Hayes Metzger was toiling along as a developer at Salesforce when he and some friends got a cool idea: Starting a service that would let musicians promote themselves and reach their fans on Facebook. The product, BandPage, launched in 2010 and now counts more than half a million musicians as customers, including superstars like Rihanna, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Kanye West. Venture capitalists, among them early Pandora investor Larry Marcus, lined up to the tune of more than $18 million.
Metzger, though, thought BandPage was just scratching the surface. While catching up with his old boss, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, at a conference, Metzger mentioned that a lot of non-musicians were using the platform to promote themselves, ranging from the TV show “Dexter” to regular Joes and Janes sharing wedding plans. The two started chewing over the idea of opening the service’s marketing automation software up to other kinds of business.
BandPage’s other founders, though, decided to stick with the music. So about a year and a half ago, Metzger amicably left, taking some of his founder’s stock with him. And on Wednesday, he’ll publicly debut what he’s been cooking up over that time: Brandcast, which – you guessed it – offers marketing automation software to all kinds of businesses.
Over the past month or two, 50-odd businesses have been taking part in a beta – “everyone from a pro surfer who was looking for sponsorships to an author trying to raise money for a book he’s writing,” Metzger told me. While that use case sounds a lot like Kickstarter, Metzger says his primary customers for now are big Etsy shops looking to expand their presence beyond the online crafts marketplace.
“They have 800,000 active sellers,” he said of Etsy, “and most of them are only on Etsy.” With Brandcast, those merchants (or anybody else) can augment their online-marketing efforts with websites, mobile sites, customer messaging capability, Instagram connections, PayPal payments, etc. etc. And it’s all self-serve: “Sign in,” Metzger says, “and create a new brand by clicking a button.”
Benioff liked it so much that, while he didn’t buy the company, he did personally underwrite its entire seed funding round in December – along with a more recent A round. In an email, he described Metzger, 27, simply as “a brilliant entrepreneur.”
Metzger won’t say how much of Benioff’s dough he’s taken, but Benioff has pumped a total of $1.8 million into the startup, and Brandcast plans to use it to add even more features. Those include automated recommendations to remind users, say, how often to tweet for maximum impact, and analytics to show them what kinds of content is best hooking people. The site’s goodies are priced a la carte, and most of them cost a few bucks apiece; Metzger reckons that the average small business using the service might rack up monthly bills of $10 or so.
“We’re not just building you a website,” he said. “We’ve also got all these tools to help you drive traffic to multiple destinations. It’s a fully automated marketing suite.”
After all, he said, a lot of the tools small business use to reach customers is “30-year-old software that hasn’t gone to the next generation.”