Ello CEO Paul Budnitz: “We Are Not Here to Compete With Facebook”

Social network Ello, which operates in Vermont, is riding the rocket ship usually reserved for Silicon Valley’s hottest consumer tech startups.

The ad-free social network, which has to be the most well-known product from the Green Mountain State since Ben and Jerry’s launched in the late ’70s, has taken the tech world by storm over the past two weeks. The site had just 90 members at the beginning of August and employs “about 10 to 12″ people, according to CEO Paul Budnitz, who also owns a bike company, Budnitz Bicycles. But despite being invite-only, Ello is handling between 40,000 and 50,000 invite requests every hour.*

That means the site is doubling in size every day or two, he says.

So what’s the draw? Ello is thriving because the company and its founders promise users an ad-free experience. The company manifesto heroically tell newcomers “You are not a product,” and Ello says it won’t sell your data — ever. “We’re based in a state that has no billboards — it’s part of who we are, it’s part of our DNA,” Budnitz jokes.

That doesn’t mean, however, it isn’t tracking users. It does collect information, including user location, language, referring Web site and time spent visiting Ello. It does this anonymously, and explains it all in the company’s “About” section on the site.

It does not collect personal information, according to a company spokesperson, meaning things like your gender and age are off limits (you can sign up anonymously as well). Users can also opt out entirely from any data collection should they choose. In other words, Ello has established itself as an alternative to Facebook — and it’s working, at least early on.

So how does a social network with millions of users and a promise for no ads actually plan to work? We interviewed Budnitz to find out.

Re/code: You initially created Ello as a private social network for a small group of friends. What have the past two weeks been like for you given all the attention Ello’s received?


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