Interview with Jim Howard, CEO and Founder of CrownPeak

My interview today is with Jim Howard, CEO of CrownPeak, a startup providing content management services.

BK: Tell me a little bit about CrownPeak, your content management system, and what your business model is...

JH: CrownPeak provides content management, web publishing and digital asset management as a hosted service. We are unique in the market today, because we are the only company to provide real enterprise level content management at an economical price.

CrownPeak's Advantage CMS(tm) delivers all of the features of a world-class content management system: source control, versioning, spell checking, link checking, comprehensive workflow, security monitoring features, multilingual interfaces, database management, and wireless compatibility, in a 100 percent browser-based interface. The company's core technology is based on VBScript, ASP, JScript, DHTML, and JAVA COM objects, hosted in a highly redundant environment. Advantage CMS is compatible with standard HTML authoring applications such as FrontPage and Dreamweaver, and is fully XML/XSL compatible.

CrownPeak prepares all of the templates and interfaces for clients as part of the initial software set-up fee. The client then pays monthly to "lease" the software as a service. Costs for set-up and annual lease are a fraction of the cost of established "best-of-breed" packaged systems, ranging from half to one-tenth the cost. Advantage CMS is typically implemented in one to three weeks -- four to ten times faster than typical packaged solution deployment.

Advantage CMS is designed for the non-technical "subject matter expert", thereby giving the business user greater access and control over the Web presence. In an era of tight budgets, CrownPeak enables marketing and communications professionals to control costs and lighten the IT burden that often accompanies traditional content management systems. We provide powerful features, such as user administration, workflow configuration, and template management through our administration system, for non-technical users to control. CrownPeak is an ASP with a customer-centric twist - the client continues to own and host the site, thereby ensuring maximum control and cost-effectiveness.

With CrownPeak, total cost of ownership also means taking advantage of the opportunity cost through enhanced, more efficient workflow. End-users and IT departments alike are spared the hidden costs of labor-intensive site updates and approvals, HTML coding, and so on. Because clients continue to own their own servers and website, no changes to existing hardware, software, or network environments are required.

BK: How is your service different/better than traditional source/content management systems?

JH: There are a number of reasons why our service is the best solution for many organizations. 1. Lower Total Cost of Ownership: We are very reasonably priced. We typically implement, configure, and train our clients for between $10,000 and $40,000. We then bill between $1,000 and $4,000/month for our service contract. These costs reflect between one quarter and one tenth the price of a typical package implementation - and we're providing a service contract and implementing the system as part of the price! 2. Speed to Implement: CrownPeak can implement a typical system in less than four weeks. Sometimes as quickly as one week. 3. Ease of Use: Our product is exceptionally easy to use and manage. We provide our clients with a tremendous amount of power to configure, re-configure, and administer the system via our user interface - without the need for technical staff. The method to navigate within our product is to actually navigate your web site. Find the page you want to change, pull-down the "edit" or "new" or "delete" or any other action you would like, and you are interacting with that page. No product on the market is easier to use. 4. Support: We provide support for our clients as our business. We are not in the business of installing and walking away. We are a support organization, first and foremost. Therefore, the useful lifecycle of our application is theoretically unlimited. We are here to make it work over the long-haul.

BK: Who are your typical customers?

JH: It's interesting, but we don't have a "typical" customer. We are still a young company, so we are waiting to see a pattern. We had expected most of our customers to come from the mid-sized enterprise. However, we have customers who have $10 million in annual revenue and some who have over a billion. We have customers in a number of verticle markets as well. We expect to be strong in Government, Non-profit, Healthcare, Financial Services and Manufacturing.

BK: How did you decide to found CrownPeak?

JH: The CrownPeak management team started working together almost six years ago at a start-up called W3-design. We built some of the first content management systems ever produced, including the applications for The Hollywood Reporter, Kaiser Permanente, and The National Enquirer. We built W3 up to be the largest Web Development firm in Los Angeles, and sold the company to USWeb prior to the public offering. We then became the Los Angeles office of USWeb (later USWeb/CKS).

Most of us worked for USWeb/CKS for a number of years, where we gained experience with all of the major commercial applications like Interwoven and Vignette. We felt that there was a huge opportunity in the market - for a reliable, full-featured system that was available at a reasonable price. We also felt that there was a lack of flexibility in the content management solutions available in the market - sites and company needs change over time, and a strong solution should be flexible enough to change with a company's needs.

We left USWeb - by then called MarchFIRST - and developed Advantage CMS as a revolutionary content management solution to address the many problems and issues we encountered in our dealings with traditional packaged systems. By building and hosting the easy-to-use administrative interfaces and pushing the final assembled pages to client web servers, we provide the perfect integration into existing web sites without the enormous time, expense and hassle of installing, integrating, and maintaining traditional CMS software.

BK: What stage is your company at, and who are your investors?

JH: Our company is in an interesting position. CrownPeak's early stage funding came primarily from the management team. Very quickly, we have found ourselves profitable. We are now in the position where we may solicit a relatively small investment to grow our sales organization more quickly, or we may continue to grow organically. We are not currently active in going after investment capital, but have been approached by some potential offers.

BK: How big is your company?

JH: We currently have 10 full-timers. We also have a number of free-lancers who help us out with implementations. We are just building our business development/sales group, so we should jump up by quite a few in the coming months.

BK: Finally, what's your company's biggest challenge right now?

JH: Our biggest challenge is the economy. We are stable and growing, but we're also impatient! Sales cycles out there are long.

BK: Thanks!