After five years of selling themes and support, UpThemes is branching out into the managed WordPress hosting business. Last week the company announced the new hosting venture and partnership with Aesop Interactive:
We are excited to announce UpThemes Hosting, a managed WordPress hosting solution that includes 40+ premium WordPress themes including our entire theme library, all themes from the collection of Aesop Interactive (makers of Aesop Story Engine), as well as a curated selection of beautifully-designed themes from WordPress.org.
For $20/month customers can host one WordPress site with 5GB disk space and 100GB monthly bandwith. Tech support is included along with 40+ commercial themes from UpThemes and Aesop Interactive. Users have control over their sites as they would with a standard WordPress installation, i.e. FTP access, ability to install plugins and themes, etc.
“This is actually a partnership with Pressed.net, a division of Site5, that sits on top of their managed WordPress hosting architecture,” UpThemes co-founder Chris Wallace told the Tavern. “We’ve looked at many opportunities for a hosting partnership over the years and none of the options felt quite right to us, so we waited until there was one that provided our customers with the best hosting service and support.
“Site5 understood that need and we’ve worked hand-in-hand for many months to finally release this product. We’re very proud of it and think it provides more value than the typical WordPress hosting product.”
The hybrid combination of hosting plus a theme club is fairly unique in the WordPress ecosystem, but Wallace believes it provides an easier path for UpThemes customers looking to build an online presence.
“Our audience is mainly DIYers who just need a site up and running,” he said. “We’ve always been looking to make it as easy as possible to purchase and install an UpThemes theme so a hosting platform where all our themes are pre-installed seemed like the perfect solution to the problem of ‘which theme do I pick’ and ‘how do I install a theme’ and ‘will your theme work on my webhost?’”
The new hosting product also helps UpThemes deal with the financial volatility and unpredictability of managing a theme club business.
“From a business perspective, selling themes alone has always made it difficult to pin down our customer acquisition cost and churn rate (meaning the number of customers who stop paying their annual renewals),” Wallace said.
“Since we offer an annual license, we don’t know if a customer will renew for a whole year, which, as you can imagine, makes it hard to know the lifetime value of the customer. It’s a hard thing to analyze. Some people care enough to renew but most people don’t understand the value enough to care.”
UpThemes will continue to serve the small business and DIY market and Wallace hopes to add more journalists, storytellers, and photographers with the new Aesop Interactive partnership.
“Beyond our new hosting venture, we also serve thousands of blogs on WordPress.com, which helps us offer a one-click method of buying and using our themes without any sort of installation required,” Wallace said.
“I think that really is one of the key points for us: closing the gap on how much knowledge you need to use our themes. We’d like to make it even easier for certain types of customers (e-commerce, for example) to hit the ground running.
“There are so many variables to creating a successful online business and we just want to give less technical WordPress users an easier path to success.”
In principle, this looks like a great idea. It might actually make the so-called “famous 5-minute install” more of a reality. I would not be at all surprised to see others following suit.
But, as someone who would have considered this if I were not already very happy with my own host, I can say that one thing here would turn me right off. And that is, while what’s being sold is hosted on Site5, UpThemes themselves are apparently using Pagely. I’d never trust a “solution” that the provider itself is not using.