Berda, the engineer who built the plugin, said he developed it from a “non-WordPress” point of view and the team was excited when they started getting one person a day downloading the plugin. They jumped into the WordPress market sight unseen, with no contacts and very little understanding of the community.
In February 2016, after finishing out the previous month with 291€ in revenue, Weglot co-founders officially launched their SaaS-based commercial offerings to extend the capabilities of the free WordPress.org plugin. They brought the plugin out of beta and decided to sponsor and attend WordCamp Paris to connect with the community.
“WordPress was just a name that we had heard of but didn’t know anything about it,” Berda said. “Sponsoring the WordCamp was without a doubt what really launched us. Within two days, we had met and exchanged with many people from the WordPress community. After the WordCamp, we started to get more and more users.”
I asked Berda what surprised him about WordPress and its commercial ecosystem as someone who was brand new to the community in 2015. He said they knew coming into it that many websites were built on the software but couldn’t imagine the size or the strength of the community.
“We didn’t imagine that WordPress was so ‘community’ based,” Berda said. “Events, meetups, WordCamps (in so many cities), blogs, and even a French Slack group.”
Berda said he and his co-founder were also surprised by how infrequently the SaaS model is used in the WordPress ecosystem.
“People were reluctant to use a SaaS approach at first – they prefer to buy a piece a software even if it means no support,” Berda said. “It was surprising to us because outside WordPress, SaaS has surpassed the ‘software’ approach for many reasons. The good thing we’ve seen is that it changed rapidly between the end of last year and today. It seems the SaaS approach we have is no longer a problem for our users as they understand the value.”
In July 2016, Weglot passed €3,500 in monthly revenue, which enabled the team to rent a small office where they could be fully dedicated to the project. Prot and Berda have added a customer support specialist and Weglot’s monthly recurring revenue is on a steady uphill climb. Last week the plugin passed 5,000 active installs and Berda said they passed 10,000€ per month in actual revenue (7,000€/month in recurring revenue).
Weglot now has paying customers in 75 countries and Berda gave us a break down of their top seven in terms of MRR (Monthly Recurring revenue):
- France : 20%
- USA : 13%
- UK : 6.4%
- Spain : 6.3%
- Germany : 4.4%
- Canada : 3.5%
- Italy : 3.4%
As Weglot’s founders are French, it isn’t surprising the product has taken off in France. Over the past few years the French WordPress community has become more united and connected with WordPress-related events expanding into other cities beyond Paris. The challenges of multilingual publishing is an important topic at these events and other WordCamps around Europe, and Weglot seems to be solving some of these problems for users.
Compared to more established competitors in the multilingual plugin space, like Polylang (with 200,000+ active installs) and the 100% commercial WPML plugin, which boasts a 40-person team, Weglot is still considered a small player. Berda said they hope to distinguish the plugin from its competitors by providing a quicker, simpler setup, a clean approach for SEO, and broader compatibility with WordPress’ ecosystem of themes and plugins.
“Weglot has a technical approach that is really different from other plugins,” Berda said. “For translated pages, Weglot lets WordPress build the webpage normally and hooks at the end of the code to translate the content. By doing so, Weglot works on a HTML page, making its content source-agnostic and thus solving many compatibility problems.”
The plugin also uses rewrite rules to create different URLs for each language offered on the site. For example, mywebsite.com/contact returns a page in English, mywebsite.com/fr/contact displays the French version, and mywebsite.com/es/contact returns the page in Spanish.
“This approach combined with adding tags ‘alternate’ hreflang in the page, means that Weglot meets SEO best practices recommended by Google,” Berda said.
Apart from finding the right technical approach, Berda said one of the biggest challenges has been maintaining a high level of support. His team has committed to supporting both free and paying customers through forums and live chat. Over the next six months Weglot is aiming to grow its revenue to €20,000/ month, expand its support team, and establish its SaaS approach as a viable business model in the WordPress multilingual plugin space.