Now that would be a mega-first.
It seems like they are hinting at that with their recent hire of COO Heather Brunner, from Bazaarvoice, a technology company also located in Austin, TX:
With Brunner’s addition to WP Engine, the WordPress-focused service will be gaining someone with experience helping to lead a company into an IPO.
Ben Metcalfe, one of WP Engine’s co-founders, tells us that should the company go that route, it would be the first time a company went public based around the popular blogging platform. She will be charged with growing the company from its 46 employees today to 80 by the end of this year.
If this is true then they would certainly be the first WordPress-centric company to have gone to an initial public offering, even before Automattic themselves who I would have pictured to be the first, although many would see that as a counter-cultural move on their part.
Although, to be clear, Automattic was a part of a Series A round for WP Engine so they are already a soup on the kitchen, sotospeak.
With the growing demand of WordPress-powered sites, both small and as large as the enterprise, I believe that it’s only a matter of time that a WordPress company finds a home on a public exchange. Is WP Engine the first to crack that code with some strategic hires that have helped previous companies do the same thing? I’m not so sure.
Yes, heavy hitters like Brunner and other senior leaders like Nick Daines who was once the Senior Director of Customer Care at Rackspace, make it plausible that such a move but I can’t imagine that it’s going to happen anytime soon.
Also, it’s worth noting that Brunner leaves Bazzaarvoice in a very “interesting” position – she isn’t the first top-exec to leave under some very strange conditions, including a US Department of Justice Anti-Trust Lawsuit:
In November 2012, founding CEO Brett Hurtabruptly resigned, followed a month later by Chief Marketing Officer Erin Mulligan Nelson.
A $1MM in revenue in the first year is impressive but is not impressive enough to warrant an IPO and certainly not if the net profit finds itself much, much lower. And again, look at Bazaarvoice – they posted a 3rd quarter loss of $10.8MM on a revenue of $42.6MM. It’s not like Bazaarvoice is a picture-perfect example of IPO-gone-right.
WP Engine’s got the class, the brand, the technology, and the team to pull it off in time but I wouldn’t hold my breath for putting your hard-earned pennies into $WPEN (or some other fancy stock symbol) soon. I’d love for them to prove me wrong.