In this exclusive interview, Vice President of Product Development at CoffeeCup, Scott Swedorski, discuss the history and success CoffeeCup web design software.
CoffeeCup was originally a coffee house that the original developers owned where, in 1996, they spent time developing the very first free edition of the CoffeeCup HTML editor. As the success and popularity of the software grew, the owners shut down the coffee house and eventually incorporated CoffeeCup Inc., one of today's best small Internet companies offering a long list of software products and employing over 23 employees.
In His Own Words: Starting a Software Company
LoveToKnow (LTK): In 1996, when you guys first started CoffeeCup, who did the team consist of and, what were things like early on in terms of development and plans for the future of that first web-design software application?
Scott Swedorski (SS): In the beginning, there was no real structure, just enthusiastic people and one programmer. We built CoffeeCup out of that. I don't really think at the time any of us ever thought the company would explode the way it did. Starting with just one program and then expanding to over 35 is just a dream come true.
LTK: Do you feel like the early HTML editor, CoffeeCup's first program, grew in popularity on its own, or did you have to work hard at promoting it before it got noticed by the web design community?
SS: Being one of the first editors out there definitely helped. In the beginning we really didn't think much about promoting. At the time, you really didn't have many options. When our software launched, you were dealing with search engines like HotBot and AltaVista, and things like AdWords were years away from being developed. Our biggest method of promotion was word of mouth. As far as we're concerned, this is the best possible way to get your product out there. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our users. Without them, we really wouldn't be where we are today. This is why we really strive to always make sure we provide great software and support at reasonable prices. If we can always keep our users happy, they will in turn tell more people about us. It's the perfect win-win scenario.
Software Products Offered
LTK: One of the things that many web designers recognized about CoffeeCup is that the first HTML editor (and today's version 9.1) is absolutely free. You also now offer a list of other free software such as FTP, Image Viewer 2.6 and more. Are there plans at CoffeeCup to continue adding to your free software library?
SS: Yes, I'm pretty sure we'll always keep expanding our free software. I feel this is a great venue for users to get to know us without having to commit to buying something. Our free software also compliments many of our other products. So if you really like our Free HTML Editor, you may find that you want to create a contact form and decide to purchase our Web Form Builder software. Last year we also launched our first open source program, sIFR Font Maker, which you can find on SourceForge.
LTK: Your online store lists 28 applications for sale at very reasonable prices. Are online sales doing well, and do you have plans for additional software in the near future?
SS: We are doing very well! Our software is geared to such a wide user base, we can appeal not only to advanced users, but novices as well. Over the next 6 months you will see many new additions to our software lineup, as well as updates to existing applications. We are also working on something pretty top secret right now, but all I can say is it will be big. Anyone who has or wants to build their own Website will absolutely love this.
Starting and Running a Software Business
LTK: How much of a resource-demand is your customer support center? Does it require a large staff?
SS: Custom support for any organization is probably always the greatest expense. Luckily our software is designed to be easy to use for everyone. We have a great support department that consists of six dedicated support staff working seven days a week. Since our inception, we have always provided free support to all users, either by phone or e-mail. We are also in the process of launching support and products in German and Spanish and will have dedicated staff for both of those languages.
LTK: After experiencing the last 10 years of CoffeeCup's growth as a business, do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs who may be interested in creating and selling their own software package on the Internet?
SS: Become passionate about your project. Take whatever ideas you have and try your best to bring them to fruition. If you already have some customers, talk over your ideas with them. Ultimately these are the people you are going to try and sell to. If you can show them your ideas are solid, then your job is already halfway done. And above all else, just follow your dreams.
What Makes CoffeeCup the Best?
LTK: Finally, for the web designers out there who are looking for the best web design software available, could you describe what you feel sets CoffeeCup software above the rest?
SS: Ease of use. One of our fundamental goals with any of our applications is to make a difficult process easy. When you load any one of our applications, you'll clearly know what that program is about and what it can do for you. We're also careful when adding features. Just because a feature exists in another product doesn't necessary mean our software has to have it. We follow this philosophy very strictly here. For example, with our Shopping Cart software, we could have added thousands of features and made it the most full featured application ever designed, but the program would probably become so complex that it would intimidate a good majority of users. Stepping back and looking at a program and figuring out how to make a complicated task easy is imperative.
Small Business Success Story
CoffeeCup is one of the many examples of a small business success story that started with a high-tech idea. Many of the most successful businesses come from humble beginnings. It takes a great idea, dedication and a sound business plan, but success certainly is possible.