Shane Snow and his company are having a minor identity crisis.
Three years ago, Snow (above left) and two cofounders launched Contently, an online marketplace to connect freelance writers with brands. Snow, who was a freelancer himself, and his team wanted to make it easier for writers to find gigs and help both parties tell better stories.
Since then, Contently has launched tools to help writers showcase their work, introduced its own print magazine and now has 30,000 freelancers on its network. But increasingly its business lies elsewhere.
"We started as a marketplace to connect journalists to anyone who wanted to hire them," Snow, Contently's chief creative officer, told Mashable in a recent interview. "The way it evolved is a lot of our customers were these brands and as more and more corporations came to us, they needed more than just the connection; they needed workflow tools."
To that end, Contently has gradually introduced more tools — and more expensive plans — to cater to the content marketing needs of business. "We kind of morphed into this software company," Snow says. Now, its doubling down on that metamorphosis with a new round of funding.
Contently announced Wednesday that it raised $9 million to become what Snow refers to as "the Salesforce for content marketing." The funding, which comes from Sigma Prime and Sigma West, brings Contently's total capital raised to date to a little more than $11 million. Much of that will go toward scaling the business and boosting staff from around 30 now to 75 by this time next year.
"We realized this was our opportunity to lose," Snow says of the decision to raise another round. He expects to raise "a couple more rounds" in the future to build a large company, and says the "end game" is to build a public company.
That all sounds good on paper, but under the surface, the team is still wrestling with how to balance its moneymaker — software solutions — with what Snow refers to as its "soul" — the writing tools.
"It's on my mind a lot," he says. "Everyone who works here now is in it because they believe in that mission of empowering storytellers and helping journalists make money, and helping — no matter who they are — publishers tell stories that people want to read."
Shane says that Contently plans to continue building free tools for freelancers, but admits that "the business really is the software company."