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Upstart Business Journal

January 29, 2014 View Original Article

Squarespace's journey from $100 in Google AdWords to the Super Bowl

The UpTake: Squarespace will make its Super Bowl ads debut this weekend alongside the likes of Budweiser, Volkswagen and Coca-Cola. Of course, that didn't happen overnight. The 10-year-old company is a classic startup success story.

What a difference 10 years makes. In 2004, Anthony Casalena launched his website publishing startup Squarespace with $100 in advertisements on Google. This year he's plowing $4 million into a 30-second Super Bowl spot (embedded below).

"In recent years we’ve grown much more sophisticated when it comes to our advertising," is Casalena's line. No kidding.

The Super Bowl talk started as a joke, but after the success of the company's first television campaign last fall, things got serious. It's a not insignificant chunk of this year's $40 million advertising budget.

"We decided to go for it," he tells me in a phone conversation we had today. "We just want to be a part of the conversation, we think that consumers aren’t necessarily choosing between Squarespace and our competitors. They just don’t know about Squarespace."

It's a coming out party of sorts for Casalena's company, which has been under the radar despite making money from year one. These days the company, which Casalena started in his University of Maryland dorm room, has 259 employees and offices in New York City's trendy SoHo neighborhood.

Squarespace features an easy-to-use website builder with an emphasis on clean design, as well as hosting, analytics and other services. Despite being a classic startup story, Squarespace is only just starting to attract serious attention. Here's a recent Fortune profile that describes how Casalena bootstrapped the company with $30,000 from his father. He didn't take venture capital until 2010, when Squarespace raised $38.5 million from Index Ventures and Accel Partners.

Squarespace's creative team, helmed by chief creative officer David Lee, developed the Super Bowl ad concept in-house, with production handled by Anonymous Content. It depicts the Internet as a seedy, dystopian hell-scape full of clickbait, security threats and spam. So, not an inaccurate representation.