Crayon wants to be marketing’s Wayback Machine … and inspiration warehouse


Marketing seems to always be about the next new thing. But if a startup that just recently received funding from almost all of HubSpot’s top management has anything to say about it, it’ll also be about the past.

Sort of like the Internet’s Wayback Machine.

Crayon, which just relaunched its website today and raised a $1.5 million seed round from a who’s who of Boston angel investors — including HubSpot’s two founders and CEO, CTO, and CMO — wants to help marketers learn from their mistakes. And their successes.

“We spend tens of billions of dollars every year building new things,” said founder Jonah Lopin. “We learn things: what worked, what didn’t … and we lose those learnings when we redesign.”

To change that and provide a place where marketers can go check what has worked in the near and far past, Crayon is building an archive of websites, landing pages, emails, and soon apps. It’s then allowing you to track changes over time, so you can see how Salesforce, for instance, has adapted its design and messaging over the past few years:

The company currently has 15 million web pages in its system, and is adding 500,000 each day. Lopin plans to have 100 million archived by the end of this year.

But how valuable is the past when you’re building the marketing of the future?

“I don’t think marketing is a straight line … people circle back on themselves,” said Lopin. “For example, Medium has a very minimalist style — almost like Blogger.”

You can also see how organizations evolved over time as they and their revenues grew, he said. When you find relevant designs, you can group them into collections and share them with your team or creative agency.

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That’s possibly one of the biggest use cases here. As marketers use the site, they can give a thumbs up or thumbs down to designs, which will over time cause the cream — or at least the most popular designs — to rise to the top. Having something to physically show your creative agency can be extremely helpful, particularly in those I-know-good-design-when-I-see-it cases.

Archiving marketing emails might seem strange to non-marketers, but …

“Email is a big one because marketers might build five to ten of them a week,” Lopin said. “We currently have about 7,000 of them, and are getting millions more queued up.”

The more modern method of finding out what to do might just be to run Optimizely or another conversion optimization tool, I posited aloud.

“You still have the question: what A/B variations should I run,” he said. “Now you can see what others did, and then run tests on those options.”

Investors include Eric Ries of Lean Startup fame; a professor at MIT, Othman Laraki, who founded Mixer Labs before it was acquired by Twitter; the cofounder and CEO of HubSpot, Brian Halligan; the cofounder and CTO of HubSpot, Dharmesh Shah; and the CMO of HubSpot, Mike Volpe.

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