Synthasite LogoLate last year I was blown away to hear that a local startup, Synthasite, had over 400 000 registered users. When I congratulated CEO Vinny Lingham, he told me - with his trademark enthusiasm - that they'd soon hit a million users. I didn't doubt it, but I certainly didn't expect that it would happen so soon!

I'm surprised that more local bloggers didn't pick up on this: a million users is hugely significant for such a new web startup, especially one with South African roots.

Although Synthasite's growth was initially driven by advertising, I think that most of their new users are being referred to it by word of mouth. It is a superb product, with an truly excellent team working on it.

In case you haven't encountered Synthasite before, it's an easy way for people to quickly create a website without having to know any code. It works with a bunch of design templates that you can customize, and add functionality to by simply dragging and dropping elements into it.

Unlike a lot of web2.0 startups, Synthasite's business model isn't based on advertising revenues. They make their money from domain names. i.e. users can easily upgrade from their free sub-domain (e.g. to their own domain name ( e.g, and synthasite makes a couple of bucks from every user that purchases the domains and hosting through their system.  It's convenient, simple and adds value  - not making money by getting in the way.

When I originally heard about Synthasite, I was blown away by the vision of anyone being ble to easily create their own, high-quality website. This, and other website builders like Tank (another *brilliant* local product), allow small business owners and entrepreneurs to save money and get onto the web quickly.

One thing I'd like to still see on Synthasite though is an option to easily mark any content with a Creative Commons licence.

I've also suggested to a bunch of my students at UCT that they can make some money on the side by using tools like Tank, Synthasite and Wordpress to create websites for people. In a country where jobs can be difficult to come by, they can offer opportunities to make a decent living.

Congrats to the Synthasite team!
AuthorDave Duarte