November, December, March – every time I go to Stockholm, it snows. I need to try July. In town last week for EPiServer’s customer day, and judging by the number and the energy of the participants, you could be forgiven for thinking that "Episerver" is Swedish for "Web content management." With 2500 customers, 8000 supported projects, 300 partners, and a developer community of over 6000, EPiServer rules the Swedish WCM roost, is a major player in Norway and elsewhere in the Nordics, and has successfully established a presence in what the Swedes call "southern Europe" – especially the U.K. The company says 60% of revenue now comes from outside of Sweden. A U.S. office is planned for Q2.
The figures for the 2009 customer event are equally imposing, and could put to shame vendors with 5 or 10 times EPiServer’s approximately $25 million in annual revenue: 1100 participants from 568 organizations, 109 cities, and 12 countries. To be sure, at least 85% of the attendees were Swedish, so it’s easier for EPiServer to draw a crowd to Stockholm than it is for other vendors to convince users to troop to Austin or San Jose. Still, proximity is no guarantee of loyalty or enthusiasm.
And enthusiasm was abundant. One of my table companions at the awards dinner (sold out with over 400 guests, even though there was an extra charge to attend), said, "Every developer in Sweden wants to work on EPiServer projects; it’s the place to be." The awards event adopted an Academy Awards motif, with tuxedoed MCs, sealed envelopes, over-the-top video special effects, and framed plaques far too big for carry on luggage. Not to worry, however: As one attendee later tweeted, "EPiServer Awards; Swedish company, Swedish jury, Swedish winners."
EPiServer has quickly established a meaningful presence in the U.K., but their entry into the U.S. market this spring will pose a severe test, and could decide the fate of their ambitions as a global vendor. Besides the dreary economy, they’ll encounter fierce competition from established .NET vendors Sitecore and Ektron – and all of three them will be dreading the day Microsoft wakes from its dogmatic slumber and decides to develop (or acquire?) a true best-of-breed WCM solution for persuasive, marketing-driven external sites.
Still, judging from the devotion on display last week in Stockholm, EPiServer could always retreat to Fortress Sweden and hold off the Microsoft armada for years to come.