I love a good metaphor. So when the team at Craft CMS—a tech company mostly new to Bend—compared one of their primary competitors to a chicken nugget (they’re more of a custom sandwich, made on artisanal bread, with heirloom tomatoes and other delicious things) I had to know more.

Two-thirds of the team at Craft CMS are new arrivals to town. Founder and CEO Brandon Kelly started Craft’s parent company, Pixel & Tonic, a software development agency specializing in ExpressionEngine add-ons, in San Jose in early 2011. But he quickly realized that he wanted to do something more.

“I wanted to do my own CMS,” Brandon says. The company’s CTO Brad jokes that every developer wants to write his or her own CMS— “It’s a rite of passage.”

In this case, though, that rite of passage evolved into one of the most well-respected CMS products on the market, with the likes of Salesforce, The Associated Press, and Netflix in its client roster.

A different approach

Now getting back to the chicken nugget. As Craft team notes, the CMS world primarily exists on the opposing ends of a spectrum. There’s the nearly free, very templated, DIY products such as WordPress (aka chicken nuggets) on one end and very expensive, enterprise-level products on the other.

The Craft CMS team: Founder Brandon Kelly, CTO Brad Bell and CCO Leslie Camacho.
The Craft CMS team: Founder Brandon Kelly, CTO Brad Bell and CCO Leslie Camacho.

Craft CMS takes a different approach, targeting web professionals who want to create their own site designs. “They want to have control over their content, and we want to make sure their content shines,” Brandon says. There’s no templates; instead developers can use Craft to create beautifully custom sites, using Twig as their templating language. There’s a bit more training involved for developers, but the results are far from cookie cutter. And the cost? It’s $299 per site.

Brandon and his team hit a sweet spot with this approach, attracting a following of web development agencies and freelance developers who prefer their product. Nearly all of the company’s business comes from these fans, who recommend Craft CMS to their client base.

Bend bound

But how did Craft end up in Bend? Well, Brandon and Brad hired Leslie Camacho as the company’s Chief Customer Officer in January. Leslie was actually the former CEO of EllisLab, the company that makes ExpressionEngine. Basically, they’d all known each other for a long time.

Leslie has lived in Bend–and worked remotely—for nine years. When Brandon came to visit him last April, he fell in love with Central Oregon. “I couldn’t believe people actually live like this,” Brandon says.

So he moved here earlier this year. Then Brad moved here. And now the trio behind Craft CMS work out of an office in BendTECH. The company’s customer base is global, in fact a peek at the Craft CMS website reveals Craft developer meetups all around the world, so the location doesn’t matter.

“We found a place where everyone is happy,” Brandon says. “In fact, being in Bend has even helped us.” That’s primarily through the connections the company has made with Bend startups. 

The company is enjoying steady growth, and right now is focused on building Craft 3.0, a major overhaul to the codebase that will make life more pleasant for plugin developers, Brandon says. 

Kelly Kearsley

Kelly Kearsley, the co-founder of StartupBend.com, is passionate about startups, entrepreneurship and Bend. In addition to writing this blog, she creates content and manages content projects for global financial companies, tech firms and startups. She began her career as a newspaper journalist and later worked as a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in WSJ.com, Money Magazine, CNNMoney, MSNBC and Runner's World. See her work at kellykearsley.contently.com or kellykearsley.com.

You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].
Kelly Kearsley