Adam Wiggins co-founded Heroku, the popular development platform as a service, seven years ago in San Francisco. Now he’s signed on to advise Contentful, an API-focused content management system based half a world away in Berlin.
The idea behind Contentful’s service, which launched broadly on Tuesday, is to make it easier for developers to deliver content that displays well, regardless of the user’s device or screen size. That’s proven a big challenge for more traditional CMSes, like Drupal or WordPress (see disclosure), that were built for more static sorts of content.
The thirteen-person startup targets makers of interactive applications. “If you think of a regular, more static website, you go to the browser and the service sends you a page for that browser,” Sascha Konietzke, Contentful’s co-founder and CEO, explained. “What we do is more interactive apps, which give you much more information about the client. You will know if it’s in landscape or portrait mode, if it’s a retina or non-retina device, or if it’s multi-touch with a lot of room for content.”
All of that adaptability to various form factors comes courtesy of Contentful’s API, which lets developers build a set of content modules that will display well regardless of the device at the end of the connection. Customers include digital ad agencies and other companies dedicated to interactive apps, but there is interest among older, more mainstream media companies like Viacom and Playboy as well, Konietzke said.
Contentful competes with Drupal or WordPress for traditional media applications. But in the more interactive, mobile arena, it faces off against custom-built Ruby on Rails platforms, Konietzke said.
Wiggins, who left Heroku a year ago and has since relocated to Berlin, recently sat in with Contentful’s engineers for a week-long advisory session. “What I like about Contentful’s approach is that instead of trying to squash content to fit a screen, they provide an API for content that gives developers high abstraction tools that make content work with whatever app,” Wiggins told me in an interview. Big Drupal-based content management systems do not provide such APIs out of the box.
Right now, Contentful, which runs on Amazon Web Services, targets mostly mobile devices running native iOS, Android applications or HTML5, but Konietzke expects the service will be useful with other types of screens going forward — think digital signage and virtual reality tools like Oculus Rift. The company has also seen interest from a car company for in-dash GPS systems and from a maker of fitness gear that wants to use it for displays on exercise machines.
Disclosure: WordPress parent company Automattic is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of Gigaom.