Even though the Internet is bigger and more ubiquitous than ever, building and managing a website is still really difficult to do. Sure, if you’re an individual person or a small business, such services as Weebly and Tumblr are great. But for major organizations like the University of Southern California or a publication like The Economist, it’s a big undertaking to build and maintain a website that suits your needs.
Lots of these kinds of custom corporate sites are built with Drupal, an open-source content management system. But in a lot of ways, the developers who build them are on their own; there is no Software-as-a-Service (Saas) option for developing a sophisticated Drupal-based website and then deploying and hosting it in the cloud. That is, until now.
Meet Pantheon. The San Francisco-based startup has built a SaaS platform that lets organizations and their IT teams host and manage all their Drupal-based public website infrastructure through one dashboard. Pantheon is free for developers to try out; once they deploy a site, pricing starts at $100 per month for businesses and exceeds $10,000 for the largest of organizations.
A team that knows Drupal
Pantheon’s founding team is composed of developers who have built hundreds of custom Drupal websites over the past decade for a wide-ranging set of clients including the U.S. Department of Defense, Viacom, and The Economist. That means they all know first-hand how big the problem is.
“All of our clients needed scalable, performant operations management tools for these Drupal sites, and everyone needed really good developer tools,” Pantheon Co-Founder and CEO Zack Rosen told me in an interview this week. “We built that from scratch dozens of times. It was a drag, and it was really expensive. It became very clear that this should just be a service, it should just work.”
A better web — for everyone
At barely a year old, Pantheon already fields big demand for its service: Clients include AAA and NBC Universal, and the backlog of developers in line to try out the service is now in the thousands and growing. Drupal developers love the product because it enables them to be more efficient — spending more time making the website as great as it can be, and much less time on the nitty-gritty of deploying and maintaining it. “Website developers should be focused on open graph integration, adding social networking integration, or adding great video elements to their sites,” Rosen said. “If everyone’s stuck trying to just run these clunky websites and keep the lights on, it’ll never work.”
The eight-person company is backed with $1.3 million from a solid group of investors including Baseline Capital, First Round Capital, Floodgate Capital and Heroku co-founder James Lindenbaum. The service is open to beta users now, and Pantheon expects to start letting more developers in at some point next month.
“Right now, we’re getting ready to just open the gates,” said Rosen. Once that happens, the Internet may start to be a much nicer place — for companies, their website developers, and all the rest of us.
Here’s a video explaining how Pantheon works: