J.J. Colao, Forbes Staff
7/17/2012 @ 2:49PM
Anthony Casalena doesn’t need your help. The 30 year-old CEO of Squarespace, a website creation service, bootstrapped his company to over $1 million in annual revenue by himself, then doubled revenues three years in a row without outside capital (except for the $20,000 borrowed from his dad in 2003).
Seven years later, Casalena finally gave up some equity in exchange for $38.5 million from Accel Partners and Index Ventures. Now with 90 employees nestled in a sleek Soho headquarters, the company released Squarespace 6 this morning, the latest iteration of the its website management platform. The result of two years of work, Squarespace 6 is beautiful, intuitive software that gives non-coding civilians the power to create professional-grade websites.
I visited Squarespace headquarters on Thursday to get a peek of the new platform, and given the amount of detail involved, it’s clear how the project evolved into a two-year endeavor. “We’ve been working on this literally since we closed the round of funding in 2010,” Casalena explained. Each aspect of the system is custom-made, down to the real-time analytics and commenting system. Even Google Maps is altered to a stylish shade of black and white. Casalena expects the flurry of hearts that accompanies “liked” comments to be widely copied within the year.
With the ubiquity of iOS, users now expect every piece of software to be as tactile and navigable – hence the widespread derision of Microsoft. Squarespace 6 is the first CMS I’ve seen that lives up to those expectations without sacrificing functionality or complexity. Photos are drag and drop, resized by pulling a side. What you see in the management side is exactly how the page is rendered. For anyone who’s agonized over bits of html in WordPress only to see the end result mangled for no apparent reason, such responsive adjustments feel downright luxurious.
The release comes with 20 templates that automatically adjust to optimize for mobile, tablet and desktop users. Casalena gleefully resized his browser back and forth to show me how the photos and text automatically respond to fit any sized window. The company charges $8 a month to subscribers.
Profitable since its first year, Squarespace last reported 2010 revenues of $11.7 million. It’s safe to say that the company has grown at a steady clip since, despite competing in a fractured but crowded space full of a number of free competitors. The only issue is that I don’t entirely understand Squarespace’s target customer. For those looking to create a simple personal page, About.me provides a free, easy option while Shopify definitely handles small ecommerce efforts more effectively. Tumblr is generally good enough for a personal blog and WordPress dominates the ranks of publishing. If I’m willing to pay someone to host my portfolio online, Behance’s prosite option strikes me as a more obvious choice.
So where does Squarespace fit into this mix? It looks to me like they’re trying to take a bite out of all of these offerings, with the exception of Shopify. If they continue to lead the pack with products like this, it’s hard to see how that’s a bad strategy.