Bellwethr Magazine

No Coding Required

How three young entrepreneurs changed people’s lives through a simple Web-building tool.

WORDS BY Mei Wang

David Chen sat in a sushi restaurant one April afternoon in 2012 after a seemingly successful business meeting. Chen, co-founder and CEO of a page-design site called Strikingly.com, and his business partners were celebrating after pitching their business to Y Combinator, a start-up incubator and accelerator in Silicon Valley.

But the jubilee soon came to a halt after Chen received a phone call informing them they had been turned down. The rejection made them realize how much they believed in their company.

Since that deflating phone call, Strikingly adopted a one-click creation tool which put it on the upswing. After reapplying and being accepted by Y Combinator in November 2012, Chen pitched his idea on Y Combinator Demo Day in March of 2013, where some of the world’s richest and most influential technology investors were in attendance.

“There’s a lot of complexity that needs to be hidden in order for it to work properly, while still allowing the person creating the site to feel like they have plenty of autonomy and control,” Rubin says.

The pitch was a hit: Chen and company generated $1.5 million. Strikingly.com functions as a simple Web-design tool, building professional, one-page websites. The one-click feature allows users to rip information straight from their Facebook or LinkedIn accounts.

“Making it easy to build a site automatically is hard,” says Dan Rubin, a London-based Web designer and partner at Webgraph.com, a design consultation firm. “There’s a lot of complexity that needs to be hidden in order for it to work properly, while still allowing the person creating the site to feel like they have plenty of autonomy and control.”

Chen declined to say what his initial investment in the company was or the expected profit for 2014, but did say it has been profitable since the end of October 2012, the second month after its launch.

Strikingly currently employs a team of 17 people with a monthly growth rate of 20 percent in both benefits and the number of registered users, according to Chen.

Kevin Rustagi, a graduate from MIT and a young entrepreneur, says he used to write code for his personal site but switched to Strikingly because of its simplicity. “Strikingly looks incredible, is extremely intuitive to site visitors, and is mind-blowingly simple to edit,” says Rustagi.

Despite its simplicity, the service has its drawbacks. Though it serves as a great resource for personal pages, its one-page scrolling design can’t handle the complexity most businesses require. The free versions of the site give you 8 GB of space. After that you can purchase an $8-per-month or $16-per-month plan to get more space. It also has very little room for customization, with the user choosing from the site’s templates.

“Change is a vague concept. But the best way to change the world is by changing people’s lives, one person at a time,” Chen says.

But the site’s best attribute is that it can be used by anyone. Walter Yu Huang Tsui, a blind customer-service officer at Marion International Forwarding in Hong Kong, built his website with Strikingly’s one-click function and the voice feature on his iPad. He used the page to get his current job.

“Strikingly provided great support when I created my website,” Tsui says. “I can send emails or call or message them for any inquiry, which is really helpful for me when building a website without technical background and with a visual impairment.”

Chen says Tsui’s story has been one of his most memorable moments along the not-straight path of Strikingly.

“Change is a vague concept,” Chen says. “But the best way to change the world is by changing people’s lives, one person at a time.”

Featured image courtesy of David Chen.

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