Ben and Mena Trott


Six Apart
39 minutes, 13.4mb, recorded 2004-05-05
Ben and Mena Trott
We buy and download software from faceless companies all the time. (Quick: Can you name the author of the programs on your PC or Mac?) But some companies are as well known for their founders and CEOs as for the products and services they provide. While still a tiny startup, Six Apart is already in this group. Not only has the company carved out a leading position in the nascent niche of blogging tools, its founders, Ben and Mena Trott, have aquired personal reputations among their customers and critics alike. Some say there's a mystique surrounding Six Apart.

Ben and Mena may be the classic examples of founders who succeed because they don't know what they're not supposed to be able to do. Prior to version 3.0, Movable Type was donation-ware and the average contribution was only US$0.38. That's probably not too shabby compared to others, but it wasn't going to support what the team has in mind for the future. Six Apart recently brought in outside funding and members of its board, and the company is changing rapidly.

IT Conversations' producer Doug Kaye sat down with this husband-and-wife team on the eve of the launch of Movable Type 3.0 to find out what's behind Ben and Mena's public image and the company they're building. The couple has been dating since they were 17 years old, and the company name reflects that their birthdays are six days apart. But beyond the tabloid questions, you'll find they're truly passionate about their products, employees, and customer and developer communities.

In this deeply personal interview you'll hear how Ben and Mena have struggled with the challenges of growth from a two-person shop to nearly 30 employees on three continents in just six months. You'll appreciate their angst over charging for MT 3.0 for fear they'll offend their customers. Quite a contrast to those little utilities you download for $29.95 and never use again. (A limited personal-use license of MT 3.0 is still free.) Now they're dealing with the controversy surrounding TypeKey, their hosted identity service for weblog comments. Hasn't Microsoft tried the same thing with Passport? Hear why Ben and Mena think TypeKey is different.

If you've ever had the urge to start your own software company, with or without your spouse or significant other, you'll enjoy listening to or reading this conversation. If you're a TypePad or Movable Type customer, you'll learn a lot about the people behind the code.

This free podcast is from our Behind the Mic series.