Crownpeak Interview with CEO Jonah Paransky

The American company Crownpeak has been on the market as a software provider since 2001. With the acquisition of e-Spirit in 2021, it was also able to establish themselves as a serious player in Europe. Two thirds of its revenue is now generated on the European market and Crownpeak is one of the leading DXP operators in the world. CEO Jonah Paransky was at the DMEXCO 2023 with the company and spoke to about developments in the software market and much mor.

This was not Crownpeak’s first time exhibiting at DMEXCO, but 2023 marks the company’s return after the coronavirus hiatus. While the personal connections with customers and new acquaintances were missed, Paransky says that it is always a matter of weighing up whether a visit to such a conference is worthwhile. Only after a few years of experience do you know who is coming to this event, who is in buying mode and who might just want to take a look around. But above all, because Crownpeak is so strongly represented in Europe, Paransky sees conferences as an investment in maintaining relationships with existing customers.

Hybrid conferences as a new solution

You can no longer expect team members to fly back and forth across Europe for several days. Hybrid conferences are therefore an option for making content accessible to everyone. Paransky sees two possibilities here: On the one hand, there is the classic virtual version, which is completely online. On the other hand, there is the offline conference, whose content is reused afterwards. This means that the content is also available to interested parties who were unable to attend. In addition to these options, Crownpeak is also focussing on customer connect days. The focus here is on reaching existing customers and coming together for a shorter period of four to eight hours in a city in their immediate vicinity. To this end, Crownpeak organises events throughout Europe in the countries of its customers. 

CMS & DXP: What’s the difference?

The Digital Experience Platform (DXP) encompasses the development, orchestration, provision and management of the digital experience. A content management system (CMS) is just one part of this broad network. However, it remains one of the most important components of a DXP. The trend here is that customers are no longer buying the entire DXP from one provider. This used to be the case with legacy operators such as Adobe. Instead, customers want specific solutions for their various problems. A single provider cannot provide these in such a personalised way. Crownpeak relies on components that can be freely combined with the product range within the company itself, but also with that of the competition.

As there are so many software providers on the market, there is no expectation that customers will buy everything from one provider. The system of curated choice gives buyers the ability to make decisions, buy solution components that are precisely tailored to their problems and bring them together effortlessly.

Best of breed or best of suite?

Paransky has a clear answer to the question of where user behaviour is heading, whether it is towards best of breed or suite solutions: best of breed, without a doubt. The compositional capability on which Crownpeak’s offering is built is designed for best of breed. This stems from the assumption that customers have multiple problems for which a broad system does not provide all the solutions. These issues are often so specific that a generalised, horizontal approach is not practical. If a suite solution is to be retained, Paransky suggests a combination: A large provider as the main player and other smaller components that attack in the niches that are too specialised.

We have a range of answers and there is power in using multiple approaches, but it doesn’t have to be an all-in-one decision for the customer.

What are the current trends in the software, or specifically the CMS, market?

According to Paransky, the desire for rich content is crystallising within e-commerce. Until now, the systems behind e-commerce were not designed for more comprehensive content. This realignment as a CMS provider must take place in order to offer a wide-ranging experience. AI is of course the hot topic right now, but Paransky sees a critical point in the fact that it is not yet clear which problems you want to tackle with the use of AI. Crownpeak is also taking the path of choice for customers here. AI approaches should not be a black box that is incomprehensible to buyers. They should be able to select exactly the right machine for their needs. The composability of individual components is also emphasised here.

It is not enough that the end solutions can be put together; the integrated items must also offer customers a choice.

On the one hand, the current economic situation means that software providers are struggling with growth, but it can also be interpreted as an opportunity for the large providers. Paransky is very clear about this: you should not buy from the provider that is growing the fastest, as this growth entails risk. Attention should be paid to the financial references. The question that everyone should ask themselves here is whether the company will still exist tomorrow. Growth for profit is now much riskier due to the current economic situation, as money is no longer flowing as it used to. That is why Crownpeak is focussing on being a healthy software company. This health comes from the fact that it has paid attention to profitability despite enormous growth. Paransky sees profitability as the key to success.

When I buy software products today, one of the most important questions I have to ask is about the financial stability of the company I am buying from.

Acquisition as Crownpeak’s strategy

As Crownpeak has tripled in size in the last three years, the company is focussing primarily on acquiring smaller companies. However, this acquisition also harbours pitfalls, because acquisition is easy, but integration is not. A simple question arises for the acquiring company: Do I build a development team to try to solve my problem, which has already been solved by other companies? Or do I choose one of these companies that suits me and my strategies? In this case, experience reports would already be available and the takeover would be simple. For Paransky, it was an easy decision in favour of the second option. That’s why Crownpeak invests a lot in its’ integration machine. This brings together not only the business, but also the cultures behind it. The acquisition of smaller companies in particular can prove to be difficult. Some employees of the acquired company want to adapt to the culture of the large company, while others do not. The key is to be transparent about the acquisition from the outset. That way, employees can form an opinion and decide for themselves whether it is right for them or not.

A big thank you to Jonah Paransky for the nice and extended interview on a very stressful first day at the conference.

About our interview partner:

CEO CrownpeakJonah Paransky brings over 20 years of business-to-business software experience to Crownpeak with a strong focus on delivering innovative customer value and best in class customer experience. He has a strong record of success in leadership roles at companies including Wolters Kluwer, Skytouch Technology and LexisNexis.
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