BaseKit: Simon Best

The Seedcamp success story hoping to conquer the DIY web-build market

Competing with Moonfruit for a share of the DIY web-build market is a bit like taking on Coca-Cola in the soft drinks industry, or Wal-Mart in out-of-town retail. To date Moonfruit has racked up more than 3 million users, and laid down a forbidding challenge to potential competitors.

But a genuine challenger is on the horizon. BaseKit, founded by three experienced web developers, has already proven its potential by winning the annual competition at Seedcamp, Europe’s oldest and most demanding technology incubator. Described by Simon Best, one of BaseKit’s founding trio, as “like Dragons’ Den times a million,” Seedcamp takes the continent’s most promising tech start-ups and hot-houses them through seven days of pitching and mentoring – overseen by 50 experienced tech investors.

Now, having scaled the Seedcamp summit, BaseKit is ready for an even tougher quest – to establish itself as a force in the self-build web market. The company already has 2,000 paying subscribers, and fiercely ambitious plans for the future. CEO Juan Lobato is targeting a 30-40% profit margin, on a $100m turnover, within four years. A grand strategy by anyone’s standards.

Thankfully, BaseKit’s three co-founders – Simon, his brother Richard and friend Richard Healy – can call on web design experience; indeed Simon has already run his own successful web development business, Progressive Internet. He claims the idea for BaseKit came out of Progressive’s “need to make websites as quickly and easily as possible, without compromising on quality”, and was vindicated by the “huge chasm of opportunity we saw between simple web builders, which produced appalling results, and complex CMS platforms that a real user would never get to grips with”.

The three co-founders set up headquarters in Wales and threw themselves into the project, doing everything from building prototypes to cultivating a core following on Twitter. Their efforts were rewarded; following their Seedcamp success, which earned $50,000 in prize money, the founders secured seed funding from Eden Ventures and NESTA, enabling them to tweak the prototype, test the business model and expand their marketing activity.

Since going to market in2009, BaseKit has already modified its strategy significantly. According to Simon Best, “our original business model was to go for the intermediary route, but we’ve found more and more small firms are available to us now. We are making it easier and easier for the less technical people to build websites with us.”

To this end, BaseKit has created more than 100 design themes. Whereas, initially, users would have required a basic knowledge of Photoshop, now they can sift through the templates and pick the one they want. Users can also add Twitter and Facebook feeds, as well as tools for Google Maps and Analytics.

The company’s engineers are now working on a feature that will allow users to take a template and tweak it in their own style, by changing the colour, font and other key features. Ultimately, the company hopes to allow more technically-minded users to actively contribute to the templates and functionality of the site.

Simon Best sums up his company’s philosophy thus: “We are basically a cloud computing company, we take away all the pain that goes with setting up servers, mastering HTML etc. It’s very visual, a lot like PowerPoint. If someone knows their way round Microsoft Office, we allow them to build. “Earlier this year, BaseKit closed an investment round worth around $11m, and while the company has yet to reach profitability, several high-profile clients have been secured, including Web Fusion and the FX Trading Platform.

Juan Lobato says that the commercial focus now rests on building a community of online marketers, and increasing the number of paying subscribers every month – with the aim of achieving profits by next year.

He adds: “We are primarily targeting Europe, the US, Latin America and Brazil. Ten million websites are being built in these regions per year, and we’re looking at getting 10% of the market. Countries such as Brazil and Mexico are showing particularly strong demand, so we’re really excited to be expanding there.”

In an attempt to build its international presence, BaseKit has already opened offices in Spain and Brazil, with further openings to come in Germany, Mexico and France.

Simon Best is particularly bullish about the future. “We’ve talked to some of the giants of the web world, from Google to Twitter to Adobe, and all have been hugely impressed with what we’re doing. We’ve also been awarded MacWorld’s 5 star award and editor’s choice, which is obviously encouraging.

“Ultimately, we think BaseKit will eventually replace traditional hosting for small business websites, and we’re working towards that goal.”

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