Contentful raises $175M at a $3B valuation from Tiger for its content delivery service ' TechCrunch

Today, Contentful announced that a $175 million Series F capital round was led by Tiger Global. The round valued the unicorn at approximately $3 billion. Contentful, formerly known for its UI-free content management platform (headless CMS), is now looking at itself in a wider light. Contentful offers customers a service that delivers images, words and other content quickly to their websites and applications around the globe.According to the company Tidemark, Base10 Advancement Initiative and Tidemark were added to the round's cap table. Previous investors also participated in the round. Contentful's most recent fundraising event, a $80 million Series E that was led by Sapphire Ventures in June 2020, was announced today.PitchBook data shows that the round was raised at an approximately $550 million valuation. TechCrunch's reporting at the time of Series E included the tidbit from a Contentful spokesperson that the company was close to a $1B valuation. Split the difference, and it becomes clear that Contentfuls valuation is multiple of the company's value a year ago.Before we get into the metrics and results, or a lack thereof, let's take a moment to talk through Contenfuls.What is it used for?TechCrunch met with Steve Sloan, Contentfuls CEO (previously from Twilio, Bessemer, and Bessemer) and Brian Spittler, its comms connector (previously from Podium), to learn more about the company's products.Sloan described Contentful using an analogy. He said that Twilio was the communications market, while Stripe was the payments space. Contentful wants the world's digital content to be handled by Contentful. Yes, we are talking APIs (application program interface). Contentful offers a few core APIs that enable you to read and write content to your data buckets, and make it available when you need it.Contentful does not want to assist companies in building apps. This is something that other companies do quite well. It wants customers to be able to load their in-app content quickly regardless of their location. This allows you to better understand the modestly ambitious Twilio and Stripe comparison. Contentful wants to take some of the developers workload, in this instance delivering digital content to controlled apps, abstract it, and deliver the functionality via an API. Developers could use Twilio for making text messages appear all over the globe without having to deal with global telephone providers. Contentful customers, on the other hand, can save themselves from worrying about global bandwidth and content delivery networks (CDNs).We now have a good understanding of Contentful's role, let's talk about growth.That's not an error space. Contentful's CEO refused to discuss anything about its business growth. I was irritated by this. We know the company had a great 2020 and probably a great 2021 so far. Why? Because Tiger did not invest $175 million in Contentful's new round. This was due to mediocre results.Sloan, to his credit was open to explaining why his company chose to not share growth information. According to Sloan, if a company shares pieces of growth information over time, people will look back at the data when they go public and see if there are any differences. He said that sharing data can prove to be more trouble than it is worth, as definitions can change. This is true. Startups will often claim profitability only to backtrack and say that they meant adjusted EBITDA or positive operating cash flows.Growth-stage startups should share GAAP-ready data when they need our attention. Contentful has already begun to learn how to properly organize its books and is aiming for an IPO. GAAP results can be achieved! To be fair to Contentful many startups refuse to share useful data about performance when they are seeking media attention. This is often at the request or their investors. That we journalists have to deal with investors complaining that the media is too focused on funding rounds and progress points is a separate, but closely related matter.Contentful may be aiming for a public debut. Companies are less likely to raise nine-figure valuations at 10-figure valuations if they want to exit quickly. It is too costly for any company to buy the unicorn, except the biggest tech companies. Therefore, it plans to go public. Yes, we would check the claims against historical GAAP data from its S-1, if we could. This is research! It's also important to verify facts!Sloan was open about his employee growth plans, despite all the grumbles. Today, Contentful employs 600 people, with its hubs in San Francisco, Berlin, and Denver. It plans to increase that number by at least double in the next two-years. You can use this information to generate your revenue estimates. Present-day ARR is somewhere between $75 million and $75 millions. Good luck.According to Contentful's CEO, Contentful sells to three major customer groups: enterprise customers, midmarket customers, and venture-backed startups looking to make it big. We believe that Contentful's market will continue to be fertile, given that most of these customers are either digital natives or are pursuing digital transformation. This means that the company has a large market to sell into and a lot of future growth potential. Let's see what we can do with $175 millions more.