10up, a leading development agency and contributor to the WordPress project, has merged with Fueled, a technology consultancy that specializes in mobile and web application development. Together, the companies now employ more than 400 full time team members, forming a digital powerhouse with expanded market reach across mobile and publishing sectors.
“Fueled has built stand out iOS and Android apps – several of which I’ve personally used – for clients like Warby Parker, Verizon, the United Nations, and even Apple themselves,” 10up President Jake Goldman said. “Just as 10up has built some great mobile applications, Fueled has executed notable works in the web application space for clients like Wall Street Journal and The New York Times – but content management systems and editorial experience has never been a core focus and strength. Until now.”
The merger transaction was made possible by investment from Insignia Capital, a firm that previously invested in Fueled. Insignia has made Fueled’s merger with 10up its first major growth investment, paying to restructure the companies’ ownership model. All parties invested in the merger hold meaningful shares, with none of them holding a majority share.
Goldman said 10up owners rolled over meaningful equity into the joint business, “but there was also a very healthy purchase of 10up equity to make this possible.”
10up’s announcement hinted at more acquisitions in the newly combined companies’ future.
“Insignia brings a whole new class of financial and investment capabilities to 10up and Fueled, with an appetite for responsibly paced growth through acquisition,” Goldman said. “They don’t just bring capital – they also bring expertise and impressive connections.”
He further elaborated on their acquisition strategy as seeking to expand their combined capabilities “to compete with the biggest digital transformation agencies:”
In the broadest of terms, I think that we’re pretty open minded to what we find in the market, but opportunities that meaningfully expand what we can offer – shoring up weaker spots in our capabilities – are going to be the most attractive. As examples, while we’ve each done CRM and CDP integration work and strategy, I’d imagine a first rate CRM and/or CDP consultancy with some great case studies and clients would be the kind of opportunity that would be particularly interesting.
Open Source Contribution Will Continue To Be a Priority at 10up
Nearly 12 years after Goldman started 10up with what he said was “a small personal savings account and the sweat equity of more than a decade making websites and other media,” he is no longer the sole leader of the organization and will take on the role of Partner in the merged companies. Integral to the success of 10up, which Goldman has scaled to $40M+ in annual revenue, is its consistent commitment to supporting the open source ecosystem from which it has derived millions of dollars in value. Fueled acknowledged this in its announcement about the merger:
10up has long held a commitment to the open web, and open source contributions as a core value. This will remain a priority, especially towards the WordPress community, and will be further strengthened by the additional market reach gained from the merger.
Fueled shares this same ethos, which they intend to continue cultivating following the merger.
“Fueled has always been supportive of open source, even if their part of the market (mobile apps) hasn’t embraced that model in the way web CMS has,” Goldman said. “They have open sourced projects (in fact, we incidentally found that we were using one!), and, like 10up, have fully embraced and focused on open technology solutions like NodeJS and React for web applications.”
For the most recent WordPress 6.3 release, 10up had the second most contributions by company, with 290 contributions from 16 people, superseded only by Automattic, which boasts 83 contributors.
10up has consistently been among the top contributors to the software, which has been essential to the world-class publishing experiences the company has built for its clients.
“That commitment to giving back to the web, making sure there’s a ladder for the next generation of developers to climb, and helping open technologies thrive remains with us,” Goldman said. “Our new business partners understand that this is deeply intertwined with 10up’s identity, and perhaps more importantly, our success. It’s not just a generosity thing – it’s also good business.
“Merging with and investing in 10up would be pretty foolish if you aren’t comfortable with the tools and platforms we use and prefer, most especially the web’s most popular open source CMS, and you can bet that being comfortable with that, and researching that question, was essential to their comfort with merging. In many ways, that’s a validation for WordPress.”
10up and Fueled Will Gradually Merge Services and Administration, Pursuing Large Scale Digital Transformation Clients
10up and Fueled will largely operate as two companies and close partners for the time being, sharing leads and pursuing customer growth together. Goldman said the vision is not to simply have web publishing/WordPress customers and separate mobile app customers but rather to go after large scale digital transformation projects.
“That means having a fully integrated way to deliver everything from the mobile apps, to the website and CMS, to advanced e-commerce and CRM integrations (even if we may only provide one of those services to some clients),” he said. “That means we’re not just operating as separate companies in the future, but truly merging and unifying our companies from leadership and sales on down through project and product management, user research and design, and engineering delivery.”
Given that both brands hold considerable weight and influence in their respective markets, Goldman said they agreed “it would be incredibly foolish to discount that and rush to a single brand.” Instead, they plan to explore how the companies can work together.
“We honestly don’t know where we’ll land on the external brand question, and didn’t think it was fundamental to the question of merging,” Goldman said. “We’ll be exploring and researching that question together, and any change would, again, be gradual and planned.
“We all similarly agree that when we think out into the future, whether that’s 12 or 24 months from now (probably something in between), that we probably don’t want two separate, external, top line company brands competing for attention and oxygen in the space, to say nothing of competing for internal focus and resources.”
He said that could play out in a number of ways, and may be a data driven decision. For example, 10up could evolve to be the brand name for the WordPress engineering services team or the company’s open source and productized solutions. Nothing has been predetermined about the branding.
In the meantime, it appears to that the combination of companies will be a more gradual merging of services and administration.
“In the mid term, maybe the next year, we want to focus on building a highly collaborative world class sales and growth operation, unifying back office (benefits management, financial operations, recruiting ops, etc), and looking at where some of our smaller capabilities and disciplines that aren’t very specific to 10up or Fueled delivery might benefit from joining forces and achieving some economy of scale,” Goldman said.