Crayon opens new palette to web designers and marketers

Image via @Crayon Twitter account
Image via @Crayon Twitter account

For the first part of Jonah Lopin’s life, the color orange loomed large. The Newton native grew up to become a Newton North Tiger, and was surrounded by the school’s signature orange and black. Fast forward a decade, and you would have found him walking through the doors of Cambridge-based, orange-loving HubSpot as the inbound marketing company’s sixth employee.

While one would think that Lopin would keep the tangerine-tinged streak going with his latest project for his startup M80 Labs, he actually dipped into the entire color palette for the rainbow-hued design sensibilities of his new a website design search engine, Crayon.  

Crayon allows marketing teams, small business owners, design-lovers, and anyone responsible for the appearance of a website to search a library of site designs in order to inform how best to piece together a new site layout. Pulling in and organizing more than 13 million websites, Crayon allows users to search, categorize, and favorite site designs, and create a portfolio that can be used in the development of a new website or the redesign of an existing webpage. It also recently added iPhone mobile site designs to its ever-growing design catalog; currently it is showcasing more than 1 million iPhone sites.

Lopin is just another in a growing list of former employees to step out of the shadows of HubSpot — or as chief executive Brian Halligan has said, “graduate” — to found their own company or join the leadership team of a startup. Others in the “HubSpot Mafia” include business intelligence company InsightSquared‘s Fred Shilmover and Sam Clemens, Driftt’s co-founders David Cancel and Elias Torres, and quantitative financial algorithm site Quantopian‘s Jean Bredeche, among a whole host of others.

Lopin said that the ideas at the foundation of HubSpot’s inbound approach to marketing, which is focused on creating interesting content to attract customers, inform a lot of what he and co-founder John Osborne are trying to create with Crayon.

“I am a 100 percent believer in inbound marketing, which is based on content, landing pages, blog pages, websites, etc.,” Lopin said. “The disconnect is that there is no really good way for anyone to figure out what the content should look like and be presented.”

Lopin said that when a company redesigns a website, which in some industries may happen multiple times in one year, they spend an average of $50,000 to $100,000. “But when you ask what their vision is, the answers you get back are scary,” he said.

“We believe that there is a way better way to help people get inspired and figure out what they should build online.”

For inspiration, Lopin and Osborne turned to home design startup Houzz, a design inspiration site filled with images of indoor and outdoor house projects. Much of what makes Houzz such a great tool for designers, architects, and homeowners — ease of use, the ability to narrow searches based on multiple variables, and simple page design — is reflected in the work that Lopin and Osborne did with Crayon. (Houzz is a good model to follow; it is currently valued at $2.3 billion; making it a “unicorn.”)

“The designer community is well-served,” Lopin explained, “but marketers as an audience, there’s not really a tool for them. So we connected the two products.”

What Crayon does is pull in new designs from websites over time, so you can see how site designs have evolved. You can also search the site by industry category, type of webpage (i.e., landing page, payments page, etc.), and the amount of traffic certain pages receive.

Up to this point, Crayon has been able to run on the revenue from M80 Labs’ other startup, TapBooty, but the company is currently in the midst of a fund-raising round. And, word is that some of the most influential angel investors at HubSpot are already on board.

The orange connection comes full circle.

Dennis Keohane was a Senior Staff Writer for BetaBoston.
Follow Dennis on Twitter - Google+