HubSpot Vet Grabs Cash For Crayon to Help Marketers Track Competitors

These days, marketing teams can quickly access lots of nuanced data about their own companies’ sales and marketing operations, thanks to software from firms like Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) and HubSpot (NYSE: HUBS).

But tracking the sales and marketing tactics of their competitors—pricing changes, new product launches, social media strategy, and so on—hasn’t been so easy.

Jonah Lopin says his Boston-based startup, Crayon, can help. And the young software firm just snagged $3.35 million from investors to help push its market insights service to more customers.

“There’s lots and lots of valuable intel on companies that’s floating around out there on the Web,” says Lopin (pictured above), Crayon’s CEO and co-founder and an early and longtime HubSpot employee. “It’s available, but really hard for professionals to get a hold of it.”

The funding round was led by Founder Collective and Baseline Ventures, along with contributions from BoxGroup, Converge Venture Partners, Behance founder Scott Belsky, and former HubSpot executives Mike Volpe and Yoav Shapira. Founder Collective managing partner Eric Paley is joining Crayon’s board.

John Osborne

John Osborne

Crayon, co-founded by AdMob vet John Osborne, raised $1.5 million in initial funding last year. Lopin says the nine-employee company will use the new money to make new hires in engineering, product, marketing, and sales.

Crayon built software that can crawl the Web and compile all sorts of design and marketing information. It initially focused on Web design and rolled out a free website where marketers could browse millions of designs, see what successful sites do to attract customers, and share ideas with other marketers and collaborators.

“In the course of building out that product, we built this underlying platform that’s really good at crawling the Web at scale, indexing content from companies, and figuring out all the places online where there’s information about” each company, Lopin says. But his team soon realized “that the data we’re collecting through this platform was useful far beyond design.”

Late last year, Crayon launched a product that lets sales and marketing teams track moves by their competitors—as well as their customers and partners—and glean insights that might help them make better decisions. Are competitors changing prices? Are they experimenting with the ways they describe products and services? How are they engaging with customers, and how does your company’s marketing strategy stack up? How much press attention are they getting?

“Marketers have never had a great way of understanding what’s happening in their market—who is running experiments, who is making moves, who are new entrants you should be watching,” Volpe, the investor and former HubSpot chief marketing officer, says in a press release. “Crayon solves that problem for marketing teams in a really innovative way.”

Lopin says Crayon gathers data from companies’ websites, as well as other sites relevant to their sales and marketing efforts, such as social media pages, product review sites, YouTube, Reddit, Vimeo, and more. This can involve anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 URLs per company, he adds.

Crayon’s software then keeps track of the activity on all of those sites over time. When there are “meaningful changes”—say a new case study or a shift in prices—Lopin says, it classifies the activity and reports it to the Crayon user in an easily digestible format via a centralized dashboard. Crayon applies machine learning techniques in order to flag the most relevant and noteworthy actions.

“A lot of the data out there about companies is unstructured,” Lopin says. “That’s part of what makes it so hard for marketing teams to stay on top of it and for software companies to track it for folks. We’re investing heavily to figure out how to pull the signal from” the noise.

Crayon says it has more than 42,000 users. Lopin wouldn’t share how many of them are paying customers, but his company has signed up the likes of Zendesk (NYSE: ZEN) and Continuum Managed Services.

“We think we have an opportunity to build something big here,” Lopin says.

Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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