Universe, an Instagram for building mobile websites, nabs funding from YC



As social media sites grow more massive and all-encompassing, one startup is looking to bring back the friendly customization of Myspace to a new generation of users looking to define their online presence in a unique way.

Universe is a mobile-based website builder for the social media era, eschewing complicated templates for easily customizable website “filters” that pin trendy designs to a grid pattern where users can drag and drop photos, videos, icons to build up a mobile-optimized website in minutes on the company’s iOS app.

“People use Universe because they want to build a website on their phone and they want full control over how that site looks,” founder Joseph Cohen told TechCrunch. “In many ways are trying to pick up the baton from Tumblr.”

The team launched with $3.2 million in funding last year from Box Group, General Catalyst, Greylock Partners and Eniac Ventures. We profiled the startup then, now they’re about to emerge from Y Combinator’s latest startup class with some new funding and an increasing feature set for users.

When the service first launched it was a single-page home for quick information and links that you could build in just a minute or two. The site has maintained the quick onboarding site creation, but last month, the mobile-focused app began tackling multi-page sites that could stack pages together with a simple CMS that users could blog directly onto their sites with.

“If you look at us like a website builder, our product DNA is more like Lego,” Cohen said.

The added functionality gives users significantly more to go off of and deepens the utility for artists using the site to show off their portfolio. The company has long maintained that they want to help you create the website that you link to in your Instagram bio, that’s a pretty tight goal, but they startup has steadily added features that make this a pretty convincing sell.

The added utility is causing a boom in traffic to the startup’s network of sites with traffic increasing 10 percent week-over-week, while the network of sites built on Universe grows by thousands each week as well. The app was also recently featured as the App of the Day on the App Store.

In terms of pricing, the service is free for users who are fine having their site on the Universe domain (ex. lucasmatney.onuniverse.com), and $3 per month for those that would like their own URL. Additionally, users can pony up an additional $3 to add analytics or strip away the Universe logo from the bottom of the site.

You can download Universe for free on iOS.



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