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Performable raises $3 million from Charles River Ventures to help sites retain visitors

Posted by Scott Kirsner  January 15, 2010 09:00 AM

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How's this for bouncing back?

A month after turning out the lights on his previous start-up, Lookery, tech entrepreneur David Cancel had started his next company, Performable. Less than a month after that, he'd raised a first round of venture capital funding of $3 million from Waltham-based Charles River Ventures. By mid-November of last year, the company had started working with alpha customers.

Performable intends to help companies hold onto more of the visitors who alight on their homepage, and ideally transform them from browsers into buyers. The company will help customers analyze which design elements, copy, colors, and layouts are most appealing to visitors. (The company was involved with setting up a site called last September, in part to collect information about why certain designs and layouts retain visitors better than others.)

Performable has been operating out of Cancel's Amesbury home and a nearby coffee shop so far. "I've been running this very much unlike a venture-funded startup," he writes via e-mail. "No office, no grand hiring plan, ignoring press, maniacal focus on working with customers and getting the product/market right with plenty of money in the bank to accelerate quickly once we perfect a scalable model." Helping Cancel launch the company are Elias Torres and Joshua Porter, along with four part-timers and contractors.

There are plenty of consultants who promise to help companies make their Web sites more appealing to visitors, acknowledges Izhar Armony, the Charles River partner who made the investment in Performable. "David's observation was that with enough good data about what works, he could productize some of the best practices, and put good tools in the hands of marketers, so they could do it for themselves. The effort is to simplify landing page creation and analytics, and bring a complete solution." He says Performable will rely on the software-as-a-service subscription business model.

In a recent post about Performable on his blog, Cancel writes, "We're building a service that allows you to spend your time making sure your customers have great experiences with your company, and that you can simply and effectively measure and monitor those interactions."

Armony lost money investing in Lookery (an ad targeting start-up which raised $3.15 million in total), but his firm earned a decent return when Compete, the Web site analytics service Cancel founded in 2000, was sold to a British market research firm for $75 million (plus bonus payments that may have totaled another $75 million. Compete had raised $40 million in total funding.) That investment was made by Ted Dintersmith, who is no longer an active investor at the firm.

Another site testing start-up worth watching is Demoing, from Stephen Sprinkle and Adam Raczkowski. Sprinkle tells me the company is creating a destination where Web services can test their prototypes with "early adopter users," getting feedback on things like unexpected bugs that pop up, or features that users don't quite understand. "The goal is to discover any issues, so they can be great once they're ready to launch," he says. Demoing will also help promote the sites once they launch. Sprinkle says the company started a closed beta earlier this week.

Demoing hasn't yet raised funding, but as part of the Capitalize series (which brings young entrepreneurs to venture capital firms, for a "dry run" pitch), they'll at least get a foot in the door with Bain Capital Ventures next Tuesday.

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Innovation and technology news that matters, on a new website from the Boston Globe, featuring Scott Kirsner and other original reporting.

About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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