Headless open source content management system (CMS) developer Payload announced today that it has raised $4.7 million in seed funding led by Google’s AI-focused Gradient Ventures. Other investors include MongoDB Ventures, Y Combinator, SV Angel, Grand Ventures and Exceptional Capital, in addition to several angel investors.
Unlike most CMS tools, Michigan-based Pay puts the emphasis on developers. Added as of 2021, the team behind the platform argues that traditional app frameworks give developers the tools to create apps but don’t provide the CMS-style user interface they need to manage apps and their content.
“For devs, ‘content management system’ is usually a slur. If an engineer is assigned a CMS project, it’s less than exciting. They want to avoid roadblocks, write code, and build things they’re proud of — but existing CMSs get in the way left and right, said CEO James Mikrut, who co-founded the company with Dan Ribbens (COO) and. Elliot DeNolf (CTO). “We’re not competing with Webflow or Squarespace — instead, we’re giving talented engineers the tools they can trust to build critical content infrastructure.”
Instead of building another codeless CMS, the team went in the opposite direction and built something more akin to a framework than “just” a pure headless CMS. To get started, developers define their configuration for Payload in TypeScript, and the service creates a Mongo database, sets up REST and GraphQL APIs, handles file storage, authentication and access control, and of course creates an admin UI, which defaults to a clean, minimal look.
The company is currently midway through its first week, with the concept currently making the rounds among startups. Earlier this year, the team launched version 1.0 and now that it has raised its first round of funding, the plan is to expand the team and invest in the open source community around Payload. And like most open source startups, the company plans to launch Payload Cloud, a managed service that will act as a hub for deploying Payload apps to enhance its monetization strategy.