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Payload raises $4.7M for its developer-first headless CMS

Payload, which develops a headless open source content management system (CMS), today announced that it has raised a $4.7 million seed round 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 a number of angel investors.

Unlike most CMS tools, Michigan-based Payload puts its emphasis on developers. Bootstrapped since 2021, the team behind the platform argues that typical app frameworks give developers the tools to create their backends but not the CMS-style user interfaces they would need to manage apps and their content.

Image Credits: Payload

“To devs, ‘content management system’ is usually a swear word. If an engineer gets assigned a CMS project, it’s less than thrilling. They want to avoid roadblocks, write code and build things they’re proud of — but existing CMS’s get in the way of that left and right,” said CEO James Mikrut, who co-founded the company together with Dan Ribbens (COO) and Elliot DeNolf (CTO). “We’re not competing with Webflow or Squarespace — rather, we’re going to give talented engineers a tool they can trust to build critical content infrastructure.”

Instead of building another no-code CMS, the team went in the exact opposite direction and built something more akin to a framework than “just” a pure headless CMS. To get started, developers describe 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 the admin UI, which defaults to a clean, minimalist look.

The company is currently in the middle of its first launch week, a concept that seems to be making the rounds among startups these days. Earlier this year, the team also launched version 1.0 and now that it has raised its first funding round, 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 a managed service, Payload Cloud, to power its monetization strategy and function as a hub for deploying Payload apps.

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