How Squarespace Went From a Dorm-Room Project to a $100 Million Web Publishing Platform

Source:   —  April 22, 2016, at 6:55 PM

“Come on, you either play in the woods or have the freaking Internet. It’s all information in the world.

Anthony Casalena says he was dumbfounded when he was younger that kids would've chosen to play in the woods instead of using the Internet.

“Come on, you either play in the woods or have the freaking Internet. It’s all information in the world. That’s great!" says Casalena, who turns thirty-four this Sunday, in an interview with Entrepreneur over lunch. "I was nearly surprised more people weren’t obsessed with that. How do you not get that and think about how incredible that was?”

When Casalena, who grew up in northern Maryland, came of age, so did the Internet. At the turn of the millennium, the man who’d go on to found Squarespace was just starting college. He wanted to construct himself a residence on the Internet, but in those days, the tools required to construct a website were rudimentary and fragmented. And that was frustrating. Casalena decided to construct a better solution. He created software to bring together and unify all of the disparate tools required to construct a website below one digital roof.

“I never learned programming or design because I wanted to be an entrepreneur or create a business," he says. "I did it because I wanted to make things.”

In April two thousand three, while Casalena was still a learner at the Univ of Maryland, he started coding the foundation of what'd become Squarespace. Today, Squarespace is an online tool for building and publishing websites. It supports more than one million websites for businesses, entrepreneurs, creatives and individuals. Despite the company’s impressive growth, in those early days, Casalena says he didn’t think that he was building a business. He was fixing his own problem.

He wasn’t the only one trying to construct a website in two thousand-third, however. Casalena slowly became alert that the service platform he was building for himself would be useful to other people, too. In January two thousand four, Casalena launched the first iteration of the tool he built as a service and Squarespace was born.

While still in college, Casalena borrowed $thirty.000 from his father to purchase computer servers to host the Squarespace code. For the first three years, Casalena ran Squarespace alone. He wrote the code, educated and interacted with customers, and managed marketing, if buying $100 worth of Google Adwords can be called “marketing.”

By the time Casalena graduated from college, Squarespace was making more than $one million in revenue. He moved to NY City, where he'd the servers installed, and over the following few years, Casalena grew the business and the team to comprise about thirty employees. In those first few years out of college, Casalena and two other team members rewrote the code, improving the college-dorm room version and making it scaleable.

The goal of Squarespace is to empower anybody to be able to build, support and grow a beautiful, smartly-branded website. Prices start at $5 a mo to support a ordinary cover page, an ecommerce page costs $26 a mo to support and more complicated websites cost as much as $70 a month.

Squarespace walks customers through every stage of the process from layout design to look for optimization strategy, ecommerce features and post launch website analytics resources. In case the online instruction leave a customer feeling confused, however, live Squarespace support is available 24-7. To allow live support around the clock, Squarespace opened offices in Dublin, Ireland and Portland, Ore., in addition to the NY City headquarters. About two-thirds of the current employees at Squarespace are devoted to customer support.

Growth at Squarespace hasn’t slowed. In two thousand-fifteenth, revenues topped $100 million. There are five hundred fifty employees working at the private company.

The success is nice, but Casalena only celebrates milestones because he knows it’s excellent for team moral. He’s already looking at where he wants to grow further. “Last year we crossed 1 million paid customers,” says Casalena. “Let’s celebrate. Goooooood. I'm supposed to do that. But there is number reason that can’t be ten million. There is number reason that can’t be twenty million, 30 million.”

As it grows, Squarespace continues to sustain its suite of website building and hosting services. As of Friday, Squarespace is presently a marketplace for domains. Internet domains are the identifying string of letters in characters in the browser bar of a website. For example, “ www. entrepreneur. com” is an Internet domain. The new domain service pits Squarespace directly against GoDaddy, the behemoth in the space, rather awkwardly as notorious for its Superbowl commercial lineup as it's well-known for being the go-to space to purchase a website domain.

“GoDaddy has been around for a very long time,” says Casalena in a nod to his biggest contest in this new territory. “When we were launching and it was just me, they'd Super Bowl ads going. So they've a huge head start on us in the domain space.”

Indeed. GoDaddy is market leader. It’s the large box retailer of domain names. “GoDaddy has faced a lack of serious contest in this space. The fact that you can’t think of another space to obtain a domain is weird, right?” says Casalena, as I rack my brain trying to think of other GoDaddy competitors.

To be sure, Squarespace isn’t going to beat GoDaddy on price. Domains on Squarespace start at $20 a month. GoDaddy offers domains for as small as ninety-nine cents.

Instead, Squarespace bets it'll entice customers who have already built websites on the Squarespace platform already and are charmed by the convenience of being able to purchase a domain title within the platform. Also, Squarespace charges a premium for beauty.

The Squarespace and GoDaddy homepages themselves are indicative of the differences in the brands. Squarespace’s homepage features a rotating slideshow of glamour shots of artisanal grilled cheese sandwiches, haute-hipster slate gray manicured fingernails typing on a MacBook and a near up of paint being applied to a face. GoDaddy’s homepage, to the contrary, features utilitarian type advertising bargain basement domain prices and an orange banner bar advertising even further deep discounts.

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