Saturday Drive, makers of Ninja Forms, Ninja Shop, and SendWP, has acquired Caldera Forms, a React-based, drag-and-drop forms builder plugin. In addition to the free plugin on WordPress.org, which has more than 200,000 active installs, CalderaWP’s product line includes a Pro version and more than 30 free and commercial add-ons for things like payment processors and marketing integrations.
Josh Pollock, who co-founded CalderaWP in 2015 with Christie Chirinos, will be joining Saturday Drive as VP of Engineer Experience, along with three other employees from the company, bringing Saturday Drive’s total crew number to 25. Chirinos began working as a product manager at Liquid Web earlier this year.
Caldera Forms will still operate under the Saturday Drive umbrella and continue to be developed with more resources.
“If it ever felt to you like Caldera Forms was a part time thing, that was true,” Pollock said. “It’s not true anymore.” Saturday Drive is aiming to speed up development and decrease support times.
“Caldera Forms is not going anywhere,” Pollock said. “It’s going to get a lot more focus and attention now. I didn’t contribute any code to the last release, it was all Nico and community contributors. I reviewed the changes. Kevin (CTO at Saturday Drive) and I helped manage him, but he’s ready to take over Caldera Forms from me and has all of the support he needs.”
James Laws, Saturday Drive co-founder and co-creator of Ninja Forms, said the attraction to CalderaWP was “a combination of acquiring the team and the profit potential.” With more resources at their disposal, he anticipates that Caldera will become even more profitable. Laws declined to share more specific details on the financial aspects of the arrangement but shared a few factors involved in considering what it costs to acquire a forms builder plugin in the WordPress space these days.
“It really depends on the form builder,” he said. “It’s similar to any WordPress plugin – number of customers, active users, growth trend, support load, team makeup, and so much more all goes into the conversation. Some form builders might not be worth anything. Others are worth millions. Much of it depends on the objectives of the buyer.”
How Saturday Drive Plans to Market Two Different WordPress Forms Plugins Under one Umbrella
One of the more intriguing aspects of this acquisition is that Saturday Drive already has one of the most successful WordPress forms plugins in its arsenal. Ninja Forms has more than a million active installs but is knee deep in competition with alternatives such as Contact Form 7 (5 million+ installs), WPForms (2 million+), and Gravity Forms. Although Caldera Forms is technically a competitor to Ninja Forms, both Laws and Pollock seem to be confident marketing them separately under the same company umbrella.
“We’ve been really friendly competitors for years,” Pollock said. “Caldera Forms had always been a developer tool with a goal of being intuitive enough for everyone. I think this will allow us to focus Ninja Forms and Caldera Forms on serving different needs. Neither plugin can make everyone happy.”
Laws said the plan is to keep Caldera Forms as a unique brand, since it has a different user base and primary message focused on developers.
“We will focus on this difference in messaging,” Laws said. “Ninja Forms for a long time has been moving towards being more user centric with a focus towards simplicity and specific ways of accomplishing particular tasks. This direction has certainly alienated developers who want to do deeper customizations because that just isn’t our primary goals any longer.”
For Saturday Drive’s co-founders, the decision to acquire CalderaWP seems to have been just as much about gaining Pollock’s leadership and his team as it was about gaining the product line.
“Caldera Forms has always been the WordPress developers form builder,” Laws said. “Josh is, at his core, an extremely talented developer who loves helping developers. Caldera Forms is the product of this passion. We saw a great opportunity to have a tool under our umbrella that now focused on this exciting space of developers, agencies, and freelancers that needed a tool that could be truly modified to their hearts content.”
Laws said Saturday Drive plans to slow down for a bit to ensure all four of the company’s products are where they want them to be. “I’m confident that all the products will be seeing some very cool updates over the next 6 months,” he said.
Pollock, who has a strong interest in headless WordPress setups, said he has been experimenting with new ways to use the newer React-driven parts of Caldera Forms anywhere. He has a Gatsby + WordPress test site (futurecapable.dev) where he set up a first pass at this prior to getting distracted by acquisition negotiations and daily life.
“Part of the new job is finding new ways to fill the same needs that Caldera Forms, Ninja Forms, and Ninja Shop fulfill today,” he said. “If the future is headless and static sites, which I think so, then contact forms, eCommerce, list building, etc. we need to make that easy. That’s the challenge I’m most interested in.”
I was quite surprised when I heard of this news last week. Now it is the second company in WP space that has TWO form plugins under its belt. (The other company is WPForms with “WPForms” and “Formidable Forms”.)
The splitting in consumer forms (Ninja) and more developer-focused Caldera seems a good decision and I am curious how this works all out in some months or years from now…? 😉
One thing I am wondering for years, why nowhere David Cramer is mentioned? He was the original developer and the real inventor of Caldera Forms (back in 2014 if I remember correctly). He did the heavy lifting in the early years. Sad, that no one seems to remember him or reporting what he is doing now? Would be really interested to know.
Since I always play around with various WP forms plugins, I use Ninja and Caldera in projects also here and there and like both of them a lot. So much even, I support both in my Toolbar Extras plugin also. (I love when plugins support each other…!)