has effected the martech industry. 

Over the past 5 years since you founded Storyblok, the company has experienced impressive growth in a very competitive market. To what do you owe your success? Tell us more about your unique, IT-centered approach to marketing.

Before founding Storyblok, my co-founder Alexander Feiglstorfer and I were both working for an agency where we saw first-hand how many companies struggled with getting their marketing and IT to work well together. Technology solutions seemed able to only cater to one group at a time. This led to bottlenecks, frustration and a lot of time and money wasted. When we learned that our Enterprise CMS at that time had discontinued their services and we needed to find a replacement, we realized that there was a huge gap in the market. Specifically, it was nearly impossible to find a CMS solution that was both technologically advanced and intuitive for marketers to use. 

We quickly learnt that many businesses, both big and small, felt the same way. Making a headless CMS solution that could enable any marketer to create, manage and update their content on any channel was an attractive proposition. Although we weren’t marketers, we did a lot of research and collected a lot of feedback to identify their pain points. This is an approach we’ve continued to use as we have developed Storyblok. Thanks to a very talented team, we’ve managed to stay ahead of a lot of our competitors and grown our customer base among independent developers and large enterprises such as Adidas, Pizza Hut and Greggs.

You take pride in offering a great digital experience to your users and customers – especially non-technical people. What sets you apart from your competitors and other headless CMSs?

We focus entirely on the benefits, not the features. Headless CMS is a very powerful innovation but most marketers don’t obsess over the technical details, they just want something that will enable them to do their job well. As a result, we look at what we can do to make everything as simple and intuitive as possible. That’s how our Visual Editor came to be and why the visual editing within Storyblok is so much easier compared to other headless CMS. Providing a better editing experience also means that marketers and editors can push updates live within seconds which used to take them hours, or sometimes even days.

We know first-hand the challenges developers and IT teams face juggling all of their responsibilities. This is why we built Storyblok to be as seamless and easy to integrate as possible. 

Just a few months ago, you raised €7 million to fund your expansion to Germany and Ireland. How’s your work there going and what are your thoughts on the challenges of expanding in different European markets?

Growth in Ireland and Germany is going very well – in fact across all our markets we’re seeing a real boom in interest in our solution – especially among enterprises. We’ve opened up an office in Hamburg, hired our 3 first Germany-based employees and were able to onboard new enterprise customers such as Unzer, McMakler, or Marley Spoon. In addition, we are in the process of opening our office in Ireland very soon.

Working within martech means that we don’t have to deal with a lot of compliance or regulatory challenges that other sectors such as fintech are faced with. This means adapting our offering to different markets really comes down to understanding the business culture and differing customer and consumer expectations. We do a lot of research and, because we have clients in more than 130 countries, we’re able to get first hand feedback which we can incorporate before we expand further into a specific location. 

We’ve found that the interest in a solution that marries the needs of marketers and technical professionals is pretty universal. Businesses know that technology which gets their teams to work better together and do their job more efficiently has a big impact on the bottom line.

We hear that you intend to hire and manage an entirely remote workforce. How will that work for you? How’s the company preparing to go fully remote?

Storyblok has been a remote company since its start in 2017. We were inspired by a video uploaded by The Family (a French accelerator programme) on talent recruitment. It made us think about why we shouldn’t weigh the location of our employees so highly in your decision-making process. 

Three and a half years later, Storyblok is made up of more than 40 people, with 18 different nationalities, and it can be said that remote work just works. We are able to hire people based on talent and skills – no matter where they are, and we’re building a more diverse team than we would ever be able if we had actual offices. By the end of 2021, we plan to have 70 to 75 people on our team.

I think businesses worry that not having people together in the same office space impacts collaboration or reduces productivity. However, if you employ the right people – those who enjoy collaboration and are creative and you give them the tools they need to do it – then it can work very well. 

The benefits of getting talented people from across the world are massive. You get the very best people, a plurality of experiences and backgrounds and insights into different markets.

How has COVID impacted your business and – more generally – online marketing?

The marketing industry has been impacted unevenly. On one hand there are the sectors such as hospitality and travel, where marketing budgets have been slashed and there have been a lot of job losses. Even if it is expected that the situation will improve rather quickly as countries re-open for tourism, the future remains uncertain.

On the other hand, it is safe to say that the martech industry as a whole is thriving as many businesses are looking to expand their digital marketing efforts while also looking for more efficient tools. 

That is where Storyblok enters into the picture. We’ve seen an increasing demand for future-proof content management systems as business strategies are going beyond ‘just having a website’. Especially with our e-commerce clients, we’re experiencing a growing interest in content that fits various platforms – from mobile to voice interfaces (think of Alexa or Siri) to social channels.