#37 – Jonathan Wold on How Partnerships Might Help Your WordPress Business

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#37 – Jonathan Wold on How Partnerships Might Help Your WordPress Business
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On the podcast today we have Jonathan Wold.

Jonathan joined the WordPress community seventeen years ago, and he’s been here ever since.

He likes to think about WordPress as an operating system for creating on the open web, and invests his time and energy into growing the WordPress ecosystem.

With that in mind he gave a talk at the recent WordCamp Europe called “Growing in WordPress through partnerships”, in which he laid out his thoughts on how WordPress companies can enable greater growth by joining with other, like minded companies.

There’s a lot of WordPress products out there, and whilst building a product can be a challenge, getting that product into the market, gaining growth and recognition can be another hurdle altogether.

Jonathan talks today about how strategic partnerships can, in some cases, make the job of selling a product easier and more rewarding.

We talk about how the WordPress ecosystem has grown over time, and how discoverability of your product is harder now that it used to be.

We discuss the fact that WordPress has a heritage of solopreneurs who might not be as good at marketing as they are at coding, and how joining forces with partners can make it easier to succeed in the marketplace.

Are partnerships for everyone, or are they only for a subset of companies? How do you go about finding a partner and what are the ways that you can ensure that you’re working with the companies which offer the most benefit to you and your customers?

Typically, when we record the podcast, there’s not a lot of background noise, but that’s not always the case with these WordCamp Europe interviews. We were competing against crowds and the air-conditioning. Whilst the podcasts are more than listenable, I hope that you understand that the vagaries of the real world were at play.

Transcript

[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome to the Jukebox podcast from WP Tavern. My name is Nathan Wrigley. Jukebox is a podcast, which is dedicated to all things WordPress. The people, the events, the plugins, the blocks, the themes, and in this case, creating partnerships to grow your WordPress business.

If you’d like to subscribe to the podcast, you can do that by searching for WP Tavern in your podcast player of choice. Or by going to WP Tavern dot com forward slash feed forward slash podcast. And you can copy that URL into most podcast players.

If you have a topic that you’d like us to feature on the podcast, I’m keen to hear from you, and hopefully we can get you or your idea featured on the show. Head over to WP Tavern dot com forward slash contact forward slash jukebox. And use the contact form there.

So on the podcast today we have Jonathan Wold. Jonathan joined the WordPress community 17 years ago. And he’s been here ever since. He likes to think about WordPress as an operating system for creating on the open web, and invests his time and energy into growing the WordPress ecosystem.

With that in mind, he gave a talk at the recent WordCamp Europe called growing in WordPress through partnerships, in which he laid out his thoughts on how WordPress companies can enable greater growth by joining with other like-minded companies.

There’s a lot of WordPress products out there. And whilst building a product can be a challenge, getting that product into the market, gaining growth and recognition can be another hurdle all together.

Jonathan talks today about how strategic partnerships can, in some cases, make the job of selling a product easier and more rewarding. We talk about how the WordPress ecosystem has grown over time, and how discoverability of your product is harder now than it used to be. We discussed the fact that WordPress has a heritage of solopreneurs who might not be as good at marketing as they are at coding. And how joining forces with partners can make it easier to succeed in the marketplace.

Are partnerships for everyone, or are they only for a subset of companies? How do you go about finding a partner and what are the ways that you can ensure that you’re working with the companies which offer the most benefit to you and your customers?

Typically when we record the podcast there’s not a lot of background noise. But that’s not the case with these WordCamp Europe interviews. We were competing against crowds and the air conditioning, and whilst the podcasts are more than listenable. I hope that you understand that the vagaries of the real world we’re at play.

If you’re interested in finding out more, you can find all of the links in the show notes by heading over to WP Tavern dot com forward slash podcast, where you’ll find all of the other episodes as well. And so, without further delay, I bring you Jonathan Wold.

I am joined on the podcast by Jonathan Wold. Hello?

[00:03:43] Jonathan Wold: Hey Nathan, how are you?

[00:03:44] Nathan Wrigley: Oh, you sound truly excellent on this microphone.

[00:03:47] Jonathan Wold: We have an awesome little set here.

[00:03:49] Nathan Wrigley: Yes. Well, we’re in the bowels of the Super Bock Arena in the most undiscoverable bit, but you’ve managed to find me. It’s early morning. It’s the first day. We’re you here yesterday?

[00:03:59] Jonathan Wold: Yeah, contributor day was fantastic. It’s so good to see so many faces, including faces that I thought I’d seen before, but hadn’t. You find out that people are taller or shorter than you expected.

[00:04:09] Nathan Wrigley: That’s right. Over Zoom over the last couple of years, you’ve basically been reduced to a postage stamp.

[00:04:13] Jonathan Wold:Yes.

[00:04:14] Nathan Wrigley: And people actually have legs. Yeah. So what did you contribute to, what was your bit?

[00:04:18] Jonathan Wold: I floated around. Mostly trying to support other folks. There are a lot of first time contributors yesterday, which is fantastic. It’s so good to see that. So I did what I could to support them.

[00:04:26] Nathan Wrigley: My understanding was that it was about 60% of people who showed up today will be first timers.

[00:04:33] Jonathan Wold: Yeah I think that’s fantastic. Like it’s so good to see so many returning faces, but really we want to see the new people coming in.

[00:04:40] Nathan Wrigley: You’re doing a talk we’re gonna talk about that I think. Tell us what the premise of the talk is.

[00:04:45] Jonathan Wold: The talk is focused on this idea of growing in WordPress through partnerships. I’ve had the privilege working with a lot of product businesses over the years and, I’ve seen this recurring theme of frustration where a product business, they’ll have a good product, they’ll get some good market validation. Maybe some customers that really love the product. And then this frustration where they can’t seem to tap into the larger ecosystem, like WordPress is huge. Or even just take a sub ecosystem like WooCommerce. There are millions of WooCommerce installs and for a product business, oh, we’re gonna serve WooCommerce customers.

And then it’s this challenge of how do you get to ’em? There’s not this like one central place. You could work with WooCommerce, certainly, but even if you do a partnership with WooCommerce, that doesn’t guarantee that you get in front of all their audience. So it becomes very challenging and frustrating for product businesses, because of how decentralized our ecosystem is. Of which there are many benefits and things that we enjoy.

It can be challenging to say, okay, how do we navigate this? Who do we talk to? Where are all the customers? There’s some good reasons for that. So in my talk today, I’m trying to kind of unpack that. Give some perspective, especially to folks who are coming from outside the immediate ecosystem. There’s a lot of SaaS businesses that have built great products that work well with WordPress. They come in though, and they hit these roadblocks where they’re like, okay, what do we do? Like, how does this community work?

Where do we go? How do we act? Where do we focus our energies? And I think it’s a lot harder right now than it needs to be. Like growth in WordPress is difficult if you don’t know where to go. And I think that hurts all of us. So, my intent anyway is to try and demystify some of that and then give a clearer path to like, hey, if you wanna grow a product business in the WordPress space, partnerships today is probably your best way of doing so, and here’s how to do that.

[00:06:32] Nathan Wrigley: Do you think this is a function of personality a bit? And what I mean by that is, if you are a born coder and you spend your time in your room and you’re extremely good at that, this comes out of personal experience. I’ve encountered lots of people who are extremely good at that side of things. And then they build the thing and the thing is brilliant, but they are not the person to make it go out into the ecosystem.

Because they code and then they struggle with that piece of getting it recognized. So they contact podcast owners. They write to blog vendors and so on and so forth. But, it’s very difficult because you have to be that effervescent, outgoing marketing type of person.

[00:07:09] Jonathan Wold: That is part of it, but it’s also a timing thing because the coder, if you will, was able to pull it off before. If you think about how WordPress has grown over the past 18 plus years. In the early days, that was enough. You could build a great product and other people would do it for you.

Right? You go to a meetup, oh, you gotta use this plugin. That worked, and I think there are folks now who will look at that and like, why isn’t it working for me as well? Well, that worked more because of just where WordPress was and it’s life cycle at the time And it doesn’t work anymore. It’s just because of how big it is. Or rather it can still work. You can still absolutely grow something by word of mouth.

You’re gonna hit a ceiling though. And if your ambitions are greater, if you’re wanting to create something that’s more ubiquitous that solves needs for a much larger swath of the ecosystem, that’s not gonna be enough. You’re] gonna have to do the work and get in front of the audience.

[00:07:58] Nathan Wrigley: Is it a product of geography as well? Where you are in the world?

[00:08:02] Jonathan Wold: That’s always a factor in that it can limit who you’re connected to. Because someone who’s a great coder, maybe they’re introverted and, but they’ve gone to their local WordCamps, and that’s where they make connections and other folks do the recommendations for them. And so yeah, in that sense, geography could be a limiting factor if you haven’t had the chance to go all the way around.

[00:08:19] Nathan Wrigley: So I was thinking of an example, let’s say that you live in North America or something. There’s hundreds of different events that you could attend and there’s conferences and there’s countless things where you could present your face. Whereas if you live in a different part of the world where the community just isn’t there, that’s gonna be a, a bit of a struggle.

[00:08:33] Jonathan Wold: It is, and from my point of view, the struggle existing doesn’t fit with the ethos of WordPress and it’s international nature. And that’s why I think at least in my experience so far and where I’ve seen product companies have success, like they’ll be something that very few folks will know about. And then they begin to do the partnership work and approach it in the WordPress way, and then they can build success on that.

[00:08:55] Nathan Wrigley: So map out for us what you actually mean by partnership. Obviously everybody gets what that word is basically, but tell us what is it that you are gonna be advising somebody who wants to make hay out of their brand new plugin, theme, block, whatever.

[00:09:07] Jonathan Wold: The way that I think about it, and at least I found most helpful is to start with the audience. You’re building a product. What audience are you focusing on? Who has a problem that you’re trying to solve? Be really clear who that is. You could say, oh, small business. Well, small business is still very broad and general. Maybe you have a specific type of small business, whatever that may be.

Start with that audience of like, okay, we’re gonna build a product or maybe you have a product already. And some folks will maybe have a product, they’re not sure what audience it’s for, but let’s just set that aside for a moment. But once you, as the product owner have a clear audience in mind, then it’s like, okay, who else is already serving that audience?

One of the common mistakes I’ve seen folks make is they’ll make a product, and they’re like, okay, we need partnerships and they’ll go partner with, uh, a hosting company for instance, but that serves a different audience. Because it’s like once you know who your audience is, you find a potential partner where you can work together on it.

Then all you’re really doing is say, okay, what’s the mutual win. Like how can we together provide more value to that audience? Where I see most partnerships fall apart is where it’s an audience mismatch. Or maybe they got the right audience, but they still don’t have a clear value proposition for that audience. The ones that work really well are, same audience or very similar, nice overlap. And then they’re just providing them value in a way that benefits all the parties involved.

[00:10:26] Nathan Wrigley: I feel like a lot of the stuff that you’re saying makes perfect sense to you, you know, find the audience and so on and so forth. You’ve probably been through this many, many times. Those kind of processes aren’t necessarily obvious because you, you might just think I’ve got a plug in. It’s for every body, and the whole ecosystem can use this. What is the actual process? I mean, are you literally pen on paper? Have you got like a spreadsheet that you fill out or.

[00:10:47] Jonathan Wold: So, it’s a good point to bring up the, all the audience. I actually love working on plugins and with authors that are going for all of WordPress. It’s a smaller subset in general, right? Because like, one of the things I love about how we approach core development in WordPress is, what are the things that serve the 80%. Because WordPress, we’re not trying to, in the core solve for everyone. And in similar vein, there are product businesses that can be wildly successful that aren’t trying to do it for everyone in WordPress, right.

So I think that’s worth calling out. There’s still a lot of opportunity to go for ubiquity in the ecosystem. Be clear though on whether that, whether or not that’s actually your intention. So let’s say for instance, you are not going for all of WordPress, you’re going for a, just a sub ecosystem. WooCommerce for instance, a smaller part of WordPress and within WooCommerce you could go for small businesses. You could go for mid-market. You could go for enterprise. Let’s say you went small business WooCommerce. This is the audience that we wanna work on. They do less than a million dollars a year in revenue, and we have a specific problem we’re solving for them.

So in just this example, most folks I talk to, if they’re that clear, they’re more than halfway there, right. They’re often not though where it’s like, oh, we want to do this for everyone, right. It’s very difficult. And especially when it comes to partnerships where it’s like, we’ll work with everyone. In some cases that might be the play, but it’s often not. Does that make sense?

[00:12:06] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah for me, it’s the actual going through the process. Like, I usually need a form to fill out. Firstly, do this. Secondly, do this. And then, you know, it might be creating the customer avatar and giving them a name and trying to figure out what industry they’re in and so on. And having that structure, something to hang it on works for me. But it may not be the kind of thing that you would advise people to do when, when going out to get partnerships.

[00:12:27] Jonathan Wold: Yeah It’s a good question. It’s a good question, because I guess I am making the assumption that someone’s clear on who they want to serve.

[00:12:33] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, and that’s difficult.

[00:12:34] Jonathan Wold: It can be difficult, because there’s an inherent choice in who you’re not gonna serve, right? And again, it’s worth calling out that when I think about positioning for a product company, to say who, okay, this is who we’re gonna serve. Doesn’t mean that you can’t also serve others who come to you. It’s not that you have to turn them away. It’s making a choice though, on who you’re gonna focus your energies and your messaging, your positioning on.

And that, it is hard. And it’s often hard because of that fear of what you’re gonna miss out on. But when it comes to your marketing efforts, your even your, like your product development, and then in this case, partnerships, if you’re not clear on who you’re serving, it’s very hard to find ways to reach them.

[00:13:13] Nathan Wrigley: Okay. So let’s assume that we’ve got that piece of the puzzle nailed down, and we know who we’re trying to serve. What’s the next step? What does a partner look like? How much are you giving away of your company? How do you contact these people? How do you give the pitch? In a way, trying to find a partner is perhaps equally as difficult as trying to find a customer.

[00:13:31] Jonathan Wold: Well, so it’s a fair point on what does it mean to partner. In general, what I’m talking about with these strategic partnerships would pretty much never involve any, like giving away part of the company. It’s more a transaction of like, hey, you have this audience, we have this product, how can we work together to serve them, right? And sure there are a lot of ways that could work. In some cases you might take investment from the partner that you’re working with.

There’s lots of ways you can approach it. Which is, in my mind a key is to not go into these conversations with everything figured out, but to say, okay, how can we together provide more value to the audience? I sometimes I see folks jump too quickly to like, okay, what are the commercials?

And saying, that’s a little bit of the cart before the horse, right? Where’s the value we can provide for the audience. If we’re not both really clear on that value, it’s gonna make negotiations difficult, and ultimately probably not be as successful for either party. I’ve seen product companies do distribution deals with hosting companies, for instance, that are pretty terrible. Where it’s like, okay, we wanna get our product in front of all your customers. And they’re like, okay, well, here you go. And it’s not a good deal.

[00:14:36] Nathan Wrigley: Are events like this, like WordCamp Europe, are events like this a great way to sort of short circuit the whole finding a partner thing? There’s thousands of people in this case, all in one room. A proportion of those are they’re playing that game. They wanna find partners and they’re looking for people to hook up with. I mean, you’re in a room it’s difficult. There’s no sort of your head saying, I want to partner. So, is that a part of the jigsaw puzzle of an event like this?

[00:14:59] Jonathan Wold: It is, and this is perhaps where personality is more of a factor. I would not advise someone to approach events like this as okay, we’re gonna go get partners. This is really in my mind more about context development and connecting with folks. Like, yeah, you might have folks, this is someone who I’d like to work with. And WordCamp can be a great place to build some shared context.

In general, for instance, I would see a WordCamp more as adding personal context to a conversation that’s already happening. You could certainly meet new folks, but I guess what I’m trying to say is like, I would hate to see someone put too much pressure on themself. To like attend a WordCamp and like try to get all this stuff done. That’s not really the vibe of it. It’s more about building context. If someone’s new to the space, it’s like go to contributor day first. Just soak it up a bit. Like one of the mistakes that I’ll see product companies from outside the ecosystem make, is just be really off on their messaging and positioning. Or being overly aggressive.

It’s like, no. That stuff is fine. Like it’s good to see the ambition. Take some time though, to understand the ecosystem, and WordCamps to me are really good for that. So it’s more about go in curious, and see what you can learn and don’t make assumptions. And yes, you’ll probably find some really good opportunities. In general though, it’s like, if you had a list of folks that you want to connect with, be talking to them already before WordCamp, and WordCamp is more about just seeing them in person.

[00:16:19] Nathan Wrigley: So everything that you’ve just said, I totally identify with, and I do see people not doing that, and I see people showing up and they’ve clearly got the laundry list of people they want to contact. And it all feels a bit clumsy. Is that a unique thing about the WordPress ecosystem? And what I mean by that is the whole FOSS thing, the free open software. For example, if I was to attend, I don’t know, a conference about podcasting or something. Is the same audience there?

Are there different rules at play here? And it feels a little bit like you’ve got to be a bit more restrained. You’ve gotta do your homework a bit more because there’s trip wires everywhere, and sometimes even just etiquette and the things that you mentioned about just don’t overstep the line, we don’t know each other yet. We’re not ready for that bit, but maybe if you are a different kind of an event, that stuff is, I’m open for it.

[00:17:05] Jonathan Wold: In my experience, yes, but most of it’s hearing that relayed from a software as a service companies, for instance, who are used to other industries where it’s lot more, not business oriented, but yeah, perhaps more transactional. And it’s a bit of a system shock to come to a WordCamp. Or even just the idea of how involved volunteers are. Many of us, like if we’re involved, I’m helping organize WordCamp US this year. I’m doing it as a volunteer.

And that idea of volunteers is kind of an odd one for folks coming from outside. And I think that well typifies, like this is different. People are here because they really want to be here, at least from what I hear. And the other events I attend, it is a very different vibe. Which is why it’s like, yeah, you can prepare for it, but the starting point is just be open and put out your preconceived notions and take a deep breath. It’s gonna be okay.

[00:17:52] Nathan Wrigley: The whole partnerships thing, is that a piece of what you do when you’re not at a WordCamp? Is that part of your business life?

[00:17:59] Jonathan Wold: It is, mostly from like an advising perspective. Part of the challenge that I’m personally trying to see us solve is, I don’t like that there’s and it’s getting better, but having just a handful of folks who do partnerships work in the ecosystem is not good for the ecosystem. It’s something that I’d like us to see, just become a lot more professionalized and this is just how to do it. I don’t think it’s healthy to have it locked up in just a few people who do it.

So yes, I’ll help folks do it. I’m much more interested though in seeing us open source, like how should this get done? How do we professionalize this aspect of our ecosystem? There’s a lot more of it starting to happen, but I feel like the advantage in our ecosystem is, has been more to like the few hosting companies who are better at it than others, or the product companies that are better at it than others. Where really, if we can all get better at it, I think the ecosystem as a whole benefits.

[00:18:49] Nathan Wrigley: So is this more that for the last decade or so, we’ve had a lot of people who’ve had a cottage industry for want better word for their job, and the ecosystem, I’m gonna use the word matured. I dunno the right word, but the ecosystem has matured. It’s become more professional, so the people who had the cottage industry need to up their game and figure out what the rules are, how to piece that jigsaw together.

[00:19:10] Jonathan Wold: Yes. There’s a few factors to it. There’s the folks who’ve come up through it, like upping their game, which is hard. Well, what’s happening is that there are a lot of folks, software as a service companies, for instance, wake up and say, hey, more than 30% of our customers are on WordPress. Like 40% of our customers are on WordPress. We need to have a strategy. We need to have an approach. Even just to serve our existing customers better.

The company that wakes up and says, we need to have an integration. We need to have our own plugin. And there’s them serve their customers better, which is good for all of us. But then many of them will say, hey, we can grow through WordPress. Like there’s opportunities here to grow our audience.

So it’s a bit of a clash where what’ll happen sometimes is these companies from outside will look in and they’ll see existing behavior and think that’s how it should be done. But they’re watching the cottage industry approach. And it’s like, no, we all need to grow here. The folks who have been in it this whole time, we need to get better at how we do this.

And then the folks who are coming from outside need to take a cue and say, okay, well, how do you change and, and work within this culture? It’s challenging. I’m encouraged with the progress that I’m seeing, but it’s not enough.

[00:20:15] Nathan Wrigley: It feels like you’re a bit worried that if we leave this whole partnership thing unchecked, a decade from now there’ll be a few major players. There’ll just be this pyramid structure with a…

[00:20:24] Jonathan Wold: Yeah, that’s part of it. And I think it’s just not healthy for the ecosystem as whole. A great example is contribution to core, right? What I love about all these new folks coming in. I’ve talked to some of them where they’ll explicitly call out, like it’s intimidating to go into like one of the core with thousands of people. And put a reference to a ticket or something. Yeah, it’s intimidating. And that’s why we have days like this to sit alongside someone and help them feel comfortable.

If we’re gonna continue to grow as an ecosystem, we have to be welcoming to new ideas, new input, and we have to make it accessible for them. And I think partnerships is just a good example of that. Right now, because we’re so decentralized and may it ever be so, you have to do that work to make the connections happen. And I just, I see a lot of opportunity for that to become professionalized.

[00:21:11] Nathan Wrigley: That’s a really interesting point because when I started building websites, basically you built a website. You found a client, you built a website, you passed it on.

And then as the industry matured, the job of an SEO expert came along and the job of a copywriter came along. All these little jobs in, WordPress came along. And it feels like you are advocating for a job of some kind of partner interface career. That’s the job. You need people like that. You need little, little businesses that are set up to figure out how to get plugin company, a theme company, a hooked up with other company B.

[00:21:40] Jonathan Wold: Yep.

[00:21:41] Nathan Wrigley: So that they can figure out a way to move forward.

[00:21:43] Jonathan Wold: I’m sure I’m exaggerating, but if there were only 50 people like really doing this professionally today in the ecosystem, there needs to be a thousand. And this is not a new thing. Partnership management, like business development is not new. It’s well established, but the folks who, what I’ve noticed is folks will have those roles in software as a service companies. And just not know how to navigate our ecosystem because they didn’t grow up in it.

So I think for the folks from the outside coming in, it’s figuring out how to do that same work, the WordPress way. And for us in, it’s like, how do you embrace that, and learn, okay, well, how do we have to think about this? Like where do we have to grow up? And I think we are more than big enough. And I think that that idea, if there’s 50 today, there should be a thousand next year.

[00:22:26] Nathan Wrigley: If somebody was thinking, actually, do you know what I would like to pivot and become that person? I wanna become some sort of partnership company, whatever it may be. What would be some sort of key things that you think they should be doing today in order to set that business up, you know, move away from whatever it is that they’re doing and stray into partnerships.

[00:22:42] Jonathan Wold: To me, these types of roles always start with curiosity. Being someone who’s curious, and really looking for the wins. At its simplest level, it’s a mutual win between three parties. The customer first, like the audience that you’re trying to create value for. And then the two other parties that serve that same audience. There will tend to be common patterns of what that looks like. For instance, a product company is often looking for distribution. Like they want to get in front of a bigger audience. And hosting companies often have the distribution.

So there, there’ll be some common patterns. Yet, I think there’s a lot of room for creativity, especially in these earlier days. And it’s just being open and curious and staying focused on who are we serving and what problem can we solve for them, and letting that kind of direct how you go.

[00:23:26] Nathan Wrigley: We’ve got a few minutes left. So I’m gonna pivot the conversation just for a few minutes. We’re gonna go to acquisitions and mergers. Some interesting news over the last few days that a company that I’m sure many of us have heard of called Delicious Brains has just recently sold to WP Engine with kind of looks like 90% of their product suite, which is really interesting. But over the last couple of years, lots and lots and lots.

Are you sanguine about this? Is this a good thing on the whole? Does it concern you that a lot is being bought by the same few companies? And at some point we’re gonna be left with, well, if you wanna do anything with WordPress, you’re gonna have to go with this hosting company or this other company.

[00:24:00] Jonathan Wold: I’m, very optimistic by nature. So in general, it’s like, yeah, I think that’s all great. There are always trade offs with things I like this in particular. WP Engine they’ve made some great acquisitions. We could have a whole discussion on the strategy behind this because I think, I think you’re gonna have less if we just sort of continue as we are, you’re gonna have, there’s not that many more Delicious Brains left, no pun intended.

So it makes sense at a high level. Advanced Custom Fields fits their narrative, like the nature of some of the plugins and their suite fits the WP Engine narrative, this focus on developer tools, what they’re doing with Atlas. At a high level, it makes sense.

Also, I wasn’t surprised and it makes sense to see Spinup separated from that, right. That’s what they said they wanna focus on. So I like it. In terms of concerns or thinking about the ecosystem broadly, one of the limiting factors I think we have right now is that it is difficult for folks from outside the ecosystem to invest in the ecosystem.

I think it also comes to a bit to that, like professionalizing. There is plenty of capital out there and, I’ll talk to founders who don’t know how to get to it. Like they’re building a WordPress business. And so there’s an interesting disconnect right now where if you’re from outside the ecosystem, they might not get it. Like, what is this WordPress thing? Like, how does this work? They’ll hear the market share stuff. And it’s like, okay, we wanna invest, but where do we do that? How do we do that? There’s some curious gaps at the moment.

I’ll put it this way. WordPress businesses in general, in my experience are quite undervalued. If you compare a typical WordPress business to a SaaS, the SaaS will get multiples of value, quite higher than the WordPress business. Where the WordPress business, if you look at it objectively is a stronger investment. So there’s a disconnect there where the reality is there’s a lot of opportunity for investors, and the challenge for them is like, how do we navigate this?

[00:25:43] Nathan Wrigley: Curiously, it feels to me like the more things that are acquired, the more need there will be for partnerships.

[00:25:50] Jonathan Wold: Yeah.

[00:25:50] Nathan Wrigley: It kind of feels like the two go hand in hand, if there’s hosting company X over there, who’s acquired all the things. And you’ve got a rival of one of their things. Fighting their marketing machine is gonna difficult.

[00:26:00] Jonathan Wold: It’s gonna be difficult.

[00:26:01] Nathan Wrigley: So need a partner that can help you get through that. Yeah,

[00:26:04] Jonathan Wold: Put one way the downside of too much consolidation is that you risk losing the innovation and the market is way more than big enough for new players to be coming in. There’s lots of sub ecosystems. I think in general, folks just need more help navigating and, as long as we keep seeing new folks come in, we’re gonna be just fine.

[00:26:23] Nathan Wrigley: Very last question and a curious little bit of a curve ball. You were talking about the market. The watch word there seems to be growth, growth, growth, the market’s growing. And yet very interestingly over the last month or so we had some sort of interesting data. This first data point where the market just took a tiny little bit of a dive, not 0.2% or something like that. Any thoughts in your head that the curve is beginning to go in the other way? The seesaw has finally tipped.

[00:26:44] Jonathan Wold: We have different sources of data.

[00:26:45] Nathan Wrigley: That’s right.

[00:26:45] Jonathan Wold: So there’s a whole discussion first about you know, what’s our basis for data. I think we could have an interesting discussion if we felt confident that that was the case. I’m working with, um, the HTTP archive on the Web Almanac project this year. And we’re about to have a new set of data in the next month or so. No particular thoughts. I think, sometimes we overreact. While I am an optimist, we will hit a point at some point.

I’m much more interested right now in focusing on like for that big swath of market we already have, how can we serve them better?

Because that’s really where the growth is gonna come from. Is how do we help more people have success in WordPress? Because in general, there’s a lot of frustration, like lots of success, lots of things that are going well. When it’s not working though, where are people going? And they’re tending to go to the proprietary platforms. Which is fine, but at the end of the day, if we want a healthy open web, we need a healthy WordPress ecosystem. And there’s still plenty of work to do, regardless of what the numbers are saying.

[00:27:41] Nathan Wrigley: Jonathan Wold. Thank you very much for talking to me today.

[00:27:44] Jonathan Wold: Thanks for having me.


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