The first three sessions at The Start Conference featured founders of the top three blogging platforms discussing how they started their businesses.
Evan Williams, perhaps now better known as the founder of Twitter, started Blogger in 1999. His company was actually working on a different product when Blogger took over.
Similarly, when he started Twitter, his company was working on podcast site Odeo. Williams spoke about the accidental successes and how he knew it was time to switch gears:
“There was no justification for doing this within the company, but it was too compelling to ignore.”
Twitter’s up-time troubles may be rooted in it beginning as a side project. At first they wanted to create something simple, a prototype of an idea. Williams explained it simply: “Then we never caught up.”
Matt Mullenweg founded WordPress when the developer of his blogging platform (B2) disappeared. Mullenweg banded together with other disappointed users to create what is now an extremely popular platform.
Mullenweg attributes WordPress’ success to its “slow, organic growth.” For several years, all the contributors had day jobs and coded away in the evenings. In 2006, he founded Automattic, a 25 person virtual company, distributed across the globe.
How do so many people work together without being in the same place?
“What we found works is breaking our projects down to the smallest possible iota… One of the worst things that can happen is two people working on the same thing. And that’s not too bad of a problem.”
Mena Trott discussed the early days of Six Apart, which she founded with her husband. The company makes Typepad and Movable Type blogging platforms. During the dot com nuclear winter, they hunkered in their apartment working on their product. They were intent on not taking venture capital, and even incorporated as an LLC to make it more difficult.
Of course, they eventually did take money, and are now a 200 person company. And why haven’t they sold?
“The company hasn’t reached its full potential yet, but we also haven’t had the right offer.”