Anthony Casalena was 17 when he got his first job as a programmer for a start-up called HyperOffice, a software company that makes e-mail and contact management applications for the Web. Hired as an intern, he became a regular programmer after two weeks and rewrote the main product line.
Now he is 22 and a senior in the University of Maryland's Hinman Campus Entrepreneurship Opportunities program. He is also running his own company, Squarespace, a Web publishing service, from his dorm room in College Park.
A year and a half ago, Casalena decided to create a personal Web site. He checked out the site-management products available on the Web but none could integrate photos with Web logs, or blogs, the popular online personal journals, to his liking. So he created his own program. After seeing a demonstration of Casalena's creation, a friend offered him $500 to use the program. "I didn't think it was worth $500; I made it in a week," Casalena said. But he decided to offer his program as a service for others seeking to publish personal Web sites.
Casalena thinks Squarespace fills a gap in Web publishing. "You've got two options if you want to publish on the Internet in a managed way: Blogs, which are ultra-simple and one page only, or, if you're a business, you can get a high-end content management product that will cost you $5,000 to $10,000 and take five programmers to implement. Squarespace is the middle ground." He points to overcrowded one-page sites as what's wrong with blogging today: "People publish everything using a blog and it's too much, it creates a mess on the sides of the page. A multi-page Web site is a good idea a lot of the time. Squarespace lets you manage pages, pictures, books you're reading and journal entries."
New users sign up at the Squarespace Web site (www.squarespace.com), where they create a new account and password. Once they log in to their new site, they can pick and choose different "modules" and arrange them on their Web page. A Web page might include a blog, pictures, a reading list and a discussion forum. Squarespace users number in the thousands, according to Casalena, including some small businesses. Packages for personal use are priced at $7 to $17 a month, with free trials and discounts available.
The venture has been funded by Casalena and his father, who advises and serves as chief operating officer of the company. Casalena has no immediate plans to seek venture funding. He said Squarespace's revenues, which he declined to reveal, are sustaining it. After he graduates in December, Casalena said he hopes to move his one-man company into offices in the Washington area by March and may begin hiring staff.
Casalena sees a big future for blogging but with added features. "Most people who make sites on Squarespace want to publish more than just a blog. I think the blog will go by the wayside in the face of simple publishing platforms, but remain as an element of those platforms."