Ramen or Roast Beef? Jeff Schrock and Geoff Nuval on DevHub’s Rise to Profitability

Investor Jeff Schrock calls Seattle-based EVO Media a “ramen profitable” startup. Co-founder and CEO Geoff Nuval calls it “roast beef sandwich” profitable. Two guys, two spellings of the same first name, two different food analogies. But the message is clear: these guys are hungry.

Call it what you want, EVO Media is turning a profit some six months after launching DevHub—a free Web publishing platform that helps companies and individuals manage and monetize niche websites—and after going through a strategic downsizing. The company, founded in late 2007, had raised money from Monster Venture Partners and prominent angel investors including Alex Algard, John Cunningham, and Geoff Entress.

But early this year, EVO realized it would not be able to raise a favorable round of venture funding. So what did it do? Focused on getting revenue. Schrock, a tech entrepreneur-turned-executive-turned-investor (he co-founded Seattle-based Activate before his time at Yahoo, RealNetworks, Monster Venture Partners, and now Intel Capital), has overseen the company through this formative period as its chairman. (See more on DevHub in this TechFlash piece.)

The story goes back to the fall of 2007, when Nuval, a Stanford grad, moved to Seattle from Silicon Valley, where he had worked at Lehman Brothers Venture Partners, doing mobile and Internet investments. He had been introduced to fellow EVO co-founders Daniel Lee Rust (a tech expert) and Mark Michael (a sales expert) through his assistant at Lehman, a childhood friend of theirs. Rust and Michael were running a Web development shop for startups, but together with Nuval, they conspired to make a Web platform for themselves—one that customers could use to create sites. “The chemistry was awesome, the idea was compelling enough,” Nuval says. “I threw as much stuff as I could into my SUV and drove up here.”

Schrock met the team in early 2008, and was duly impressed. “One of the investment themes of Monster Venture Partners was capital-efficient development of technology businesses,” he says. “The founders here, they had a lot of the attributes I really admire and look for in startups. They were young, aggressive, intelligent, hard-working, and they had this set of tools and a balanced skill set. They figured out a way to turn blank domains into real working websites.”

It was a way to lower the cost of creating websites and content, Schrock says. WordPress had done something similar for blogs, but there was still no built-in way to make money from those sites. So Nuval and his team focused on tools for building and managing commercial sites. They raised … Next Page »

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Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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