Changing Roles at WP Engine

For some time, I’ve felt there was a change coming and today, I’m ready to announce that my role within WP Engine is changing. Starting today, I have transitioned into an advisory and consulting role with the company.

Effective immediately, I will be taking the portion of the business that focused on professional services and consulting to allow the company to focus on premiere WordPress hosting. It’s a good thing and I’m excited about the possibilities. Back in November, we decided to start taking on some professional services work to augment demands from many of our customers. It was awesome to have fast, secure, scaleable, managed hosting but they wanted more!

And we wanted more.

However, as the company has evolved, taken funding, hired more people, addressed growth challenges and built out our hosting option, it seemed clear that the professional services portion of the company was a separate kind of deal than what we wanted to focus on.

So today, I’ll be taking that portion of the company (and all related existing and current relationships, as agreed on), and working on that. Meanwhile, I’ll still be working with the company to guide direction and strategy. So it’s good for everyone.

Effective immediately, I am available for all WordPress consulting roles. However, I am also currently entertaining all possibilities involving full time employment as well, and welcome those conversations.

To contact me, please direct emails to aaron@technosailor.com. As transitions go, the immediate financial impact is something that I need to consider.

Remember When I Did Professional Services? I’m Back.

grey-xl

One of the greatest things about being back in startup life is watching our product evolve? Since WP Engine officially launched back in July, it has been a whirlwind of streamlining the product, listening to our customers and the community, growing with our customers needs and, in general, iterating on our offering.

That was 4 months ago. I’m not going to go into our numbers, but I will say we are on a very healthy up-and-to-the-right trajectory. Our customers asked us for an affiliate program. We gave them an affiliate program where they can earn money for every new customer they refer to us.

Then they asked us for a consultant plan, aside from our standard $49 and $99/mo plan. We gave them that, after talking to consultants and asking what they needed and wanted in such a plan.

Many of our customers have since been saying, “Hey, we love what you guys are doing providing a much needed optimized WordPress platform, but… can you help us with some of our custom plugins, themes and WordPress development projects?”

Obviously, I did WordPress consulting for several years. I was able to work on some great projects and work with some great customers along the way. With my book, I was able to reach into other industries and make a name for myself. I have experience with this.

So now, I’m back in professional services bringing my experience as a consultant and applying the strength of a company at my back. Before it was just me. As a result, I turned away a lot of work that otherwise I would have liked to take. Now, I’ve got the support and organization of WP Engine as we expand our offering to, again, meet our customers demands.

Of course, our new professional services offering is not limited to our hosting customers. Even if you’re not one of our hosting customers, I’d love to talk to you about delivering on a project or to enter into a maintenance or other retainer agreement.

So if you have a WordPress project or you need help on an ongoing basis, drop me an email at aaron@wpengine.com and let’s talk about it.

Back in Startup Mode… Announcing WP Engine!

welovewordpress

Since I moved to Austin, I have been very coy about what I’ve been up to. There’s a reason for that and today I can tell you all about it. Especially since my good friend Marshall over at ReadWriteWeb already has. :-)

It was very interesting. Back in May, my friend Pete Jackson, who works for Intridea, started making a point of introducing me over to Twitter to one of his friends in whatever city I happened to be travelling in at that moment.

It was in this way that I met Sean Cook, the manager of mobile integrations at Twitter in San Francisco and, when I was in Austin visiting in May, he made sure that I met Aaron Scruggs of Other Inbox who has since become a pretty good friend.

It was after that meeting with Scruggs in May that he connected me to one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met, Jason Cohen. Jason is one of the two founding partners at Capital Thought, an Austin-based incubator. Jason has also built several companies and parlayed two of those into healthy exits. I’ve come to have a tremendous amount of respect for his technical and business savvy.

Jason described to me the concept for a business that he was working on along with Cullen Wilson. A premium, WordPress platform that would cater specifically to the customers who want to make sure their blog is always taken care of from a maintenance and upgrade perspective, but also would offer significant value adds that nobody else is providing in a WordPress-optimized environment.

I’ll get to what all those buzzwords mean in a minute. Stick with me.

We started talking about me joining up with them to take this idea to the bank. Shortly after moving down here to Austin, I joined the team and we’ve been working hard over the last couple months to get to the point where we could reliably take on new customers and talk about our idea publicly.

Today is that day.

So, you’re still probably wondering what the hell WP Engine is and why it’s important, right?

Let’s talk security for a minute. There have been significant security “incidents” in recent months. Most people on the outside simply see “WordPress hacked! WordPress hacked!” – I’m looking at you Chris Brogan, Robert Scoble and Frank Gruber (Techcocktail). In the WordPress community, we know the real issues in these cases were not WordPress but the hosts that the blogs were on. Still, people saw WordPress hacked.

We take this very seriously and have partnered with a provider that has multiple levels of security including Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) outside of our boxes. We have gone to great lengths to keep our customers connecting to us in very secure ways and keep a close eye on the activity happening on our boxes. This is all very important because if an attacker could get through our outside defenses, chances are they couldn’t do anything malicious without us knowing about it.

Our infrastructure is also built with optimization and blazing, fast speed as a core expectation and deliverable. We don’t overload servers and have the means to see potential performance problems before they arrive. With our dual nginx-apache server configuration, we are able to handle sustained high-volume traffic as well as spikes that are the pain point for WordPress bloggers who suddenly get a story featured on a prominent site.

For the people who claim WordPress doesn’t scale… I call bullshit. We believe we know exactly how to make WordPress scale.

But we’re not just a hosting company. If we were that, we would be our competitors. We are also working on additional features such as “Curated Plugins” which are plugins that are entirely open source, that are popular or in demand from our customers and have been vetted from a security standpoint. These are plugins that we support 100%. This does not preclude customers from using other non-supported plugins, and we don’t dictate what bloggers can have on their blog as some of the other hosted WordPress solutions do. We just say, “Hey, if you use one of these, we’re gonna have your back”.

Other things that make WP Engine different:

  • 3 Smart guys supporting customers personally
  • A “Staging” area for one-click deployments and testing
  • We give back to the community. In fact, I made sure that I could work on the WordPress open source project, write the second edition of my book, and that much of our work will be returned to the community. Code is a commodity. The people and service behind the code is not.

We are not perfect yet, nor do we claim to be. We are a young company and have hundreds of things still to do and hopefully learn from. We are in an “invite only” mode at this time as much of the stuff we are doing and want to do is still not ready. But we are open for business and taking customers. And for $50/mo 1 for a dedicated WordPress environment that has optimization, speed and security plus the flexibility of you doing your own thing with a safety net… it’s a steal, really.

Photo used with permission by Donncha O Caoimh

Notes:

  1. For most customers