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Hi, I'm Casey Forbes from Ravelry.com


#1

Hey all!

My name is Casey - in 2007 my wife Jessica and I started working on a side project called Ravelry.com.

Ravelry is a community site, organizational tool, and research tool (pattern and yarn database & discovery) for knitters and crocheters. In January 2007 we were pouring all of our nights and weekends into the project, in May 2007 I quit my full time job to work on Ravelry, and we’ve grown steadily ever since.

6 years later we have 3 other employees, 3.3 million registered users, and about 600K monthly active users. We also have a marketplace component and about 10,000 sellers are using that to sell digital patterns for knitting and crochet.

Rav is a Ruby on Rails site. My co-worker Christina and I handle the application, the front end, ops, and everything else. We’re super frugal so we buy/build our own servers, colo them at a datacenter here in Boston, buy bandwidth and run caches to save money on S3, basically do everything we can to avoid unnecessarily spending money on operations.

At the start, we worked on the site full time for 5 months with no income at all and used credit cards and our savings to finance everything and pay for our living expenses. We were very lucky because early on we got a much needed financial boost from our community that helped us recover from that: http://blog.ravelry.com/2008/04/26/so-thankful/

Today we are a profitable 5 person company. We’re mostly supported by ads that are placed by our community members. I have a blog post with more details on the money part: How Does Ravelry Make Money?

This is exciting!
99% of the time I am living in my yarn world so I don’t have a lot of contact with other business people or other tech people.


#2

Welcome to the forums Casey, and thanks for the detailed background info - I love reading about that kind of stuff!


#3

Just wanted to say my wife LOVES your site. If she’s got her laptop open, I’ll bet money she’s on Rav doing something.

I enjoyed your “Code Monkey Island” posts though you’ve petered out on those.


#4

Hi Casey, really loved the backstory - I can’t believe there’s an app for that. The internet is great.


#5

Hi Casey, I have been following your codemonkey blog for some time now, glad you see you here.

I have always wondered how your site business model would change if you opened up your site to the public i.e not requiring a login (I realize this was part of the initial strategy).


#6

Welcome aboard! I love browsing around Ravelry, although I am about the worst knitter and the last time I tried to crochet I just made a knot.


#7

We haven’t really thought about it that deeply - the “mostly closed until you make an account” aspect of the site is part of our DNA. It affects the way people feel and interact. I suppose the business model wouldn’t really change - we’d probably have more potential income from advertising and we might find that our (small, yarn only) advertisers were less interested in that type of traffic.

With everything we do, we start with the question “how does this benefit Ravelers” so we’ll do things like make it possible to share pages publicly, and we’ve made swaths of certain types of pages public by default so that designers and others can easily link to them from outside, but there isn’t a public entry point into the site.

We do feel that having people become interested and asking them to sign up removes an obstacle right up front. The entire site depends on people sharing their photos, sharing their notes, posting in the forums, and using the various features that end up contributing back and if you have an account you are ready to do those things. Not an argument that means guest access would never work, but still important.

Another small bonus is that it’s hard to provide good community and customer support with such a small staff, but at least we know that most of the people who are emailing have taken the time to create an account and look around :slight_smile:

One thing that does pull us in the other, public direction is that we feel that the data that everyone maintains about yarns and patterns (think wiki editable IMDB, but related to yarn instead of movies) should be a resource for the larger community and not just us or our members and we could do better there.


#8

I tried it when I was a kid. I made a scarf. It was 6 inches wide at one end, and 23 inches wide at the other.


#9

I just sent my mother, a knitter, an email asking if she was familiar with Ravelry.com and this was her response:

“Ravelry is THE big knitting forum. Anyone who knits and uses the internet knows Ravelry.”

Seems like a pretty solid endorsement to me :smile:


#10

Ravelry is one of my favorite SaaS app stories as it’s one of the few where every geek you talk to about it has never heard of it and every normal person has and says it’s awesome. I’ve known Casey a long time now, such a great story to see how big it’s grown. Welcome Casey!


#11

My wife loves Ravelry. I’m not a knitter but I’m hugely impressed by the site. I seen a number of other attempts at niche social networks like Ravelry (I know Ravelry claims it isn’t a social network … but it is :wink: but they haven’t nailed it like Ravelry has. Even if you’re not a knitter, you should check it out. I’m particularly fond of its forum system.


#12

I love the Ravelry story! So neat to see the intersection of technology with a craft like knitting. My mom learned to knit on Youtube, so these things are getting more and more common.

I met Casey and Christina last year at Rubyconf and got to hear the story firsthand. Glad to hear you guys are still doing well!