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How a humiliating moment transformed Weebly into a multimillion-dollar company



Weebly CEO and co-founder David RusenkoWeebly

  • Weebly CEO David Rusenko sold his company to Square
    earlier this year for $365 million.
  • The journey leading up to the sale wasn’t always so
    easy. Rusenko recalls a moment of doubt he had early on when he
    revealed Weebly’s product for the first time and was told it
    was a terrible idea.
  • Now, he reflects on his top piece of advice for budding

When David Rusenko, founder of website building platform Weebly,
debuted his product for the very first time before a
crowd of nearly 1,000 people in 2006, he was met with a
remarkably unfavorable response.

At an an early tech gathering led by a prominent tech CEO
in New York, Rusenko was one among a number of early-stage
entrepreneurs to deliver a five-minute business pitch before the
group of tech enthusiasts.

Rusenko leaned into the mic and described his plan to build
an online platform that made it easy for anyone to create their
own professional website. 

“After we finished our demo, [the tech CEO leading the
meeting] grabbed the mic and said it was the worst idea he ever
heard of,” said Rusenko.

“He said that no one needed to make a website and anyone
who needed to would be able to figure it out on their

For Rusenko, the moment was unforgettable.

“It was humiliating,” he said.

It was also confusing.

“We didn’t know if he was wrong,”
said Rusenko. “But it was obvious to us that people didn’t know
how to build websites. It just seemed self-evident that building
a website could be made easier.”

Despite this initial rejection,
Rusenko, along with his co-founders Chris Fanini and Dan Veltri,
buckled down on their idea.

From his experience designing
websites for his friends and colleagues, Rusenko believed that
Weebly was a product that would be successful, and perhaps also
necessary for small business owners to use for their

Turns out, he wasn’t

In just over 10 years, Weebly
grew from a lean, three-person startup to a multi-million dollar
business with hundreds of employees. Their flagship product, a
platform that makes it easy to build professional websites, has
been a tool that’s regularly used by business owners, marketers,
and freelancers alike.

And, in late April this year, it
was announced that Weebly had a bidder: Square was interested in
purchasing Rusenko’s company for $365 million.

Now, with the acquisition behind
him, Rusenko has spent some time thinking back on that moment of
doubt 12 years ago, when he was told that his idea didn’t stand a

In retrospect, he says there’s
one piece of advice he has to offer other up-and-coming
entrepreneurs who might have moments of hesitation. 

The one surefire way to kill your
company completely, says Rusenko, is if you give up on it.

“Entrepreneurs just keep on
going,” said Rusenko. ‘They don’t give up. They don’t stop. The
only way your company fails is if you stop working on it.”

For Rusenko, being an
entrepreneur is mostly about persistence.

“It’s all about waking up and
taking one step forward and before you know if, you’ve walked a
marathon,” he said. “To a lot of people from the outside, it
might look like an overnight success, or that you’ve leapt from
zero to one if a company has a big product release or raises a
big round.”

This is seldom the case, he said.
Being an entrepreneur is seldom about the big wins, and more
often tied to diligence, hard work, and recommitting yourself to
an idea  even when that idea is derided
onstage before a crowd of a 1,000 people. 

“There’s nothing magical about a
seven-year journey,” said Rusenko, referring to the number of
years that many entrepreneurs believe to be the amount of time it
takes for a company to prove successful. “Y

ou’ve just got to keep going for that seven

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