Some may argue that 2013 is the year of the responsive WordPress design and I can see it from both sides but I can’t imagine that anyone would disagree that this is definitely the year of managed hosting for WordPress. The trend is nothing but up-and-to-the-right as more and more theme shops, individuals, and entrepreneurs are considering adding a hosted layer to their core offering and services.
We’re keeping track of all of it here at WP Daily! We’re also trying to reach out to some of the key players and get their perspective on how they’ve seen the market shift, grow, and evolve over time.
Today I’m happy to share with you our text-based interview with Vid Luther, the founder of the very well-known WordPress managed hosting solution, ZippyKid.
1. Tell Us About Yourself, The More ‘Unknown’ Facts the Better!
Most of the “unknown” facts about me, are unknown for a reason :).. So.. let me think of something not so scandalous. I didn’t finish kollege?
2. How Long Have You Been Working with WordPress? When Was Your First Experience?
Since a little before 2005. My first experience with WordPress was a little before 2005, when I had my first business venture (startup). The SMS market in the USA was getting hot, and we built a product around that, but the marketing site for that product was built using WordPress.
This was long before people realized that WordPress isn’t just for blogging. The startup didn’t go anywhere, but it helped me realize the potential of WordPress, and how it could be used to build and maintain websites by non-programmers.
3. Why Did you Start ZippyKid? What Was the Chief Motivation?
Money, and I got tired of fixing other people’s WordPress sites.
Programmers are lazy, and we’ll do anything to do less work. After my first startup failed, I was doing indepdendent consulting as a PHP developer. People would find my site, and ask me for quotes to fix their website(s). I started noticing a pattern, the sites were usually on crappy/insecure hosting platforms, and the owner wasn’t up to date with the CVEs out for their CMS.
I would fix the problem once, but then they’d come back a few months later.. everytime they did, I made $100 to fix it, but it was annoying. We had to do the whole “find ftp password, WordPress password” game every few months. So, I asked some people who I had developed a good relationship with, if they’d just pay me $10/month and I’d host their site for them. A few of them said yes, and that was the start of my recurring business model.
I think in early 2007, I had 10 WordPress sites that were paying me $10/month. I also hosted some other sites that were on Joomla, Mambo, vBulletin, phpBB.. overall, I was making about $800/month, $600/month in profit. It wasn’t much, but I could buy an iPhone a month if I wanted, and I didn’t have to do too much work.
By 2010, I had about 30 customers, all by word of mouth, and I realized it was impossible to build a generic hosting platform for any content management application. I thought Joomla/Mambo sucked, I thought Drupal was too complex, and hosting forum sites was just a pain, with the sheer # of comments that went back and forth.
I mean someone was wrong on the internet, so we had to attack the website, the poster, and the hosting company.
Not that it doesn’t happen with some of our blogs today, but again, going back to being lazy, it was easier for me to focus on just one platform, than a multitude.
So, I started thinking about the problem with hosting providers, and customers. I realized then, that hosting companies are only targeting other nerds, not the business owners who were paying the nerds.
Going back to my epiphany in 2005, I realized what people cared about was whether their website was up, and if they could add/change content easily. I thought WordPress was a system that allowed people to do so, and I knew enough to hide away some of the basic complexities from end users like my mother.
At the time I started ZippyKid, I believe Page.ly was around, I evaluated the platform, didn’t like it, and I thought I could do it better, turned out I was right.
I’m aware of how sensitive some people are in the WP community. Josh and I are cool, I think what he’s done and is doing for the community is awesome, I think their new platform is nice, it’s still not how I would do it. It doesn’t mean it sucks. Same for WP Engine, what they’ve done is also cool.
Please don’t take my thinking of my baby as the cutest, as a knock on someone else’s baby.
4. How Have You Seen WordPress Grow and Change and Where Do You Think It’s Headed?
So, I may get in trouble for saying this, the software itself hadn’t grown that much from 2005 through 2010. It’s what people have done with it, that had. And that’s the beauty of it. We’re finally seeing the software become a platform though, which is good.
A lot of credit has to be given to people like Jaquith, Nacin, Otto and rest of the core team, that have understood what people are wanting to do, and then making it easier for them to do it. Managing a community of developers isn’t easy, we all think we’re smarter than the rest, and our way is better. Being able to herd the ego of other humans is the sign of a great leader. Great leaders make great communities.
So, where is it headed? I think towards ubiquity. The next 3-5 years are going to be all about “branded content” (thanks Mr. Weinkrantz), WordPress is the best way to publish it. You’re going to see a lot more content, and 99% of the time, you won’t know or care that it’s WordPress, even as the publisher.
5. What Can People Expect to See in 2013 for ZippyKid? We’ve heard that you had some financial backing from Automattic, how will that help you grow in the future?
In 2012 we raised some money to help us expand and grow. Right now, ZippyKid is the only company that has raised money from Automattic, 500 Startups, and the founders of Rackspace. We’ve been able to do that because of our vision for the future, of WordPress, hosting, and the needs of businesses all over.
I can’t give specific dates on features as they roll out, but look for things like test sites, clones, and some other advanced developer tools. But, our biggest focus is on simplicity, while our competitors are busy building complex platforms, we’re focusing on making things simple, and fast.
Expect a lot of improvements on that front. We made the 5 minute WordPress install into a 10 second process, now we’re going to make it even easier to maintain that site.
6. Any Personal Side Projects or Passions that Keep You Busy?
Yes, I have a personal project I’ll be announcing one in the next month or so, hopefully you’ll break the news about it :).
[Editor: Sure. *smile*]
7. What is One (or Two) Tips for Those That are Getting into WordPress?
As a publisher? Write first, don’t worry about the look and feel of the website, interesting content is what gets you a following, nothing else. Stop tweaking your theme.
As a developer? For the love of $Deity.. please read this and follow it.
If you’re charging more than $1/hr, you have no excuse for shitty code on production systems.