We chat to Dave Rusenko, CEO and co-founder of website builder platform, Weebly. Dave talks about starting Weebly from his university dorm room to help other entrepreneurs build their own websites.
Please explain who you are, what your business is, and what it does/aims to achieve?
I’m Dave, the CEO and co-founder of Weebly. I’m also a new dad, a bridge player and an engineer at heart. Our business, Weebly, is a platform that allows anyone to easily create, start and grow an online business with websites, eCommerce and marketing in one place and we hope to make the technology involved simple and intuitive as possible. Our goal is help the world’s entrepreneurs succeed by empowering anyone to be able to get started, no matter the level of technology skills. To date, our mission has enabled more than 43 million global entrepreneurs to go online.
What time does your day usually start and end?
My days have been starting a little earlier lately since the arrival of our first son, Jack. I’m up and working from home by about 6am, then head into the office around 9 and stay until about 6 or 7, depending on what my day looks like.
What is your favourite part of your job and what is your least favourite part?
The great thing about my job as CEO is that it’s constantly changing. Each year the challenges are completely different to the previous year and it helps keep me on my toes. My favourite part of the job is the constant learning. What I miss the most, as an engineer, is getting into the code, which I don’t get to do as much as I used to.
What inspired you to start your business? (And what made you want to be your own boss?)
I always considered myself an entrepreneur, but when I started Weebly from my university dorm room in 2006, I never realised I could create something that would help millions of people around the word become entrepreneurs as well. It’s still inspiring to me 9 years later when I get to meet the people who have created a site or store on Weebly, watch their success, how it empowers them to chase a dream and make it a reality. It’s both inspiring and humbling to know that Weebly could be a part of what helped them get there.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
We were inspired by a commonplace problem we witnessed first hand in university: why was it so complicated to create a simple website? I knew there had to be a better way and decided to try and create something simple and intuitive that anyone could use. I wrote the first line of code for Weebly in 2006 and it continued to grow from there. We quickly realised this was not just a problem for students, but for anyone looking to grow an online presence. That’s when we knew we had a business idea that could work.
How did you fund your business?
We were self-funded in the early days, working on Weebly at nights and weekends as students in 2006. In November of 2006 we were accepted into the Y Combinator program and as part of that moved out to San Francisco in January 2007. In April 2007, we raised our first round, a $650k Series A from some well known angel investors like Ron Conway, Steve Anderson, Mike Maples and Aydin Senkut.
What do you feel are the biggest obstacles to growth for SMEs in the UK?
We know from recent research Weebly conducted with YouGov that the fear of failure in the UK is very real for entrepreneurs. 71% of British entrepreneurs say that fear of failure prevents people from starting a new business and 31% said that starting their own business was the scariest thing they ever did. Jumping the hurdle of the ‘what if’s’ is one of the biggest obstacles. But, it’s really never been easier to go for it! A great idea or product can be launched online in a day and reach global customers almost instantly.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to anyone looking to start their own business?
Starting your own business sounds deceptively simple: first, just get started. But you’d be surprised to learn that simple move puts you ahead of 90% of the people who will talk about an idea but never act on it. Second, don’t give up. Of those remaining, that puts you ahead of the next 90% and into the top 1% of entrepreneur-hopefuls.
Do you manage to achieve a good work/life balance?
I think work/life balance is very important. The reality is that it’s a marathon and not a sprint — most successful companies will take 7-10 years to get scale — and so it’s important to work at a fast but sustainable pace. For me, that means taking weekends off, taking enough vacation, being home by 6:30 most days, and prioritising date night with my wife once a week.