Why Pantheon is a Website Game-Changer

July 11, 2014

There are times when, as an investor, your own needs perfectly match the service provided by a company you’re interested in. Our investment in Pantheon was one of those times.
This past May, OpenView was a part of the $21.5 million Pantheon raised in Series B funding. It’s a company that’s growing quickly and has, I think, a big future. Here’s what Pantheon does and why we not only partnered with them, but also use their product.

The Problem Pantheon Solves

Pantheon is a Platform for a Service (PaaS) for open source CMS-based websites, a space which today is dominated by WordPress and Drupal. It’s a purpose-built, software-based platform that replaces traditional hosting solutions. It solves the problems with hosting using traditional architecture — which isn’t always automated, easy, scalable, or efficient.
Large organizations with in-house DevOps pros and teams of SysAdmins have the resources to maintain the back-end of their websites. But for small to mid-size companies, particularly those without a bunch of extra SysAdmins hanging around, this can be a big burden. Even a division of a large company can run into this roadblock. For example, a divisional marketing team that wants to launch a dedicated site linked to a marketing campaign needs all the same back-end infrastructure, regardless of how lightweight the use case is.
These marketing teams primarily focus on building the front-end functionality. Does the site look good? Is my content compelling? Are my calls-to-action crisp? Is my lead-capture form optimized? No one is asking about LAMP stacks, multi-tiered flush, or scalable file stores. While that’s all important for a site, no one is going to give the marketer a high-five for it.

How We Discovered Pantheon

We discovered Pantheon because we fit right into their primary market, as do some of our portfolio companies. OpenView has three WordPress sites: OpenViewPartners, OpenView Labs, and our blog. The Labs site and blog are especially dynamic — we’re constantly publishing content, and that has presented us with a significant hosting challenge from a DevOps perspective. It’s been a big headache to find the best way to host, maintain, and service our sites, and we’ve tried a lot of ways to solve our problems but none of them were easy and user-friendly out of the box. We just don’t have a dedicated SysAdmin to keep the trains running on time. That is not our core competency and not where we’re looking to add to our team.
This is a perennial issue. With the state of today’s web, you might assume this had been solved, but it hasn’t in a thoughtful and elegant way.

Pantheon’s “Light-Bulb” Moment

Pantheon’s founding team all come from a Drupal ecosystem. The four co-founders have some of the best reputations in the Drupal community, coming from two of the top Drupal development shops: Chapter Three in San Francisco and Four Kitchens in Austin.
They were responsible for building some of the biggest Drupal sites out there like Economist.com — super dynamic sites with an amazing look-and-feel and user experience. Their clients paid them to build a great front-end, and that is what the world sees. It is the client’s brand online. But a website obviously has a back-end as well, and the team found time and time again they were reinventing the wheel on basic DevOps infrastructure for their clients — both in building it and maintaining it. Hence the light bulb moment. Surely there was a better way to build once and deploy infinitely, and that’s when they created Pantheon.
Customers love Pantheon, and it’s a win all around. The marketers win because their site “just works” out of the box. The developers win because they don’t have to waste their time reinventing the boring SysAdmin wheel. And most importantly, the end user wins because DevOps-based web performance issues are mitigated at their root.
Needless to say, we think Pantheon’s product is a game-changer in terms of how professional WordPress and Drupal sites are built and maintained. We are excited to partner with them for the next stage of growth.
Have you had these problems with your site(s)? Share your pain in the comments.