There was a time in my life when I daydreamed about being at a startup, eating pizza, and writing code while I worked the kind of hours that would be daunting for a Foxconn factory worker. Although this period of my life predates the Paul Graham / YCombinator era (it all started with Accidental Empires ), PG and the YCombinator stories are a part of internet lore much in the same way that the stories of Apple captured an earlier generation’s imagination.
Although my life as a husband and father shifts my values and perspectives on the concepts of startups (very cool for other people but the time isn’t right for me), I still like the yarns of what it takes to have an idea and build a company out of it. This was why I tuned in to the Startup School broadcast.
One presentation that stuck with me was David Rusenko of Weebly, a company built around serving people who want an easy, low impact way of building a website. The end of the story is where Weebly is now: vastly successful in terms of revenue, profitability, and pervasiveness – some 2% of active websites on the internet run on their platform. Weebly and his crew lived the dream: a small idea in college with friends, getting funded by YCombinator, living in San Francisco and making it big. They’ve been featured in TechCrunch, The Wall Street Journal, and Newsweek, and elsewhere. It’s enough to make the entrepreneurially challenged among us say “that’s so awesome” and miss out on the focal point of Rusenko’s talk - the timeline:
February 2006 – start of coding
August 2006 - 12 new users / friends and family
October 2006 - 30 new users / signups
November 2006 – Getting Techcrunched, a quick spike in user signups
January 2007 - at 11 months, move to san franscisco, less than 100 signups / day, only $100 in bank account
May 2007 - featured in newsweek (15 months in)
August 2007 - featured in Time, 50 best websites, (18 months in), but no “hockey stick” growth
October 2007 - rate of new users signups per day inflection point to positive territory
Fall 2008 – Economic meltdown, tough economy, bank balance going toward 0.
December 2008 - Figuring out what bills to pay, more financial trouble
January 2009 - BREAK EVEN (35 months after starting)
…and now, encouraging the rest of us who aspire that good software takes a long time to build.