Dan Veltri – Weebly 2 of 2

“Be realistic about the challenges you face, but determined to fix them.” Weebly’s free drag and drop website creator enables anyone to easily build a website.

Matthew: Lots of people admire entrepreneurs because they appear to make starting companies look easy. We know that it can be really difficult. We want to dispel some myths here. So my question to you is what talent or skill comes easy or is intuitive for you? What’s been difficult, and how have you managed that?

Dan: One of my skills that really comes easy to me is understanding user interface, and understanding how customers will interact with the product. So I can sit down and I can think about a feature we need to build. I can sketch out how the interface should look without much trouble and it’s usually on point. We’ll work as a group to kind of refine it, but really that’s one of my strengths. When you look at a lot of web applications out there just applications in general. A lot of times you say to yourself, why did they build it this way? They should do it this way because it was a lot more intuitive. 

That intuitiveness really sets Weebly apart. I think that’s one of the skills that kind of come more naturally to me than for the average person. One of the things that is hard for me is that I kind of fit into the company as on the business side, most all of the business stuff and then a lot of the product stuff. For the first two years of the company, I did all the customer service stuff. A lot of loose end stuff and customer service, UI, and QA, and all this. But the difficult thing is not being super technical. Like I really at heart want to be building a product and when I see something that’s wrong I want to go fix it.

That’s difficult because I don’t know, it’s beyond my comprehension at this point. I have to kind of remember that my strengths at this point. The business needs a lot, we have a lot of skill on that side, so my focus should be on more the rest of it. It’s kind of frustrating some times that I can’t get in there and actually build features. 

Matthew: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned sense launching Weebly?

Dan: I think an important lesson is, and we kind of touched on this earlier. When you are faced with challenges of some kind, the start up game is up and down. You’re going to have your bright days, and your down day, but one of the lessons I think is to stay optimistic. Be realistic about the challenges that you face. But be determined to fix them, because like it’s the people, and Paul Graham says this a lot too I think. It’s the people who are the go-getters, who really don’t give up that end up coming out alive, successful. It’s easy to give up and we could’ve done that a number of times. 

I’ll give you one story. As part of Y Combinator, we were in the program in the early days. We launched on TechCrunch, we had this big bunch of users signed up, and then I was telling you, we had the trough of death or whatever it’s called. Chris, Dave, and I are sitting in our apartment. It was like a two bedroom apartment for the three of us. And it was just us working on the product. And we had this little user counter that we put up on the wall, it told us how many people were logged into Weebly at that time. 

We’re sitting there working and usually work late into the night, and we look over at the user counter and it says three people. And we realize that the only three people using the service are ourselves. So now we’re like, and to be fair it was the middle of the night, but still. We’re building this product and nobody’s using it right now. So it’s easy to give up, at various points if things aren’t working out, but focus on your value that you’re creating and why it’s important to people, and then you should be successful. 

Matthew: What bit of advice do you wish you would’ve known before you started Weebly? 

Dan: I think an important piece of advice that we got out of Y Combinator was build something that people want. Think about problems that, and this is kind of what realized as we built Weebly. I think one good piece of advice is to think about problems that normal people have an issue with. Not just like the Silicon Valley crap. Like think about your mom, or your brother or your sister. What problems do they face, and how can you solve those problems because there’s a lot more of those kinds of people then there are the real technology focused crowd. 

So with Weebly, we kind of stumbled into this a little bit, but we built a product that is in use by a wide range of people. People around the world who just need a web presence. That’s a large amount of people. So I think that would probably be it. 

Matthew: What mentor has played a positive impact in your professional development? 

Dan: Interestingly, I don’t think I have a particular person who’s played too much of a role in my development. I think it’s kind of group effort among the Y Combinator alumni. Because when we moved out here we moved into what was known as the Y Scraper, which is like this high-rise apartment building in North Beach, San Francisco. It was awesome because we moved out, we had no idea what we were doing. And then there were a bunch of other entrepreneurs who also had little idea what they were doing. Because we were all new to this for the most part.

So we all kind of learned off of each other, we were all kind of mentors to each other along the way. Matt Brezina who you had on the program recently, he was helpful for us the whole way. He was also a Penn State alumni; he kind of helped us get out here. He was going through fund raising at a time when we weren’t ready yet, so we saw what he went through. And we learned a lot from him, and to this date there’s a whole bunch of alumni that were a part of that group and that are my core friends today, and we all kind of like all work off of each other professionally, as well. 

Matthew: What advice would you like to share with the audience about launching a start up? If you have to distil it, what are the key elements?

Dan: think there’s a couple of big things. One is with regard to the team, you want to work with people who you can get a long with for sure, because it seems that a lot of companies fail due to founder disputes of some kind. You might all be talented, but if you can’t get along it’s not probably going to work. 

Think about what you’re passionate about, because I think that you’re much more likely to solve a problem well and see it through if it’s something you care about. Also, think about the market itself. Are you building a product that can affect a lot of people, and that a lot of people would want? I think the business model is not absolutely crucial right in the beginning but at least have a good idea of how you’re going to make money. Because that’s really where the value of the businesses come from. So, I think that kind of summarizes it over all. 

Matthew: Before we close, I would like for you to give our audience your vision of Weebly and how you hope it will change the world.

Dan: I think we have a long way to go. I think we’ve come a long way, but I feel like the product itself is solving a lot of problems, but there’s so much more that we could do. So over all goal is to make website creation easy, and we’ll see where we go from that. I don’t think it’ll be too drastic. We’re going to stay true to our core, and really I’d like to see Weebly as the obvious way. Like ten years from now I want people to say, oh, I built my website on Weebly of course, where else would I build it. I want that to be the de facto known way to build your web presence online.

Matthew: It’s been a pleasure having you as a guest on FounderLY, we’re rooting for your continued success at Weebly. For those in our audience who would like to learn more about Weebly you can visit their website at www.weebly.com and register for a free account. This is Mathew Wise with FounderLY, thank you so much. 

Dan: Thanks for having me.


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