This week’s interview is with young tech entrepreneur Aodhan Cullen (24) (pictured), who started his highly successful web analytics company StatCounter when he was just 16 years old and now has 1.5 million users worldwide.
You have just won BusinessWeek‘s Young Entrepreneur of the Year. How did it all begin?
I was always dabbling in something. Even at the age of 12 I started up a CV-typing business. I would have doctors calling to my house looking to get their CV typed up and they would be greeted at the door by this 12 year old!
How did you make the leap from local CV service to a global web analytics company?
When I was 16 I began a web-design business. My clients kept coming back with the same question: is anybody visiting our site? So I started StatCounter in 1999 as a way to let people know that their websites were being visited. A lot of people saw investing money in their own website as a black hole. They were putting a lot of money in it but didn’t know if anyone was actually visiting. StatCounter can answer those questions.
When you started college how did you juggle being a student and an entrepreneur?
Studying computer applications in DCU was a great benefit to the business. Without that knowledge I wouldn’t have been able to bring it to what it was. I was able to take all these new ideas I was learning and try them out in the real world.
Many young businesses run into debt in the beginning. How did you avoid this?
It was always self-funded. We just kept the expenses very low and never took on more than we could cope with. We always had advertising revenue coming in, so whatever the advertising revenue was we spent in developing the service. Then from 2003 it started becoming very profitable.
What makes StatCounter stand out from other web analytics services out there?
One of the greatest features is that it is in real time. Some other web counters might be a day old. You can see immediately if your website is down through traffic, so you can contact your ISP straight away. We show you what page your visitors are clicking on so you get a better understanding of how people are using your site, what pages they’re finding or not finding and if they’re using your website as you thought they would.
You have operated at either end of the dotcom boom. How has StatCounter evolved in this time?
From 2000 to 2003 StatCounter was more of a pet project that I dedicated all of my spare time to when I was in college. It was only myself running it from a home office for a couple of years. Then it started growing slowly piece by piece. We started with one shared server, and as more visitors signed up we moved to a dedicated one and it just kept growing and growing. We now have over 90 servers in Texas. At the moment we’re adding about two new ones every couple of weeks.
By Marie Boran