Blogging into big business

SCU alums turn a hobby into a Web blockbuster

What began as a hobby for Mena Grabowski Trott ’99 has turned into a business with approximately 7.5 million users worldwide. In 2001, Trott’s need for a “creative outlet” became Dollarshort, a Weblog (or blog) of her musings on life, and she became one of what a recent Pew Internet & American Life study estimates to be eight million Web journalists. Shortly thereafter, Mena and her husband, Ben ’99, were unemployed and had ample time to develop a “better” blogging tool, she says.

In October 2001, that tool became the blog publishing program Moveable Type. Initially a pet project they figured they would release to some friends, Moveable Type “became very popular very quickly and became a full-time job for us,” Mena explains. That popularity led the Trotts in July 2002 to launch startup Six Apart, named after the number of days separating their birth dates.

Six Apart has since grown out of the Trotts’ spare bedroom and now has more than 70 employees internationally, from San Francisco to Tokyo and Europe. Two other products have also been developed: TypePad, a hosting service for non-tech-savvy bloggers, and LiveJournal, a blogging online community they acquired in January.

This growth has garnered the couple substantial praise. In 2004, the Trotts were named two of Fast Company’s Fast 50 and PC Magazine’s People of the Year. They also graced Fortune Magazine’s January 10 cover when blogs were named the top tech trend to watch in 2005. While at Santa Clara University, Mena worked for then-Webmaster Rod Myers, now with SCU’s Institutional Research office. She says the English program and SCU’s professors helped her to “think critically about everything.” Former Assistant Professor of Art David Familian opened the door for the studio art minor’s first job out of college as a designer at an educational software company. Meanwhile, Ben, a computer science major, worked on the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics’ Web site.

For now, Six Apart is taking “each day one at a time,” especially with competitors Google and Microsoft on the blogging horizon, Mena Trott says. “We’re trying to grow as a strong, independent company,” she says. “But, the whole point of what we’re doing with Weblogging tools is allowing people to communicate. [Blogging is] a way for people to talk about all the things that they’re passionate about … and it’s sharing online in a way that’s easy and powerful.”

—Michelle Mendieta Mitchell ’01 is the managing editor of two community newspapers and a freelance writer in Atlanta.

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