Hygraph raises $30M to scale out a new, federated approach to managing digital content

Digital content and how we consume it continue to endlessly evolve, and so does the tech that helps manage all of it behind the scenes.

In the latest development, Hygraph, a startup out of Berlin that has built a platform around a new, "federated" approach to content management — think: many sources of data and many endpoints for using it, and using composable architecture, orchestrating all of it from a single platform — has raised $30 million. The startup now has around 400 customers, which include major brands like Samsung, Philips and the FMCG conglomerate Dr Oetker, and the plan is to use the funding to continue developing the platform and how and where it can be used, as well as expand into new geographies.

The round is a Series B and was led by European investor One Peak, with previous backers OpenOcean and SquareOne, as well as new individual investor Boris Lokschin (cofounder and CEO of Spryker Systems) also participating. The startup previously raised $13 million. It did not disclose its valuation.

A number of startups have identified the opportunity to improve how organizations create and manage their content online. Some of these focus on specific verticals like Shopify while others like Wix have built frameworks to quickly get sites up and running. A newer generation of "headless" systems can be more flexible with controlling interfaces while also handling potentially huge amounts of data at the backend. And there are even some new players, such as Vue Technologies, which take an open source approach to improving management of the front end. Hygraph represents yet another chapter in this story.

Its positioning goes a little like this: When it comes to engaging with digital content, the landscape has changed dramatically in the last 15 years. Not only do we have a plethora of screens, from traditional TVs and computers through to phones, watches and more, but the formats we see on these are constantly fragmenting and evolving. So, too, are the sources of data that are used to create and manage that digital content.

While there are a number of services already on the market to address aspects of this state of play, there is no single platform out there that defragments the experience and brings the back and front sourcing and data management challenges together into one place. This is what Hygraph is aiming to do; it calls its approach "federated content."

"We are turning headless around," Michael Lukaszczyk, the CEO and co-founder, said in an interview. "We are not just front end agnostic but also back end agnostic. We make it easy to integrate the back end and front end into one universal content API."

One of the big benefits of this is that by building all of this around APIs, you can essentially update information and send it out to other systems much more efficiently, essentially in real time, which makes systems work better and more cheaply over time. This may be an "overpowered" approach for basic sites these days, Lukaszczyk admitted, but it's essential for large organizations coping with huge amounts of traffic and multiple experiences on multiple platforms, marketplaces, social media sites and more. That could have an e-commerce focus, but could equally apply to media organizations managing video and so on.

The company was originally called GraphCMS: it bases its framework around GraphQL and how it was built around the concept of composable architecture. Last September, it also released an API that supercharges where and how Hygraph can be used.

“Despite the rise of the composable enterprise, many organizations are unable to unlock full value from their content,” said David Klein, co-founder and managing partner, and Tatjana Kast, director, One Peak, in a joint statement. “Hygraph solves the customisation and integration challenges that continue to slow the creation of new or complex digital services at scale. We have been hugely impressed with Hygraph’s strong and capital efficient growth trajectory and believe that its federated content platform presents a sizeable market opportunity. One Peak is incredibly excited to back the excellent Hygraph team and its founders in their next phase of explosive growth.”