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this, and that s how I found out about RSS. At that time, there were a couple of desktop-based aggregators programs that you could download. But those weren t really applicable to me because I m on several different computers every day and the quality of the programs weren t very good. With my background of building server applications, it wasn t a great leap to figure out that I should just build something for myself. So I did that while I was running this spam thing. Then it became very apparent that the anti-spam business is not a fun one to be in, because everybody hates you. You re never perfect. You either don t block enough spam or you block somebody s favorite emails. I quickly got out of that. This other thing, Bloglines which was working at the time, but I was just using it for myself I wasn t even sure was going to be very popular. Nobody really knew about blogs; aggregators were the next level up, kind of difficult to explain to people. So I decided, I d already written it, might as well just throw it out there and see how it goes. So that was it. I put it out there in June of 2003, and it started getting coverage pretty quickly after that. I realized that I should probably put some effort into it, so I brought some friends in and started doing some marketing and went from there.
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Livingston: So Bloglines was something that you created for yourself to use and then backed into doing a startup around it Fletcher: I had an inkling that it could be interesting, but I guess I thought it
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was a little ahead of the curve. I started ONElist because I wanted to start a mailing list for my parents, and at that time you had to download software and you had to have a computer connected to the Internet. It was just really difficult for an average person to put together a mailing list. So it was the same thing. I guess my advice is: solve a problem that you have, first and foremost, and chances are, other people may have the same problem.
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Livingston: You brought on some people that you had worked with before Fletcher: Right. A core group of people that I had worked with at ONElist: a great marketing person, a great PR person, a UI guy, and eventually a programmer. But I was the only full-time person until around September of 04. Livingston: Were you doing this out of your home Fletcher: Yeah, the den over there. Livingston: Was it self-funded Fletcher: Yeah. Livingston: So you didn t have to deal with any of the investor headaches Fletcher: Didn t have to deal with any of that. That s the other thing. Doing
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startups like this is so cheap that it just doesn t require a lot of money. I think I put in a total of $200,000. And I didn t do it nearly as smartly as I could have. I ended up buying all the computers. My recommendation would be: don t buy any computers. Just use the virtual dedicated hosting services.
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Livingston: Tell me about some of the biggest turning points for Bloglines once you decided, We re a real company. I assume you incorporated and did all the legal stuff. Fletcher: I just used the same company that I had set up for the anti-spam company. That s why the official company name was Trustic. I thought, I ve already done the work to set up this company, so it s just another product from it. I was using the same lawyer that I had used with ONElist, who was a family friend. Livingston: So you just did a quick shift into a different product. Fletcher: Yeah. Livingston: Does that mean that you were the only shareholder Fletcher: No, the people that I brought in who weren t working full-time were
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working for stock. I m very fortunate that I can bring in people who don t need money right away to do this; they can just work for essentially deferred compensation. So you give them some chunk of stock as a contractor. You say, You have a 6-month contract, you get this amount of stock over that time.
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Livingston: Tell me about some of the big turning points. Fletcher: We went online in late June of 2003. I guess the first thing is that we started getting press coverage almost immediately and this is even before I brought in my marketing friends. There s a newsletter called NTK, or Need to Know, and we got a big old blurb in that within 2 weeks or so. Then it kind of went from there. The amazing thing about this company is that . . . I can show you the press binder and it s literally this thick, for something that really a tiny percentage of people actually use. Livingston: Why Fletcher: I think we got really lucky because blogs in general started to become really big and the downturn was ending, so you had all of these people looking for the next big thing. Also a lot of reporters used Bloglines. They like to talk about things they use, so we got really fortunate in that regard. But there was no planning with that; it was just serendipity. Livingston: I m surprised, because I feel like reporters are often the last people to write about what s new. Fletcher: In general, yeah, but it became comical. I d talk to these reporters,
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and they d all tell me they were Bloglines users. Maybe I was talking only to people who were using Bloglines, but I don t know. If you compare the press that we got with Bloglines versus the press that we got with ONElist and eGroups, it doesn t even compare. Whereas with the first company, we had 20 million users at the acquisition, with Bloglines, we only had a tiny fraction of that. It was this huge, disproportionate amount of press for this little company. We were all amazed.
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