- WEB STARTUPS
- WEB JOBS
- ALL TOPICS
Interview with Dustin Caruso, Co-Founder Schmedley
I reviewed Schmedley back in March and thought it was pretty rad. Even though the application is in Alpha (I think that comes before a Beta) it is very smooth and the "schmidgets" flow so well. The start page space is hot as each of the major players jockey for position. To find out more about Schmedley, I spoke with Dustin Caruso, Schmedley co-founder.
Allen: Can you provide a brief background about yourself?
Dustin: There are 2 founders to schmedley – Dustin Caruso (myself) and Rob Wolf.
I worked for past 7 years or so being a web designer/developer and project manager for various projects at corporate clients such as The Vanguard Group, GlaxoSmithKline, Verizon, Certainteed, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, etc. For the past 5 years I have also been involved w/ Rob's company (launchdm.com) developing websites and web applications, and schmedley, in its previous and current form has been going on for about 4 years now – so I've had to maintain several "day jobs" while continuing to pursue my dream of building schmedley.
Rob graduated from CU Boulder (CO), worked during the dot-boom in San Francisco and then started a web design/development firm with his partner Charlie. A few years later Rob moved back to the East Coast (2002) and we started doing some web projects together and a year later I came to him with the idea for what ultimately became schmedley.
Launch Dynamic Media is thriving as a web & print design and development firm here in Reading, PA and has experienced over 100% increase in business yearly since its inception.
Allen: What is Schmedley?
Dustin: schmedley combines the convenience of "widgets" on a customizable "homepage" that act as a "front door" to a suite of more complex, feature-rich web services applications.
Allen: Where did the name come from?
Dustin: It was a cartoon character from when we were kids, it was the name of our friend's dog when Rob and I both lived in Colorado, and it was the name of my band a few years back. We can't escape the name. It also represents a spin on it being a medley of applications and the "schm" in the beginning is a common play on words to downplay something – remember Daffy Duck saying "consequences, schmonsequences", or in this case, "startpage, schmartpage".
Allen: How does the service work?
Allen: How long did it take to create those awesome looking schmidgets?
Dustin: Each one is different, some just take a few days (calendar) and other take weeks (Gmail). Most of the channels, which are full-blown mash-ups take around a month on average until everything is just right. There's also a lot of behind-the scenes architecture that has gotten developed along the way. Most of what you currently see in schmedley (the 10 channels and 9 schmidgets) have taken a year to develop by a handful of us working mostly part-time at it.
Allen: What's the team like at Schmedley?
Allen: What's the feedback like since your Alpha launch?
Dustin: Incredible. I'd say it's been about 98% positive. The other 2% are people that are either too quick to judge without acknowledging the "alpha" branding or they hate the name. :-)
Allen: Who are your competitors?
Dustin: Netvibes, Pageflakes, iGoogle, MyYahoo, Your Minis, etc. Also MySpace (after we release some new top-secret features later this year). We're most often compared to Netvibes, Pageflakes and iGoogle – mainly because most reviewers can't seem to get past the homepage to explore what else schmedley has to offer. There's plenty of room for all of us on the internet, and I think each service will continue to offer something that is uniquely cool and different.
Allen: How do you compare Schmedley to Netvibes and Pageflakes?
Dustin: You have to very careful when answering a question like this :-) – One major difference is that we're the only startpage with a set of full-page web applications "under the hood".
Netvibes & Pageflakes are both great products with more tools/widgets that schmedley currently offers. In fact there are many other Web 2.0 startpages with tons of cool functionality. The problem is, most of those products are aimed heavily at a tech-savvy audience. We wanted to create a startpage for EVERYONE. We wanted an intuitive interface that was more aesthetically pleasing, had less controls to fiddle with, and had more functionality to offer than just a startpage full of text-based widgets. We have taken great care in designing a user interface that is beautiful and graphically rich without being too "heavy" on page loads. We have approached the schmedley interface and usability on a whole as designers – not developers, and we have found that users and critics have responded positively to that.
Allen: Do you have a monetization plan? If so, can you share some details?
Dustin: Well, it's obvious that there will be some advertising areas. We built those in from the beginning so users wouldn't be surprised by us adding them later. We also are planning some strategic partnerships and opportunities for product/brand placement. Later on we may move into membership fees based on a shareware type of model – offering enhanced functionality to users for a nominal fee.
Allen: What's coming in the next 3-6 months for Schmedley? Any plans to expand internationally?
Dustin: We have many more schmidgets and channels in the pipeline – we've written about a lot of those on our blog and in our newsletter to registered users. We also are developing a special tabbed interface and a set of schmidgets dedicated to further personalization by the user. Its all very exciting stuff that I can't get into great detail on now. But I can tell you that it is a very different approach to this feature than Netvibes or Pageflakes have taken.
We will also be adding international support for the tools we have that warrant it – Weather, SMS, etc. in the near future. Complete localization of schmedley to different languages is something that will take a little bit longer, unfortunately.
Allen: Where do you see start pages going in 2007?
Dustin: I think this space is really just starting to heat up. Both Google and Yahoo have recently plunged much deeper into the game and Netvibes and Pageflakes have both made some major additions to their offerings in recent months. It will definitely be fun watching how each of these products evolve and it will be interesting to see how each one will differentiate itself.
Allen: Why should a person use a start page?
Dustin: Because its an easy way to organize things on the web that you reference frequently. A good startpage should increase your daily productivity too.
Allen: What's been your biggest lesson learned since you started Schmedley?
Dustin: Never underestimate simplicity. For instance – we would be busy building a very complex tool and then we would read the results of our user survey to find that the 2 most wanted items were a clock and a calendar. Another example – on any given schmidget or channel we concentrate on building the 5 features that 98% of our users would need and/or use and drop the 1 or 2 extra features that only appeal to the other 2%.
Allen: Which RSS feeds are you reading these days?
Dustin: TechCrunch, Compiler (formerly Monkey Bites), Wired, SlashDot, O'Grady's PowerPage, The Apple Core, Apple Insider, Go2Web2, and of course, CenterNetworks.