Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Interview: Jim Saake, Etronica/PublishPal
Jim Saake is the CEO of Etronica, which has just launched a new web content management service called PublishPal. I thought it would be interesting to hear about Etronica's new product and his take on how it fits the needs of companies.
BK: What's PublishPal, and what does it offer to companies for their web publishing needs?
JS: PublishPal is a complete, easy to use, Website Management System that enables people with basic Microsoft Office level skills to manage complex, database driven, websites. No technical skills, like HTML or web design software knowledge, are needed. With PublishPal, our customers can do most anything they need including; editing editorial content, publishing newsletters, maintaining an online calendar, managing event registrations, selling tickets, operating an online store, selling memberships, hosting a job board, etc. - all with a single vendor! Best of all, it is priced very competitively. We think any business that needs to manage community, content or commerce on the web will benefit from using PublishPal.
BK: How does PublishPal compare to the more traditional use of web design tools like Microsoft FrontPage and Dreamweaver?
JS: First, PublishPal goes way beyond simple web design. Our customers have easy access to database management tools, ecommerce, and advanced knowledge management technology. And, since itís provided as a service, PublishPal subscribers donít need to purchase any software or server infrastructure or hire IT experts to manage their site. All they need is an Internet connection and a web browser. With HTML editing programs like FrontPage and Dreamweaver, customers have to purchase, install and learn the software. Then they have to figure out how to add additional functionality. With PublishPal, itís all there in one simple solution.
BK: Aren't there some major enterprise software products that do much of what PublishPal does? How is PublishPal different?
JS: Yes, there are many enterprise level solutions that deliver similar functionality. One major difference is cost. PublishPal is designed for medium to small players who need a sophisticated website but donít have a big budget. Another difference is that PublishPal incorporates an advanced automated keyword tagging technology called Etronica Edge. Using this technology, PublishPal clients can sell targeted ads, sponsorships, related links and more. Adding this tagging horsepower to a website was an expensive proposition before PublishPal. Finally, there is a lot in the news about ďOpen SourceĒ software - names like Red Hat Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP. PublishPal takes advantage of the power of best-of-breed open source software and therefore isnít saddled with high enterprise level software license fees.
BK: Who are some of your customers, and how are they using PublishPal?
JS: The Los Angeles Venture Association (www.lava.org) has their site running on PublishPal. They use the database features to manage their event calendar, membership, and editorial resources. They also sell membership and tickets to events. The Software Council of Southern California recently launched a PublishPal powered site for the upcoming VentureNet conference (www.venturenet.org). The Billboard 2004 Digital Entertainment Conference & Awards show (www.digitalentertainmentawards.com) is currently taking advantage of our online registration capabilities. In addition to these satisfied customers, we are actively talking to other trade associations, museums, affinity groups, publishers, and businesses that would like to upgrade their website from a difficult to manage expense to a more efficient, productive resource.
BK: Have you done any sizing of the market and do you have any idea how big the segment is for website management systems in your segment?
JS: Yes, as you can imagine it's huge. It's more than just content management since we've combined many different aspects into one integrated service. Online ticket sales, online stores, pay-per-view, memberships, subscriptions, etc. There are hundreds of thousands of trade associations, museums, affinity groups, publishers, etc that are all potential PublishPal clients. Many suffer in silence. In addition, there is a market for people who want to dabble in pay-for-placement and sponsorships but up until now didn?t have to tools to easily implement it themselves on their sites. Pay-for-placement and contextual advertising is already a multi-Billion dollar market and continuing to grow. The last couple of years, it has been proven to be a very cost effective way for advertisers to reach the right people.
BK: How is PublishPal funded, and where are you in terms of raising capital?
JS: PublishPal is a service offered by Etronica, Inc. Etronica is funded primarily by the Tech Coast Angels, other private investors and Etronica's management. Last Fall, Etronica successfully assigned some of the intellectual property that it had developed to a third-party. Etronica retained a license to use that technology in its PublishPal product. The proceeds from this transaction were used to re-capitalize the company in a Series C round of investment. Currently, we are not seeking additional capital.
BK: Finally, what's next for PublishPal?
JS: We plan to rapidly grow the PublishPal subscriber base and continue to build enhancements to the service. Also, we are developing a reseller channel. Web developers and ISP?s like what we have to offer as see it as an "added value" service they can offer their customers. After this initial growth phase, we seek to partner with a big player, like Yahoo!, that has the brand presence and client base to really scale the PublishPal offering.