David Rusenko – Weebly 1 of 2

“The best UX decisions are the ones you don’t even notice.” Weebly’s free drag and drop website creator enables anyone to easily build a website.

Matthew:
Hi, this is Matthew Wise with FounderLY.com. We empower entrepreneurs to have a voice and share their story with the world, enabling others to learn about building products and starting companies. So I’m really excited today, because I’m here with David Rusenko, founder of Weebly. Weebly is a free service that enables anyone to easily create a website by dragging and dropping content widgets like photos, text, video, and other components with the click of your mouse. David, we’d love for you to give our audience a brief bio.
David:
Sure, so my name’s David Rusenko, I grew up in… was born in France, in Paris, lived the first seven years there, lived the next 11 years in Morocco. Moved to Penn State to go to school and that’s where I met Dan and Chris, my two cofounders, at Penn State.
Matthew:
What is Weebly, what makes it unique, who is it for, and why are you so passionate about it?
David:
Weebly is the easiest way to create a website for absolutely anybody. So, traditionally making a website has been actually kind of difficult; you either had to know how to program or you’ve had to know how to do some fairly complicated things, and traditionally making a website has been done in a word processing interface, so FrontPage traditionally has been sort of just a text document interface. One of our early initial realizations was that a word processing interface, if you use that to make a Web page you don’t make a Web page, you make an online Word document, and so we thought, “We can do better than this. Web pages have these unique aspects; let’s create a tool to help people actually, you know, make good-looking, you know, standards-compliant, beautiful websites without knowing how to have to code at all.”
Matthew:
What are some of the technology and market trends that currently exist, and where do you see things developing in the future for your space?
David:
Sure. So, one of the reasons that blogs took off so strongly was that it turns out that was one of the easiest ways to get a website out there and there weren’t other tools really available, so people would sort of flock to blogs as this website, you know, parallel. But blogs are great for a lot of things, but they’re not that great for making your average website, so what we’re seeing now is just a whole lot of people that were never able to create a website before who are now able to do that. When you look at the number of websites out there there’s, you know, according to Netcraft there’s 255 million websites as of the end of 2010. There are many, many more people now on the Internet; that’s sort of an elitist-type situation where there have been very… a very small percentage of the population has been able to create a website, and we think that should change.
Matthew:
What led you to this opportunity? Was there an aha! moment? How’d you discover the idea? We would love to hear the story behind that.
David:
Sure. So, while we were at Penn State, I was in the classes, this really vague goal, spring semester my junior year and the goal was just create a Web app. So this super-vague goal for the class and we were brainstorming on different Web app ideas and one of those was that a lot… at Penn state every student has to create a portfolio, which is just sort of an online résumé. And so we thought, you know, first of all that process was very difficult: you had to open up FrontPage, you had to sort of create this semi-website thing, upload it via SFTP to the Penn State Web servers, make sure your images are resized properly, make sure the links are set up properly for your menu, all that stuff. It was really, really difficult, so that was the initial inspiration, thinking “We can make this process a whole lot easier.”
Matthew:
Who are your cofounders, how’d you meet, and what qualities or skills were you looking for and how did you know they’d be a good fit?
David:
Sure, so the first cofounder I met is Dan Veltri. We met freshman year in the dorms at Penn State; he’s what I’d call semi-technical—yeah, he knows HTML, CSS, but not super in-depth technical guy. He was a finance major at Penn State, he started Follow Me Abroad, this sort of online social network for travelers while he was at Penn State with very limited technical skills, which is super impressive. And so that’s where we met is in the dorms freshman year, and he’s got a really awesome range of skill sets where he can do the business side of things, he can do… and, but he can also do everything else so he initially built up our support team, he initially, you know, was building up our marketing, he’s doing sort of, handling a whole lot of things that aren’t on the technical side. And then my other cofounder, Chris Fanini, I also met him through a friend, a very close friend at Penn State. He also went to Penn State and he’s a super-technical person, started a medium-sized regional ISP in the Philadelphia area, and super in the infrastructure. Really, really smart guy.
Matthew:
From idea to product launch, how long did it take and when did you actually launch Weebly?
David:
So, it took us awhile. As you can imagine, it’s not the easiest product to create in the world, there’s definitely a lot of depth and complexity to it, so, from the very first line of code written was in January 2006. We worked on it part time throughout that summer, so basically through the summer we all had internships we worked on part time, then in the fall we were continuing to work on it part time, applied to (unintelligible – 0:05:21.5) got accepted in the (unintelligible – 0:05:22.6) moved out here in January 2007 and started working on it full time and we’ve been working on it full time since then.
Matthew:
Are there any unique metrics or social proof about Weebly that you’d like to share with our audience?
David:
Sure, we… as of this point we have over six-and-a-half-million websites created by Weebly users, and every month over five percent of the United States visits a Weebly-made website. Now, you might not know it’s a Weebly-made website because there… a lot of times there’s no branding, but we host a fairly significant percentage of all the websites on the Internet.
Matthew:
We know founders face unique challenges when they decide to start a company. What was the hardest part about starting Weebly, and how did you overcome this obstacle?
David:
I think, you know, for us I think we’ve been really lucky. There are a lot of challenges and we’ve had challenges, but there aren’t a lot of challenges that seemed like a company killer early on. And I think the… probably the biggest thing that we overcame just inadvertently, due to sheer inexperience, was… just was the sheer excitement of having 15 users sign up per day when we launched was amazing for us and that’s the kind of innocence you can’t go back to, but once you lose that you die. I mean, once you see, once you have a product that is signing up thousands or tens of thousands users per day it’s really hard to get excited about 15, but we were really, really excited back in the day. We used to have this user counter on the wall and at 3 in the morning when we were all working in the apartment it said, like, three people logged in, now it’s the three of us and the first time at 3 in the morning we saw four people logged in we got super pumped, right? So, and I think because of that, because we were excited about 100 people signing up per day, you know, that was a huge number for us and because we were excited about that we didn’t scrap the idea early. I think that was really the key to getting going, was the fact that, you know, we wanna be yours, without what you’d consider these days a lot of traction. But it was just a slow simmer that turned into a boil that now has really been exploding.

 
 

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