By Jaime Lynch, Penn State
David Rusenko may be only 25 years old, but the 2007 graduate of Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology and CEO of Weebly, an online website creator, has been making waves in the world of Web design for the past several years. In December, Forbes named him to its “30 Under 30: Social/Mobile,” a list of influential under-30-year-olds in the social media and mobile industries.
“I just felt very lucky,” Rusenko said of learning about his inclusion in the list. “I’m just kind of very honored and very excited by all the people we were able to help (through Weebly).”
Weebly, which is based in San Francisco, is a startup that offers free website building tools to businesses, groups and individuals. The company was launched in 2007 by Rusenko, his fellow IST alumnus Chris Fanini, and Dan Veltri, a graduate of Penn State’s Smeal College of Business. Weebly , which was named one of the 50 best websites by Time magazine in 2007, uses a widget-style format, allowing users to create pages by dragging and dropping different page elements.
According to Rusenko, about 10 million people have used Weebly to create websites, and about 2 percent of all websites on the Internet were started through the company. In addition, he said, about 10 percent of the U.S. population regularly visits a website made through Weebly.
The concept of Weebly started as an IST class project in 2006, Rusenko said. He, Fanini and Veltri saw that students had a hard time creating websites, he said, and they knew that many businesses were also struggling. They concluded that “the whole process is just way too difficult and could be a lot easier.”
Rusenko, Fanini and Veltri raised funds for Weebly from a variety of sources, including Y Combinator, a venture fund which focuses on seed investments to start-up companies; Sequoia Capital, a private equity and venture capital firm; and a number of “angel investors.”
The most common users of Weebly, Rusenko said, are small businesses, which often don’t have the money or resources to create websites independently. Many businesses have websites that are outdated, he said, and it can cost business owners thousands of dollars to hire someone to build a site. Clients of Weebly can use 95 percent of its features for free and can access the remaining 5 percent of the tools by paying around $4 to $5 per month.
“We have a full-time team that is constantly working to add features to make the product better,” he said.
In addition to running a major company, Rusenko has had diverse personal and professional experiences. He was born in Paris, where he lived for seven years, and then lived in Morocco for the next 11 years. In 2005, he co-authored a book titled “Linux Email: Set up and Run a Small Office Email Server.” During his free time, he enjoys DJing, traveling (he’s been to more than 20 countries and 42 states), scuba diving and playing racquetball.
Rusenko always wanted to be an entrepreneur, he said, and worked at a small technological company while he was in high school and through his first two years in college until the Weebly project took off. His advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, he said, is to “find something that’s hard and make it easier.”
“Don’t talk about it, just get started and do it,” he said.