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Weebly CEO David Rusenko: It’s Time to Take Us Seriously (allthingsd.com)
162 points by tikhon on May 2, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 71 comments

I just booked an interview with him for Mixergy.

Anything I should know about Weebly? Or that I should ask about?

This is one of the startups that applied to YC at the last moment. IIRC David applied about half an hour before the deadline and didn't even have time to tell his cofounders he was doing it.

I usually ask YC founders why they think you picked them. I wonder the reverse. Why you picked him.

For young founders (they were still in college) they seemed unusually formidable.

Ask about how and when they scaled their team. They built this beast on a small amount of angel money, by keeping a small team. Their profitability allowed them to scale the company how and when they wanted to. I'd also ask them about their price/funnel/etc optimizations. These guys have a lot of traffic - so small changes have moved the needle a lot. Easily one of my favorite business in San Francisco.

They run 2% of the websites on the internet:

http://www.weebly.com/jobs.php => "Running 2% of all of the websites on the Internet presents some very interesting technical challenges."

I have heard these guys run a great service, however that seems like an amazing statement. 2% seems like a massive amount - especially considering the international reach that I suspect would be needed. Anyone have any stats to back that up or how they came to that number?

I spoke with David a few months ago. He said that the percentage was based on the number of active websites, which according to http://www.whois.sc/internet-statistics/ is 139,902,673.

I don't know for sure if Weebly uses this number to calculate the percentage. But probably not, since it only indicates ~2.8 million Weebly websites, and they claim 11 million (7.8% of that active domain number).

Isn't this the number of domain names that point to a nameserver rather than the number of websites?

By that metric MySpace hosts about 100% of all websites, and YouTube hosts 100 000% of all TV channels.

I'd be interested too, if we assume 1 user = 1 website, that means they have 20% of the websites that webs inc has (http://www.webs.com/company.htm) which translates as webs inc running 10% (!!) of the internet's websites, which is an incredible figure too.

One user can have up to 10 free websites in their account (and unlimited "designer platform" websites too) so more than 1 website is the average per user.

I would be really interested in their metric of "counting websites", especially in today's mostly dynamic internet.

Do they count Facebook/Google, too?

So you're saying their potential growth is limited by a factor of 50? Heh.

Jessica Livingston interviewed him a while ago. You could pick up the thread from there.

Edit: Here it is - http://vimeo.com/10123713

He spoke at YCNYC and really hammered on the 'trough of sorrow' where they didn't think it was going to work out. I think there is definitely some inspiring back story there.

David has written a bit about how they got their initial traction in his blog. Can you ask him to comment on how Weebly got their users later on - word of mouth (they have a very high net promoter score), SEO, etc?

I am a huge fan of David. He helped us in a moment of crisis purely in a pay it forward way.

Ask what he believes drives his 80 percent Net Promoter Score. Also ask if in that number matches with his actual experience (IE, is that how they're seeing growth actually come in).

Looking forward to that interview. Weebly is the kind of company we should hear more about.

ask about the company culture. they have a really great and interesting one.

Thanks. What's interesting about it? What should I know about the culture?

Weebly website creator for iPhone is an amazing experience. The hands down easiest way to make a website that I've seen.

I assume you mean it's the easiest way to make a website from your phone. Which is like being the easiest way to cook in the shower.

If someone found yet another task that today's small computers could be used for—great. The fact that these computers are also commonly used to call and text doesn't matter (we do that from their bulkier counterparts as well).

I believe a lot of opportunities in the world of mobile computing are missed because many of us can't stop thinking about modern mobile devices as ‘phones’.

See also: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2012/03/welcome-to-the-post...


> Which is like being the easiest way to cook in the shower.

is a kind of response I think you'd get if about 30 years ago you say PCs could be used for publishing.

Just because you don't want to get clean and make scrambled eggs at the same time doesn't mean others wouldn't like to.

Personally I prefer to do my dishes in the shower to save water and soap.

I tried scrambled eggs but the egg packet drop rate was worse than wi-fi.

Add a way to cook bacon, and I would buy one of these.

More like the easiest way to cook using microwave radiation.

That's too far toward useful. Over a campfire, maybe.

Why would they need or want to go public? It sounds like they already have a great product and they're profitable. Do they need to raise money for something in particular?

Going public creates a liquid market in the company's shares, which allows the owners to convert equity to cash. This ability is especially prized by investors, but founders and employees-with-options also benefit. (It's hard to buy a house with stock.)

So please correct me if I'm wrong, but put more bluntly, you're saying that it is selling your company in order to get rich, no?

Well, you're already rich on paper. An IPO just gives you an easier path to turn that value on paper into money.

No. You don't get any richer by a trade at market price. The goal is usually diversification.

I will have to respectfully disagree with pg here. Going public usually involves getting quite a bit richer by some multiple of the original value.

In a hot IPO market you generate what Adam Smith(a pseudonym) called "Supermoney" in the late 1960s.

A company which catches public's fancy can generate market values hugely over what the company would be worth in a private sale(think NFLX, think AMZN, most likely Facebook shares and so on). The liquidity and with it coming diversification is a nice plus but not the sole reason.

Of course, the company can fall from grace at some point, but even then it retains a premium over what it would be worth as a private company. This is almost by definition, otherwise the company does get taken private.

His point is that going public increases liquidity on static wealth. The act of going public doesn't make more wealth, even if it lets people convert stock notes to dollar notes.

Selling a portion of your company to get well off well retaining a large stake. Also good to have employees able to cash out more easily.

It's harder to take you seriously when your name is Weebly. Just saying. ;)

The websites! They weebly and they wobble but they never fall down!

it's a little silly, but not much more so than 'google' or 'yahoo'.

I was trying to remember how I felt early on. Google didn't seem silly to me cause it just made me think of the number. I do remember 'Amazon' sounding like the batshitcraziest name you could possibly pick for an bookstore though.

Silly names become brands, wherein the name becomes irrelevant IMHO. I've always thought so thinking about 'Tool' as a band, and how the word itself, is silly. But you wouldn't notice it (symbolism etc. aside)

10 years ago only enthusiasts could create a website. 5 years ago more people could thanks to Wordpress. What will come in 5 or 10 years from now? I feel like Weebly is coming close to that 99% consumer's needs tipping point.

I agree. I build expensive beautiful custom-designed websites on open source CMS platforms (mostly Concrete5 these days, which is ideal for the kinds of sites I do). But 90% of people don't need that and I refer a lot of people to Weebly. And it seems that most of the innovation in CMS's these days is happening with hosted services, so it will be very interesting to see how things play out over the next 5 years.

How do you find Concrete5? I discovered it relatively recently and I've been investigating it in comparison to WordPress, which is starting to feel more than a little bloated. (A WordPress installation with a bunch of plugins installed starts feeling like a Windows installation with a bunch of crap set to start automatically, with everything putting its little infobox, ads, and all manner of dross all over the place. I was turned off it totally the other day when a plugin update filled my entire screen with an ad.)

I'd love to jump ship to something a little more modern, that's been developed from scratch with today's tech instead of patched together over the years. Do you find Concrete5 a decent replacement for WordPress for relatively simple content sites?

I very much agree with 12345j, creating templates is really clean and easy with concrete5. A basic concrete5 theme has 4 lines of php: one to include header scripts, one to include footer scripts, one to create an editable area (like a widget area) and one to display it. To add further editable areas, you add the same two lines.

With Wordpress, theming is very well documented, but there are a bunch of different files for the posts/categories/comments/etc. I know wordpress themes can be very simple too, but I'm convinced that to a newcomer it's more complicated than concrete5.

Areas in concrete are way more flexible (and easier to understand) than Widget areas. When I first started using Wordpress I couldn't believe I couldn't easily set up different sidebar areas for different pages - it took extra plugins and config.

There are so many things in concrete5 that I've found that solve typical development 'problems' that other systems don't handle well. In particular, the Composer, custom block types, page attributes and block template overrides. All these things come into play when you have a client that wants to adjust something or have an easy way to add content. They're things you might not see straight away with the system, but when you find them, you're really glad they are there.

If you are a programmer, it's an incredibly powerful and well designed system. You don't have to learn at all at once too, you can learn how to create 'block' templates to tweak up some output, move on to overriding block functionality and then on to creating your own blocks.

So I'm very happy using concrete5 - it's easy for clients, easy to theme and highly customisable.

I'm a wordpress developer and am currently finishing a C5 site. At first it looked awesome, then as I got into the template development I was less impressed. It's just not as polished as wordpress. I totally agree that wordpress is bloated, but C5 expects a lot more understanding of PHP and C5, which can be hard at times, because there documentation isn't very up to date.

It may have just been me but I came across a couple of problems that should have been trivial to fix, or at least document, and that I had to search through forum posts for the answer. For one I actually had to post in the forum (ie the location of the dashboard URL, I couldn't see it in any of their docs).

I recommend trying it out for now, but I personally wouldn't build a business around it (as a developer - it's pretty good for content admins and users).

@david_nash I would completely disagree. C5 template development is one of the easiest i've ever seen. Just a few snippets of php embedded in html. In terms of your problem with the dashboard url, theres a login link at the bottom of most themes and when logged in theres a big honking button that says dashboard. not too complicated. At first I thought c5 would only be good for simple brochure style sites, but when I got into the internals I found that its a ton easier to build massive sites with than many other cms/blogs like wordpress ( a lot less confusing for the customer too).

WordPress seems to be geared for the blogger, so if all you want is a blog....

Concrete5 is for WEBSITES. yes it can do blogs, but it can also do eCommerce, Brochure sites; you name it.

I think it suites single-users and SMEs rather than big corporates (who have teams/departments for this sort of thing anyway). There doesn't seem to be much support for multiple-sites for example..

Installation and setup is incredibly straight forward, templates are mindlessly simple, there's also a vast library of free and commercial extensions and add-on for most things I can think of.

My only complaint (as a developer) is that now I have to think more about STYLE (look and feel) and CONTENT that resolve technical issues, as an author isn't this exactly how its supposed to be?

I recommend it as its elegant, simple (not in a bad way) and works.

Given the ease of setup (and your obvious technical knowledge), you could have it running on your PC in an hour (get WAMP, then install C5 on top). so don't believe any of the comments here - try it for yourself :-)

As a developer, I like it because it's more extensible and well structured than WordPress, and focuses more on plugins (they don't have to be a bad thing!) rather than baking all of the functionality into a theme.

As a user, I like it because it's smokin' easy to use!

I think that building sites and applications with tools along the lines of Weebly is going to become fairly mainstream even for people who call themselves software developers.

My question about Weebly: how do I create my own widgets? I saw something on a page at developers.weebly.com that said something about emailing someone, I think his name is Chris?

I am working on my own system based on Node.js/HTML5 which will be totally open and make it easy for developers to create and publish their own widgets/plugins right in the interface with their github accounts. I am extremely early on but I am hoping by the 7th I can have a very basic demo ready. The code such as it is is at https://github.com/ithkuil/cureblog .. on the remote chance that anyone has any thoughts related to my project.

Would love to talk. I work for another YCS11 company and we have some APIs for turning widgets / apps into content sharing and advertising tools. Let me know if you want to talk more. Looking forward to seeing your demo.

Cool I am looking forward to my demo also. LOL. What is the name of your company so I can google it, and what did you want to talk about? Oh actually it says on your ycombinator. NowSpots. Interesting.

Actually to be honest, you could create a plugin/tool/widget that would make it easy to select NowSpot ads to drag onto their site or integrate the NowSpot Composer or something right into their site, because basically my plugin frontends are just whatever jQuery you want that will fit in with the tools panel somehow (and the backend is whatever Node.js you want), but I am not sure that would be that great to come out with this platform and have one of the first things people notice is that the blogs made with it are full of ads. Just to be honest.

Having said that, the goal is for this to be a totally open platform, ideally most widgets would be MIT licensed (the part they expose at least), and my goal is to only remove plugins from the database if they are completely junk, i.e. people were just testing something and the widget just says 'Hi there testing asdf' or whatever. And adding plugins with new widgets/tools/components is going to be just a matter of entering a github login and a name for a repo and pressing the publish button or something like that.

Two things for weebly to improve IMO:

More templates. You just can't have too many.

A better undo when editing. It seems to not work sometimes. Also it would be great if it had versioning so if an employees totally goofs I can just revert.

I had not heard of Weebly before. I just looked at their website and two things turned me off:

1. No pricing information, other than “It’s Free”. Is everything in Weebly free? If it is, I assume there is not much it does, which makes me lose interest in it. If it is not, I want to know the details before signing up.

2. aboutus.php: Can Weebly not do clean URLs? If it can, then why do I see “.php” on the Weebly site itself?

"I am going to tell a phenomenally successful company what they are doing wrong"

Standard fare for the Hacker News crowd, of course, but complaining about a file extension? If you're even aware of that stuff then you're clearly not in Weebly's target market.

“If you're even aware of that stuff then you're clearly not in Weebly's target market.”

How do you know that? How does that follow from what I wrote?

Maybe I am a web designer, or maybe I am a web-publishing consultant looking for good services to recommend to people asking about something affordable.

If Weebly cannot entice me enough to get me past their sign-up form, then I will not try their offering and I will not be able to recommend it to others either.

As for “complaining about a file extension”, see alanh’s comment.

I had not heard of Weebly before, either. Usually I would check out their web site like you did to evaluate it and I bet I would have had a similar reaction.

But lately I've decided to evaluate new products by downloading their mobile app, because I think that's how more and more people are being introduced to products and services.

If I had known before embarking that it was a blogging service I definitely wouldn't have done it this way. When I think blogs, I think of the past, I think of desktop browsers, and I definitely I don't think of mobile.

So, I downloaded their iphone app. Probably less than two minutes later I had a blog running on their site with its first post.

Why is showing the file extension a bad thing? Why do you care if you see ".php"?

It’s a good question.

It is best practice to have well-thought-out URLs that do not have extensions. The reasons include:

- If your site’s back-end technology changes, all those URLs will either break, or need redirected, or be specially handled with have extra cruft forever.

- It takes longer to type and is harder to remember.

- It makes your technology obvious instead of receding into the background.

- It limits your ability to make awesome URLs, because now your URLs are dictated by how you name and organize your server-side scripts. (URLs are a user interface, just like GUIs, though they don’t get as much attention! http://alanhogan.com/url-as-ui)

- There is no benefit to outweigh the above negatives.

These are excellent points. A few of them I would have a small bit of disagreement over the perceived negativity, but they are too small to bother with. I would say it's more like there is not enough benefit to outweigh the perceived, possible, and/or actual negatives. But that seems a silly statement to make in of itself.

I think it revolves what your website actually is and how deeply invested you are in your URLs.

These are definitely a hacker's complaints. Your daughter's piano teacher won't give a shit, and he'll love that it's free.

Perhaps, but that doesn’t make it the right choice.

Here you go - the difference between the free and pro account: http://kb.weebly.com/faq-pro.html

This does seem like the perfect solution for recommending to or building quick websites for friends and family!

Just gotta say congrats to these guys. Such a beautiful example of determined and consistent execution.

I hope I can buy their stock long before Wall Street starts to take them seriously.

How is this different from Geocities or the half-dozen other me-too free, easy website providers we had the last time around the internet bubble merry-go-round? The feature lists even look pretty similar.

Or is that too long ago for anybody to remember? I worked for a startup that was racking up millions of hits a day and chewing through tens of millions of dollars in funding in 1999. Guess what? It's really hard to make money this way.

I'm starting to suspect Prince knew a lot more than he was saying when he wrote that song.

Weebly is awesome. I recommend it to every non-techie friend who asks me for help setting up a website. So happy to see them doing well building a solid fundamental technology.

If you want an interesting puzzle from Weebly, check out their jobs page: http://www.weebly.com/jobs.php

Prior HN Discussion on the Puzzle: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1892693

I just spent a solid 2.5 hours working on it... Fun stuff and I learned a lot about the Chrome Developer Tools!

For a (way too long) moment I thought their Designer Platform cost [1] $7.95/month for 15 domains... The fact that it isn't the case hints that they may provide reliable hosting.

[1] http://designers.weebly.com/designer_pricing.php

I've not actually heard of these guys before (maybe I've not been paying enough attention) but this looks like a fantastic product/service.

This looks to be perfect for me to recommend to friends and family who want me to create them "a quick website", with minimal costs.

The iPhone app video looks pretty compelling. Congrats.

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