Blogging for Dollars
(Business 2.0) – In August 2001, Ben and Mena Trott joined what was then Silicon Valley's fastest-growing demographic: dotcommers without jobs. Laid off by an Internet design firm, the programmer and his Web designer wife began publishing a weblog to idle away their unemployment. Not satisfied with the available blogging software, the Trotts sat down to write a better program.
The result--an elegant content manager called Movable Type--became an instant hit. Posted in October 2001, Movable Type powered more than 20,000 weblogs within a year. It has been downloaded half a million times, and the roster of users includes publishers Primedia and Gruner & Jahr. "It's the gold standard," says Rafat Ali, editor of PaidContent.org, an online publication that tracks digital content.
Inevitably, Movable Type's success attracted moneyed types. When Tokyo-based VC Neoteny came calling, the two dotcom refugees nervously agreed to accept some funding to take their accidental enterprise to the next level. As Mena explains, "We saw what happened to those who raised venture capital during the boom."
The investment was modest, though the exact amount hasn't been disclosed. Yet the Trotts' San Mateo, Calif., business, Six Apart (the name refers to the six-day gap between Ben's and Mena's birth dates), expects the money to go a long way. By December, the company says, it will have 10,000 users of its latest product, TypePad, each paying $10 a month for hosted weblog services. With just five full-time employees, including the Trotts, Six Apart is on track to have positive cash flow by year's end.
Six Apart doesn't have the field to itself, however. Blogger, a weblog publishing service that entered the business three years before Movable Type, has 1.5 million users. The software is less powerful, but it also has the deep pockets of Google to draw upon; the search engine powerhouse acquired Blogger in February.
As Blogger and Six Apart duke it out, blogging continues to explode in popularity. Microsoft and Yahoo are said to be eyeing the market. If either decides to make an acquisition, Six Apart may wind up with some deep pockets of its own. --OM MALIK