Posted on Friday, Mar 29th 2019
We recently put the spotlight on Entrepreneurship in Arizona. Here, Pagely CEO Joshua Strebel shares another terrific story of bootstrapping success from Arizona.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised? What kind of background?
Joshua Strebel: I was born in a little town in Idaho called Soda Springs. I’m the youngest of nine children. I grew up primarily in Las Vegas, Nevada and was splitting time within Salt Lake City, Utah. My parents were divorced when I was younger, so I went back and forth between households. I finished high school in Salt Lake City and ended up in Arizona where I went to college at Northern Arizona University.
Sramana Mitra: When was it that you came out of college?
Joshua Strebel: I graduated in 2003. I got a Bachelor’s of Fine Art in Visual Communication.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do when you came out?
Joshua Strebel: It’s a fun story. I met my wife Sally, of 15 years, in college around my fourth year. It took me six years to get out of school. I graduated on Friday. I drove down to Tucson, Arizona, and married her on Saturday. A few weeks later, we started a business on a Monday and we’ve been entrepreneurs ever since.
Sramana Mitra: As a couple?
Joshua Strebel: Yes.
Sramana Mitra: Awesome! That’s very interesting. What was the first business that you started?
Joshua Strebel: When I got out of school in 2003, the economy was sluggish for a new graduate. There weren’t a lot of opportunities. The only work I could find was an unpaid internship doing HTML and CSS – light web design work. After a little time of doing that and not getting paid, I thought, “Well, I might as well do this for myself and at least try to make some money.” So our first business was a small web design and development agency in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Sramana Mitra: How long did you do that for?
Joshua Strebel: We were designing websites for startups till about 2007 or 2008. As you recall, the economy crashed again with the housing market. So we were looking for something to do in 2008. We cleaned up some old code we had and we launched what is now Pagely, which was the first managed WordPress hosting platform.
Sramana Mitra: Was it launched in 2008?
Joshua Strebel: Yes, we launched Pagely in 2008.
Sramana Mitra: In 2008, what was the competitive landscape like for WordPress? WordPress is already somewhat known by then. Quite known, right?
Joshua Strebel: Yes, and no. In 2008, when we came up with this idea, it was built on a prototype we had actually created back in 2006. It was essentially a platform that allowed you to choose a theme and put in your information and you create a website. It’s like a rudimentary website builder and was powered by WordPress.
In 2006, WordPress was just getting started. There wasn’t much going on. By 2008 or 2009 when we launched Pagely, WordPress had grown quite a bit. They were starting to get some feet under it. So it wasn’t quite as novel or unique to say, “We have a platform like WordPress.” That being said, when we launched in September 2009, it was still a very novel idea. We were the first to market. We had to do a lot of market education and obviously made a fair amount of mistakes along the way.
Our conversation continues here.
This segment is a part in the series : Best of Bootstrapping
. Bootstrapping to an Exit . Why is Bootstrapping Important? . How Can You Play this Low-Probability Game Intelligently? . Do NOT Go to VCs as Beggars - Go as Kings . Excess is NOT Required for Success . Bootstrap First and Raise Money Later . Some Bootstrapping to Exit Case Studies . The Buy Side of Bootstrapping to an Exit . Blitzscaling vs. Bootstrapping . Bootstrapping to UnicornsMore »» . Cinedigm Acquires Bootstrapped 1Mby1M Company Future Today for $60 Million . Mailchimp Bootstraps to $600M Revenue . Bootstrapping from Arizona to $10 Million . Bootstrapped Basecamp Executes a No Nonsense Strategy . How Under30Experiences Bootstrapped to $5 Million . Bootstrapping with a Paycheck . How Algo.ai CEO Amjad Hussain Bootstrapped using Services from Michigan . Seed Investors Who Like Bootstrapped Businesses . How iHeartRaves CEO Bootstrapped a Niche e-Commerce Company to $20 Million . Bootstrapping with Services . How The Intern Group CEO David Lloyd Bootstrapped to $13 Million . How Passageways CEO Paroon Chadha Bootstrapped from Indiana . How SmartBuyGlasses CEO David Menning Bootstrapped to $50 Million . Death by Overfunding . How RainmakerForce CEO Mack Sundaram Bootstrapped Decisively to $5 Million+ . How FormAssembly CEO Bootstrapped a Virtual Company with a Paycheck . TimeSlips CEO Mitch Russo Bootstrapped to Exit with Sage . The VC-Entrepreneur Compensation Disbalance . BioConnect CEO Bootstraps with Sophisticated Strategic Maneuvering . Tremend CEO Marius Hanganu Bootstraps from Romania . Gesture CEO Jim Alvarez Bootstraps to $10 Million . SproutLoud CEO Bootstraps to $30 Million from Florida . Tuft & Needle CEO Bootstraps to Over $100 Million . Co-founders Bootstrap Linguamatics to Over $10M from the UK . Ownership Matters . Vainu Co-founder Mikko Honkanen Bootstraps from Finland . Entrepreneur Couple Bootstraps to $10M from Colorado . Power2Motivate CEO Bootstraps to $80M from Canada . Financial DNA CEO Bootstraps to $10M+ from Australia . Big Barker CEO Bootstraps a Niche E-commerce Brand . PrecisionLender CEO Bootstraps to Over $10M from North Carolina . Master Bootstrappers with Over $1B in Exits . Ultra Mobile Founder Bootstraps to Over $100 Million . Bootstrapping a Two-Sided Marketplace to $10M . Can You Bootstrap a Virtual Company to Over $5 Million? . Capital Efficient Entrepreneurs Turn $1M into $80M . Discussing the Journey Through Failure to Success . From a Small Town to $12 Million . Bootstrapping to Y Combinator and $10 Million Series A . Bootstrapping a Marketplace to Over $10 Million . Freightwise Bootstraps to $33 Million . Bootstraps First to $5M ARR, Raises $10M Later . Bootstraps in Europe, Raises Money and Goes Global in the US . English Major Bootstraps a Tech Company . Bootstraps with a Paycheck to $15M from Tennessee . Queue-It Bootstraps from Denmark to the US . Bootstrapping A Virtual Company To $25M . ActiveCampaign CEO Bootstraps Using Services to $40M . Alteryx Bootstrapped with Services to a Public Unicorn . Inspyrus Bootstraps Using Services to an Awesome Business Model . CEO Bootstraps Using Services to Millions from Russia . Wiredrive CEO Bootstraps Using Services to $10M . Scaling to Over $10M by Bootstrapping Using Services . Bootstraps Using Services from Poland to a US SaaS Company . ButcherBox CEO Bootstraps a Perishable Meat Business to Significant Scale . Waveform CEO Bootstraps to $8M . Bootstrapped Entrepreneurship from Estonia . From Laid-off Engineer to Successful Startup CEO . Imagine Easy Solutions CEO Bootstraps to Exit . BannerBuzz CEO Bootstraps to $35M . Bootstrapping a Virtual Company to Scale . Bootstrapping Using Services from Wisconsin . Best Tactic for B2B Startups . Bootstrapping by Piggybacking from Romania . Bootstrap First, Then Scale with VC Funds . Bootstrap to +$10M First, Raise Money Later . Madwire CEO Bootstrapped First, Raised Money Later to $120M . Bootstrap Using Services First, Raise Money Later . Wonderful Bootstrap with a Paycheck Story . RushOrderTees CEO Bootstraps to $23M . Bootstrapping with Freemium and Free Trials to $13M . Bootstrapping, Pivoting, Gaining Liquidity, Scaling to $100M+ . Bootstrapping with Affiliate Marketing . Bootstrap to Exit, Bootstrap Again, Then Raise VC Money . Bootstrapping Using Services to $12M . Bootstrapping an Ad Tech Company from Paris . Bootstrapping a 100% Virtual Company from Ireland . MiQ CEO Bootstraps with Services from London . Bootstrapping to $8M During the Covid Crisis . Bootstrapping a Marketplace from Brazil . Bootstrapping Using Services from Sweden . What Should Startups Do To Raise Seed Capital in 2021? . EdTech Unicorn Bootstrapped First from Canada