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

9/12/13Follow @gthuang

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One is product information management—the likes of Hybris, Akeneo, and parts of Oracle and IBM that cater to e-retailers. The other is product content syndicators like CNET or ChannelAdvisor, which sell product data subscriptions to companies.

Getting “manufacturers, retailers, and distributors collaborating” on product content “eliminates the need to sell data,” says Gonzalez. “Engagement between these companies is critical to our long-term success.”

What’s more, that kind of collaboration—if it becomes widespread—could fundamentally change how products are designed and developed. The whole ecosystem would become more distributed, and interactions would happen where they couldn’t before—sort of like the effect of social media on communications, marketing, and traditional media.

“It’s not going to be one person building a product and sending it to a distributor,” says Michael Skok at North Bridge. “It should become a dialogue.”

Skok is known for his investments in Demandware (business software for e-commerce) and Acquia (Web content management), two companies that seem to complement what Salsify is trying to do.

Meanwhile, his older brother David at Matrix has invested in GrabCAD, HubSpot, JBoss, and a number of other enterprise software companies. Many years before, the brothers had worked together at Skok Systems, a computer-aided design software firm.

Michael Skok is quick to downplay the sibling-VC angle or any rivalry between them. “It’s always about the entrepreneur. It had to be the entrepreneurs to choose us,” he says. Besides, he adds, “our sister is the bright one.”

What could make Salsify fail? Skok says it has the same risks as any business-to-business e-commerce startup. The growth of the e-commerce market could slow down. The company could make bad hires. It could fail to deliver the right product or have trouble dealing with customers.

But the VCs like their chances with this one. “A lot of companies want to look at the sexy parts of e-commerce,” Skok says. “But you have to fix the less sexy part that’s actually more important. Boston companies have a great heritage in the e-commerce world.”

Indeed, Salsify fits the Boston stereotype of a company tackling a tough business, marketing, or design problem with technology—see PTC, SolidWorks, Unica, EMC, and others. We’ll be watching intently to see how it turns out.

“There’s an element of Boston [tech] that feels like it lost its shine, whether it was DEC or Wang,” Skok says. “Now we have a lot of companies that should bring that shine back.”

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 or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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