FROM BREAKTHROUGH IDEA TO BILLION-DOLLAR EMPIRE: 4 SECRETS BEHIND SQUARESPACE’S EXTRAORDINARY GROWTH
FROM BREAKTHROUGH IDEA TO BILLION-DOLLAR EMPIRE: 4 SECRETS BEHIND SQUARESPACE’S EXTRAORDINARY GROWTH

Thirteen years ago, when college student Anthony Casalena founded Squarespace in his dorm room, there was no way he could have predicted the extraordinary growth his business would achieve. Because the reality was, at the time, Casalena wasn’t focused on building a business.

He was focused on building tools that could help solve his own problems.

“There was a moment in my dorm room when I was still developing Squarespace where a friend offered me some small amount of money for the platform, thinking it would be useful for his website. It helped me realize that the problem I was solving for myself was something a lot of people might be struggling with.”

Thanks to a $30,000 loan from his father, Casalena was able to get Squarespace off the ground in 2004. In that first year, his company earned around $50,000 in revenue. By 2006, annual revenue exceeded $1 million. Flash forward to 2017 (the most recent year we have revenue numbers for), and, as you can see in the graph below, Squarespace pulled in a whopping $300 million in annual revenue, which is 6,000x what it earned in its first year.

Over the years, Squarespace has raised a total of $279 million in venture capital funding. And, following its largest round of funding in 2017 ($200 million), Squarespace is now valued at $1.7 billion.

Not too shabby for a company that started out in a dorm room (or, ya know, for any company).

So, how the heck did Squarespace achieve such staggering growth?

If you manage a website or blog — or regularly listen to podcasts — there’s a 99.999% chance you’ve heard of Squarespace. And considering the website creation company now boasts more than 2 million paying customers, there’s also a decent chance that you either a) use Squarespace yourself or at least b) know someone who does.

Thirteen years ago, when college student Anthony Casalena founded Squarespace in his dorm room, there was no way he could have predicted the extraordinary growth his business would achieve. Because the reality was, at the time, Casalena wasn’t focused on building a business.

He was focused on building tools that could help solve his own problems.

As Casalena told Entrepreneur in 2016: “I never learned programming or design because I wanted to be an entrepreneur or make a business. I did it because I wanted to make things.”

What Casalena ended up making — an easy-to-use platform for building beautiful websites — turned out to be something a lot of people could see value in. So much so, in fact, that people literally began knocking on his door and offering him money in exchange for using it. As he explained in 2018:

“There was a moment in my dorm room when I was still developing Squarespace where a friend offered me some small amount of money for the platform, thinking it would be useful for his website. It helped me realize that the problem I was solving for myself was something a lot of people might be struggling with.”

Thanks to a $30,000 loan from his father, Casalena was able to get Squarespace off the ground in 2004. In that first year, his company earned around $50,000 in revenue. By 2006, annual revenue exceeded $1 million. Flash forward to 2017 (the most recent year we have revenue numbers for), and, as you can see in the graph below, Squarespace pulled in a whopping $300 million in annual revenue, which is 6,000x what it earned in its first year.

Over the years, Squarespace has raised a total of $279 million in venture capital funding. And, following its largest round of funding in 2017 ($200 million), Squarespace is now valued at $1.7 billion.

Not too shabby for a company that started out in a dorm room (or, ya know, for any company).

So, how the heck did Squarespace achieve such staggering growth?

☝️That’s the $1.7-billion dollar question. In this post, I’m going to do my best to answer it. While there are countless factors that led to Squarespace growing from a dorm-room dream into a billion-dollar behemoth, I’ve identified four key factors that were essential to Squarespace’s growth strategy. Here’s the tl;dr version for those of you in a hurry:

  1. Find your niche. Squarespace entered a crowded market. By focusing on beautiful design, they were able to carve out a piece of the pie for themselves.
  2. Hire based on shared core values. When it comes to getting hired at Squarespace, having a “designed-focused mindset” is more important than raw talent.
  3. Don’t be afraid to make a splash. Squarespace has run ads during five consecutive Super Bowls and is an advertising mainstay on several podcasts (which helps explain how Squarespace became a household name).
  4. Prioritize long-term growth. Squarespace’s CEO isn’t looking for a quick exit. Instead, he’s focused on scaling Squarespace’s mission to match his customers’ ambitions so that the company can “grow as they grow.”

When you think about Squarespace, what’s the one defining characteristic that first pops into your mind?

I know that for me, it’s beautiful design. That’s what Squarespace is known for. In a world with nearly 2 billion active websites, and where WordPress dominates the website creation space, powering 32% of all websites on the internet, Squarespace still managed to carve out a niche for itself and become successful, not to mention profitable.

And here’s the thing:

It didn’t happen by accident.

From the very beginning, Squarespace founder and CEO Anthony Casalena focused not only on developing a platform that would make the website creation process easier but also on developing a platform that would make websites more beautiful. The form was just as important as the function.

“None of the products out there took style or design into account — which doesn’t work when you’re trying to build your personal identity online. Your website is where your ideas live. It reflects who you are. And all there was out there were these geeky, bargain-bin sort of services charging $2.99 a month for clunky experiences.

Posted in Uncategorized