Playbook, a startup that describes itself as a “creative file manager for designers” where “Pinterest meets Dropbox”, has raised $18 million in a Series A funding round led by Bain Capital Ventures.
CEO Jessica Ko was inspired to start the company after her experiences as a designer at Google and Opendoor. She realized that her teams were spending about 90% of their time scouring Dropbox for resources.
She said the process was a waste of time and money. So in 2018, Ko left Opendoor to solve the problem she had had enough of by creating file storage for modern design workflows and processes. Or more simply, she wanted to build a new kind of cloud storage that would serve as an alternative to Dropbox and Google Drive “built by and for creatives.”
“Traditional cloud storage companies failed brand design teams and freelancers — sharing is confusing and people get lost in nested folders. In my previous jobs, designers quit because file management gave them so much anxiety,” Ko said. “We spent a lot of money on photo shoots because we couldn’t find things in Dropbox or Google Drive or we had to create designs from scratch.”
In early 2020, Ko (CEO) teamed up with Alex Zirbel (CTO) to formally launch the San Francisco-based Playbook. The company emerged from stealth last August when it announced it had raised $4 million in a seed round led by Founders Fund which valued it at $20 million. Ko declined to reveal what valuation this round was being raised at, but said it was “preemptive” funding.
Founders Fund doubled its investment and also put money in the last round along with Abstract Ventures, Maple VC, Hyphen Capital, Blank Ventures and angel investor Elad Gil.
Ko describes Playbook as an “easy-to-use” cloud storage and sharing tool for freelancers and designers and applies technology like image tags to photos and videos, “turning a mostly dry display of files into an expressive Pinterest-like gallery.”
It also has what it describes as a “suite of features” focused on collaboration and fast sharing. Built-in publishing tools allow users to turn a range of assets into a live shared page using a variety of templates. Playbook searches the content of images, extracted text and similar images using the custom machine learning system.
Since we last covered the company, Ko says it has grown to more than 50,000 users, including freelance designers and clients of creative agencies worldwide. That’s over 1,000 last year. Each user starts with a free plan that gives them 4 TB of free storage “forever” as Playbook says “creativity should never be limited by storage size.”
“A lot of people outside of the US are using the product,” Ko told MovieUpdates. “It does not require any language translation and is very intuitive. That’s why we believe things are happening more globally.”
Interestingly, Ko said the company is about a quarter away from figuring out its revenue model and its mission is for users to get value from the product.
“We don’t want to monetize cloud storage. Others are already doing that,” she told MovieUpdates. “We want to find a way that when our users make money, that’s how we make money — so that our incentives are aligned. There are many ways to monetize media files.”
The company plans to use its new capital to iterate its product and, of course, do some hiring. Playbook currently has 14 employees, including nine full-time employees and five contractors.
Kevin Zhang, partner at Bain Capital Ventures, said companies have relied on digital asset management (DAM) tools for decades to control access, ensure license compliance and solve other challenges associated with the images and videos. that they use in their business.
“They are slow, cumbersome and often imposed by executives on teams in a way that bogs down their work and encourages workarounds, which is counterproductive for everyone,” he told MovieUpdates. “Playbook looks at this problem from a new angle, based on solving the everyday pain points of designers and their teams first. That has led us to focus on features that are both important and subtle around searching, tagging and organizing to create a delightful experience that creatives will want to use.”