This months interview series kicks off with Ben Howdle, founder of Ekko, a service that allows people to create a business websites in seconds, using only their Facebook Page.
With a boom in website builders aimed at non-techs and small business looking to have an online presents, Ekko is looking to make it even easier to create a website. By making everyone's favourite social network the CMS, everyone knows how to use it, opening up a previously untapped market of users.
In this interview Ben discusses how he came up with Ekko, the future of Ekko, tips for non-tech entrepreneurs and much more....
Ben Howdle - Founder Ekko
Ekko was born out of seeing the disparity between business’s up-to-date Facebook Pages, and their out-of-date, often neglected, websites. With a few years experience building websites for smaller businesses, I was aware of the pain points they felt with keeping their site fresh with new content, or even just updating their opening hours, or address. I wanted to take something everyone knew how to use (Facebook) and remove the divide between the content they could quite easily pump into their Facebook Page, and worrying about having to fiddle with HTML, or contact their web designer to update a phone number, for example. My aim with Ekko is for everyone to be able to create a website for their business in under a minute, and then never have to worry about keeping it up-to-date again.
Absolutely. I originally started as a web design freelancer, moonlighting on the side of an unrelated (different industry) job, so working in the evenings has really been all I know. I’d been building side projects for years before Ekko, but Ekko was the first idea I’d had that I felt could become sustainable as a real business. Most of the other side projects, I’d had a bunch of fun building and launching them, but very little desire to do much else to them. Ekko feels different, I can see the numerous possibilities for it’s use, and that in itself keeps it interesting. Just trying to be aware of feature-bloat, which is all to easy to slip into…
Honestly, for them to almost forget they have a website. I really see Ekko as a “set it and forget it” service. Unless you want to change the theme of your site, there’s very little maintenance to do to a site once it’s been creating and is syncing with your Facebook Page. As a small business owner, my guess is you’d rather be concentrating on your actual business, less messing around with website layouts and wrangling with CMS’s.
The competitors in this niche space (auto-updating websites from Facebook Pages) are few and far between, so as long as I can keep Ekko easy to use, and make sure the themes we launch maintain a high standard of design, I’m hoping people will see that Ekko’s a solid choice for their business. If you broaden out the competitor criteria, we’re competing with site builders, like Squarespace, Wix, etc…but I take comfort in the fact that I know Ekko will never be a site builder (in the traditional sense). With those services, you sign up, then have to spend time and effort pumping content onto a blank canvas. With Ekko, you’ve already done the hard work by updating your Facebook Page, why do it twice?
We’ve had a pleasantly surprising amount of interest from agencies looking to use Ekko to build sites for their clients, so we’re currently developing the Ekko Reseller programme, which will allow people to sign up as a reseller, create client sites, upload custom themes, and present their client with a Facebook Page and not need to provide a CMS.
It is absolutely true. Sign up with name, email and a password, connect your Facebook account to Ekko, pick one of your Facebook Pages to use with Ekko and BAM, your website is created, online and syncing. If you decide you like Ekko and it’s provides the value we promise it does, users have the option to activate their account with a paid subscription, which gives them the option of adding a domain name to their website (you can also purchase domain names right from your Ekko dashboard).
Hmmm, tricky. My first thought would be flesh out your idea and start talking to people about it. Gauge interest and get it validated. Once you’re happy with the feedback, I would try and break into a few online communities where you’d find developers/designers, or failing that, sites where you can hire freelancers are rife nowadays.
We’re still trying to figure out the successful ones, but word of mouth has been very successful. People really seem to dig the idea of Ekko and those positive vibes tend to spread. A friend of mine (who actually designed one of Ekko’s themes) mentioned Ekko on a podcast he was on and that sent a couple of people our way, one of which was interested in the Ekko Reseller programme.
Yes, the fact that there’s very little “building” to do! You’re right, there are a big wave of site builders being launched, and that’s why instead of simply trying to build a better site builder, I figured why not remove that step entirely.
I think one of the biggest pioneers in regards to this is places like Etsy. Giving a voice and a space to smaller craftspeople, artists, etc…and bringing them online is delightful to see.