Salsify Blooms With $8M in Skok Brothers’ First VC Deal

9/12/13Follow @gthuang

One of the most intriguing young Boston startups is having its coming-out party this week. Salsify, named after a plant that is “beautiful, low maintenance, and spreads like wildfire,” is trying to reinvent the fundamental data flow that is crucial to e-commerce businesses.

Salsify is announcing it has raised an $8 million Series A round from North Bridge Venture Partners and Matrix Partners. The leaders on the financing are Michael Skok from North Bridge and David Skok from Matrix. They are brothers, longtime VCs, and interestingly, this is their first venture deal together.

It couldn’t come at a better time for the local ecosystem. With the Boston tech scene—as well as the rest of the country—still in the midst of a Series A crunch, Salsify is getting off the ground during a challenging period for startups.

The 10-person company is led by co-founders Rob Gonzalez, Jeremy Redburn, and Jason Purcell, the CEO. They all came out of Endeca—the Kendall Square icon acquired by Oracle in 2011—so they know a thing or two about e-commerce data platforms and business software.

The problem they are solving is this: If you are a manufacturer, distributor, or retailer, how do you manage your product content that ultimately shows up on e-commerce websites, online catalogs, mobile devices, and other screens? Things like images, product descriptions, and data on related items and accessories have to be created, formatted, and shared with partners throughout the supply chain.

Right now that’s done either with bulky enterprise software (for big companies) or manual data-entry and management methods (for the little guys).

Rob Gonzalez, SalsifySalsify wants to level the playing field, says Gonzalez (pictured). A marketer at a retail site, say, can drag an Excel spreadsheet into Salsify’s Web app and upload, edit, and share product data with partners.

The idea is to put all the product information in one place—in the cloud—so it can be searched and operated on by authorized collaborators; from there, the data can get published to an e-commerce platform or Amazon.com.

In geek-speak, it’s like “GitHub for product content,” Gonzalez says—a cloud-shareable repository for data that designers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers can access on demand. Oh, and it has to be easy to use for marketers and business people, not IT folks, he says.

That’s as opposed to the “totalitarian, centralized IT command and control model,” he says, where “it’s about IT controlling exactly what exists and in what way.”

Gonzalez says the company has paying customers already. They run the gamut from small retailers to a medical device distributor to consumer electronics companies. A distributor, for example, has to deal with different categories of products from various manufacturers, and it can use Salsify’s software to suck in all that data and then pass it along to websites and catalogs that display the products.

Look at the startup’s competitors, and you see two markets that could end up being disrupted here. … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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