Internet hero finds web is all a numbers game

20 Nov 2008

This year’s Internet Hero at the Eircom Golden Spider Awards is Aodhan Cullen, chief executive of web analysis firm Statcounter. Cullen, who is now 25, started the company when he was 16.

For most people, starting up a business is a daunting task, but you did it when you were 16. How did it come about?

I was doing freelance web design for a couple of firms, and no matter who I worked with, they always asked the same question: ‘Is anybody visiting the site?’ That gave me the idea to measure traffic. After clients gave their thumbs up, I made the service available to the rest of the world. It went from there.

Ireland has been described as a tough place to start a business. How did you find the experience?

We managed to get our hands on office space at the Guinness Enterprise Centre, and we found that if you want support for your business, you’ll get it. I don’t care what people say, Ireland is pro-business.

Did your youth get in the way of winning business?

I found that, because of the internet, you didn’t have to meet clients face-to-face. Most people thought there was a large organisation behind Statcounter, so I didn’t encounter too many problems.

The one problem I did find was that I needed to pay large hosting bills in the US and was too young to apply for a credit card, so I needed to borrow my dad’s card. I had to explain the charges to him and pay back every cent. Once I got past 18, there were no hurdles to obtaining credit.

How does Statcounter work?

It’s basically a free online statistics tool. People invest money in their websites, and using this tool, they can see if their online ad campaign, for example, is giving a return on investment.

They can monitor traffic to their website, and marketers and advertisers can get the right marketing information that allows them to optimise their search.

In these tough economic times, people can use this technology to get a better return on their web investment.

Who is your main competitor, and how does Statcounter make its revenues?

Our main competitor would be Google Analytics, which, unlike Statcounter, is not a real-time tool and is not as easy to use.

In terms of making revenue, we provide more detailed analytics to our customers, who would pay for a premium service.

How much traffic does Statcounter monitor and analyse?

Statcounter analyses over 10 billion page views a month – that’s more than Facebook’s traffic in a given month. We can then see what the trends are in browser and search engine usage, for example.

Everyone’s talking about the mobile internet. Do you think it could one day dwarf the PC-based internet?

It’s very possible. There are more than one billion PCs in the world, compared with 3.5 billion mobile phones. Another one billion mobile phones will be in the world by the end of next year.

Everything is moving to the mobile internet, it’s an exciting space. The trick no one has yet figured out is how to make money out of this.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: Aodhan Cullen, chief executive of web analysis firm Statcounter

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years