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When it comes to website builders there are dozens of options to choose from. But, in reviewing the various services on the market, we think creating a website with an online tool couldn’t be easier thanks to Weebly (our top pick for Best Website Builder Software). That’s what co-founder Dan Veltri and his classmates turned business partners were determined to do when they created Weebly. What started as an idea in college, now helps millions of businesses, organizations and individuals create beautifully designed websites in a matter of minutes thanks to their pre-designed templates and effortless drag and drop editors. Learn more about how the idea came about and get some useful web and life tips. You will also get a virtual tour of Weebly’s offices, complete with the secret poker room speakeasy (pictured in photo), in our latest People Who Rock the Web interview with Dan.
How Did the Idea of Weebly Come About?
College! Weebly is a classic start-up story of dorm room creation born from frustration. My co-founders, David Rusenko, Chris Fanini, and I realized that the task of building a website was incredibly challenging, frustrating and complicated – our friends had to use outdated tools like Microsoft FrontPage or Dreamweaver and figure out how to FTP files to their webspace. As 22 year olds, we decided to solve the problem of website creation using an intuitive drag and drop approach and we abstracted away the coding and hosting requirements. We initially aimed to solve this problem for fellow students, but quickly realized that everyone could benefit from having access to this easy to use technology. We put our Penn State education on pause, packed the car, drove to San Francisco and decided to pursue Weebly full-time. Ten years later, here we are with 35 million customers in 170 countries across the globe.
Where Did the Name Come From?
We knew we wanted a name that was easy to remember, approachable and friendly, but we didn’t want it to be a word that already existed. Dave actually built out an algorithm that would automatically generate available domain names based on rules such as length, the combination of consonants and vowels, and the .com being available. When we saw Weebly, we knew it was the winner.
What was the Inspiration for Getting into this Niche?
Having a beautiful place on the web that you own and control should be accessible to everyone. When we started Weebly, this was an incredible challenge, and we work hard every day to make it easier and easier. We want to empower people of all backgrounds to carve out their place on the web and start selling online.
What was your Previous Experience Before Weebly?
I’ve always been intrigued by technology since a young age, but never really went down the programming route. In high school, I figured out how to build my own computer, and in college I built a social network for students studying abroad to share stories and photos with friends and family back home (this was before Facebook even had photos). I used a CMS called Drupal to create this social network and boy was it a struggle. This experience showed me how terribly challenging it was for non-technical people to create even a basic website and it served as the foundation for my passion to fulfill the Weebly mission.
What has Been the Biggest Challenge for Weebly Over the Years? How did you Overcome It?
Every phase of the company has different challenges. Initially, we had a lot of doubters that questioned if what we were building even had value. To overcome this, it’s really about remembering the problem you’re solving and listening to the early adopters. If even a subset of people are passionate about what you’re doing, despite the bugs and limited features, you know you’re onto something and need to stay focused on the solutions.
As a company grows, there are always new challenges. At our current size of a few hundred people, we have a system of people with many different functions and teams. The challenge of course is how do you coordinate everyone to execute the company’s vision in a scaled way. Clear communication, alignment, and efficient decision making are critical to get right, but easier said than done.
What’s Weebly’s Plan to Stay Ahead of the Competition?
Because our space has a lot of opportunity, we also have a lot of competition. We try not to get caught up in the day-to-day details of our competition, but maintain strong focus on building an excellent, intuitive product to solve the needs of our customers. When you think about our mission to help the world’s entrepreneurs succeed, it’s fairly broad and there are a variety of ways to execute it. As time goes on I think we’ll naturally differentiate ourselves from competition because we each decide to invest in different directions.
What Blogs or Resources Keep you Current on the Latest?
There’s so much great content out there and there’s also a lot of noise. I don’t spend too much time seeking out news, so I find myself drawn to sites like techmeme.com which aggregates the top / trending news. I’m also shown relevant news from Facebook based on the posts from my techie friends. When I’m looking for information on a specific subject, I find that Quora and Medium often have good content. That said, I think Silicon Valley is a bit insular and it’s important to make sure you understand things from your customers’ perspective.
What’s the Best Advice you Received from a Friend or Mentor?
You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.
What’s One Thing People would be Surprised to Know about you?
I’m learning how to Kitesurf.
Anything Else you’d like to Add?
You only live once, so make sure you live a life worth living.
Video: Tour of Weebly’s Office
Go behind the scenes at Weebly with Dan Veltri as he gives TechCrunch a 5-minute tour of their San Francisco HQ. From weekly manicures, massages and mini bars, Weebly really goes above and beyond to make sure its employees are well taken care of (in an old warehouse turned rave spot).
Big thanks to Dan Veltri for giving us more insights into one of the world’s best website builders. What amazing advice from such a successful entrepreneur! It was truly an honor to interview you.
Have you tried Weebly yet? If you are looking to build a new website, we think you should!
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