VersionPress Misses Crowdfunding Goal By $14.5K

Version Control Featured Image

The crowdfunding campaign for VersionPress has concluded and unfortunately, they’ve come up short. The team raised just 45% of the $30,000 funding goal. Despite not hitting the goal, Borek Bernard has announced they will self-fund the rest of the development while leaving open the possibility to work with a third-party sponsor. The first version is expected to be released in the fourth quarter of 2014.

If you funded the project, you should have received an email with instructions explaining how to request a refund if you’d like your money back. If you don’t request a refund, you’ll be given a receipt from VersionPress next week.

While the campaign was not financially successful, it validated VersionPress as a good idea. As Bernard explains,

I can’t tell you how encouraging all this is. If we learned something from the campaign it’s that it is certainly not just about fund raising. We received a lot of positive energy, some very good feedback and I have had many interesting conversations with people who deeply cared about VersionPress. We couldn’t just let it go.

Campaign Started Off On A Rocky Note

When I initially wrote about the project, several readers questioned what license the project would have. Some advocated they wouldn’t financially support a WordPress plugin that was not licensed under the GPL or a compatible license. A few days after publishing the article, VersionPress announced they would license their plugin under the GPL.

The Issue Of Trust

Unlike Kickstarter or Indiegogo, VersionPress opted to self-host their crowdfunding campaign. This is a practice not commonly seen in the WordPress community. This also raised issues of whether or not the developers could be trusted.

Kickstarter is open to backers all over the world but project creation is only available to those in the following countries:

  • US
  • UK
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Netherlands

Since Bernard and Jan Voráček reside in the Czech Republic, they were unable to use Kickstarter. They opted not to use Indiegogo or other crowdfunding platforms because any such platform shouldn’t be the primary reason to fund a project. By self-hosting the campaign, they were able to control the message, branding, and free themselves of limitations other platforms have.

One of the primary benefits to using Kickstarter is that it’s an established entity that has the backers best interests in mind. Backers are less likely to be taken advantage of versus a self-hosted campaign.

How Could the Campaign Have Gone Better?

I think you only have one shot to obtain funding if you go the crowdfunding route so it’s important to have all your ducks in a row. When I discovered the project and campaign, I noticed it was already under the 20 day mark instead of the full month. The campaign started late and those were valuable days lost.

Not being clear and decisive up front about which license the project would have hurt the campaign. As I was one of the first to write about the campaign, the focus turned towards the licensing issue versus spreading the word to as many people as possible.

When I donated $20 to the project, there were no options to tell my friends and followers. I had to do this manually. I think this is one of the key pieces to the lack of funding for this project. When I see a lot of people in my Twitter timeline with automated tweets that they just donated to a project, I take notice. If anything, I research the project to determine why so many of my followers are giving them money. Social donations also help to prevent campaign founders from being too aggressive when asking for funds since the social interactions of multiple individuals are doing the advertising.

Looking Ahead To VersionPress 1.0

Undo Button Featured Image
photo credit: llaurencc

I’m happy the team has decided to continue on with the project despite not hitting their funding goal. It’s a great idea and no other plugin that I know of has the proposed feature set of VersionPress, especially the tight integration with the database. During the campaign, I heard someone describe the plugin as The Undo Button For WordPress. The slogan has a nice ring to it and does a better job of explaining what VersionPress is to the common user.

Are you happy that VersionPress will be a reality despite not hitting their goal? What do you think they could have done differently to reach their funding goal?

4 Comments


  1. Crowdfunding in the WordPress space is relatively new, and I think that’s played a big role in the fact that most of the open-sourced campaigns for WordPress software so far have not been fully funded. You absolutely have to have all your ducks in a row, because you won’t get a second chance on making that killer first impression.

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    1. I agree. Part of the “problem”, I think, is that WordPress has been so fortunate to have so many great plugins and themes, as well as components of WordPress itself, developed and supported “for free” by skilled people either with the time or with an organization behind them that pays their salary while they do their work as a way to give back to the WordPress Community. For this and a number of other reasons, “Paid” Themes and Plugins have garnered a negative reputation with many people, and Crowdfunding is viewed with suspicion as a result.

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  2. As someone running a Kickstarter currently (Console OS, shamelessly linked), I can tell you that the crowd funding platform is essential.

    Doing it yourself takes massive resources that you could otherwise spend on getting funds raised. It also provides a gallery, for window shopping. Lots of people impulse buy multiple crowd-funded campaigns.

    Region restrictions are a pain, but this one sounds like it was perfect for Indiegogo.

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  3. I wish versionpress well. I really do. God knows we really need this solution. I’ve shared it with not only friends and peers but also on social sites.

    At the same time, it is a wonderful case study of how not to launch a plugin or any e-product:

    Don’t use a third party platform that can give you extra visibility, credibility and trustworthiness (when asked give a suspiciously inaccurate answer about geography… indiegogo?)
    Don’t plan ahead a campaign. Instead, just create a website with a facebook and twitter account.
    Don’t explain who you are, what your strengths are, what your past accomplishments are, etc.
    Don’t reach out to any of the 100 or so large, medium and small wordpress blogs and sites to spread the word.
    Don’t create a viral loop by having those who want to support you be able to spread the word by just retweeting, email, etc.
    Don’t plan ahead on the most fundamental question of a wordpress plugin: license – just wing it and change horses midstream, what can go wrong?
    Don’t first approach well established brands (eg envato) to partner with you before doing a public launch – this would create further credibility, who needs that? approach them later or just wing it
    Don’t have a well thought out plan of how you will monetize the plugin or have any sort of longer term plan whatsoever.

    It didn’t help versionpress that Matt Shaw released revisr which is basically the same functionality for free at the wordpress plugin repository just days before their launch. Sure, revisr is not yet fully polished and it doesn’t have documentation but it exists and you can already take it for a spin. And from what I can see, Matt is incredibly responsive and active in the support forum and has been pushing out updates like a rabid wolverine on acid – already at v1.4.

    https://wordpress.org/plugins/revisr/

    Anyone out there who want to, can draw some very valuable lessons from all this.

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