Squarespace CEO: N.Y.C. startups have a creative edge, solve real-world problems

For us non-coding plebs, we have to tip our hat to Squarespace founder and CEO Anthony Casalena. The Manhattan-based company he started in 2004 in his dorm room now provides a wide array of innovative designs that allow anyone to become a savvy web builder at affordable prices.

Casalena first saw an opportunity in what was already a dated domains business space and capitalized. Squarespace took its first round of capital only in 2010 and has since raised a total of $78.5 million. So far, so good. Squarespace successfully competes with Automattic-owned WordPress in San Francisco, and Wix, based in Israel, which also sell domain names.

Last year, Squarespace surpassed $100 million in revenue and crossed one million paid subscribers. It now employs more than 550 employees and has offices in Portland, Oregon, and in Dublin, in addition to its N.Y.C. base in Greenwich Village.

A native of Baltimore, the 34-year-old Casalena launched Squarespace while at the University of Maryland but he relocated the company to New York after getting his bachelor's in 2005. With more than a decade here, Casalena makes a great addition to the New York Business Journal's "My N.Y.C." series.

What do you like most about the city?

I’ve always appreciated that New York is not dominated by any one industry. So many different businesses and interests thrive here — finance, art, technology and fashion, just to name a few. These different ideas and perspectives inform one another and create a unique energy and diversity that makes New York so special.

What is it about N.Y.C. startups that set them apart?

In my experience, New York startups perhaps tend to focus on solving real-life problems for consumers. Additionally, N.Y.C. companies seem to put a bigger emphasis on marketing and branding from the outset, which may be attributed to their close proximity to world-renowned ad, creative, and marketing agencies.

Do you have a favorite restaurant/coffee shop/location that you like to frequent?

I spend a lot of my time in Soho and the West Village, and I love both neighborhoods. It's impossible to pick a favorite restaurant because New York has so many good ones, but I've recently been frequenting Estela, Balthazar for breakfast) and all the Blue Ribbon locations, hosted on Squarespace.

Were there any major lessons you learned about starting a company in New York?

I think great companies can be started anywhere, but entrepreneurs need to pay attention to the particular benefits and drawbacks of their primary location. One initial problem we encountered was sourcing candidates with the right level of technical expertise (particularly server and infrastructure engineering). That's changed over the last few years as large companies have moved all or parts of their operation to New York, bringing more tech talent along with them. That said, New York has always had an edge in the areas of design, creativity, and branding, and that has certainly informed Squarespace’s identity.

Is there one particular financial backer that you worked with that was especially helpful in getting Squarespace launched and why?

I'm thankful to all of our investors who have contributed to Squarespace’s success. However, there is one person who immediately comes to mind. More than a decade ago, long before anyone had heard of Squarespace, the very first investor was my dad, who gave me the money to buy servers so I could get the business up and running. Without his support, both financially and intellectually, I doubt we'd be here today.