Lessons on Blogger's journey before Google

Brizzly founder Jason Shellen on nearly running out of cash before being snapped up

Lessons learned from entrepreneur by Bambi Francisco Roizen
December 18, 2009
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It's often said that a company that can survive a downturn is one that will thrive or have a good exit in an upturn. In the case of Blogger, the blog publishing platform sold to Google, it was just that. The startup had nearly run out of cash right after the Internet bubble burst, struggling to bring in new funds or revenue before the search giant came along and snapped it up.

The lesson? Don't give up on your company even if you're about to go under. And, be very creative and frugal and find a way to bring in revenue. Essentially, create your opportunities by surviving.  

These are the lessons from Jason Shellen, CEO and founder of Brizzly, and a key team member at Pyra Labs (maker of the Web blog service Blogger) who helped sell the service to Google back in 2003. 

"With Blogger, they had taken a little bit of angel funding... they had run out of it, after 18 months or 24 months," recalled Jason, who joined the company in 2001, when prospects for funding were not good. 

"We slowly built the company back up, with a few licensing deals, which got us to three employees, myself included, and did some subscription stuff," he said. Blogger charged for spell check and hosting without ads for about $15 per year. Blogger even allowed people to buy to remove ads on another person's blog. 

"The lesson there is, "we bootstrapped," said Jason, adding that there were discussions about who'd be paid in a month.

By the time Google came around, "we were on track to do a decent amount of revenue." 

Jason talks about how this experience has helped him to focus on revenue early on. Jason also adds that he's a big believer in recognizing strengths. It's better to go from good to great, rather than inexperienced to awesome.

"The greatest thing you can do is to have an honest conversation with yourself and co-founders and ask, 'What are you great at?'"



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