WPForms, founded by Syed Balkhi, has acquired the free WP Mail SMTP plugin from WordPress plugin developer Callum MacDonald. WP Mail SMTP has more than 600,000 active installs and WPForms will allow it to continue to operate as an independent plugin on WordPress.org. Balkhi said the plugin will become the company’s go-to recommendation on WPForms as well as WPBeginner.
Email deliverability is a common problem for all types of WordPress websites, but it is the most frequent support issue for those using WPForms.
“The number is only growing as Gmail, Yahoo, and others implement aggressive filters to reduce spam,” Balkhi said. “These spam filters look to see whether an email is originating from the location it claims to be originating from. This causes the emails sent from your WordPress site to either go in the spam folder or sometimes not be delivered at all! Having a proper SMTP solution significantly increases email deliverability. I believe that once we implement the new UX and workflow, this will significantly reduce our support load since this is the #1 issue our users deal with.”
After a few months of email exchanges, Balkhi and Callum MacDonald reached an agreement for WPForms to purchase WP Mail SMTP. Balkhi would not disclose the exact financial details of the acquisition but said it was “a five-figure-deal because the plugin itself did not generate any revenue.”
MacDonald had considered monetizing the plugin in the past but saw too many hurdles as he became less active in the WordPress space over the past few years.
“There are a few recent developments around SMTP that mean the plugin could use an update,” MacDonald said. “I didn’t have the time, so it made sense to move on at this point. I went over [monetizing] it several times. My conclusion is that it’s a lot harder than it looks. If I was still active in the WordPress space, it would make more sense, but I’m not, so monetizing was going to be a long road and hard work. It made more sense to sell.”
Balkhi said he approached MacDonald because email deliverability was a problem that he was looking to solve for WPForms users as well as the larger WPBeginner and WordPress community.
“We didn’t want to build an add-on for WPForms because the problem isn’t unique to just us,” Balkhi said. “It affects every form plugin and basically every WordPress website that sends an email of any kind (forgot password, user registration, etc).”
Last year Balkhi and his team acquired Yoast’s Google Analytics and renamed it to MonsterInsights. Over the past year the plugin has continued its growth from 10 million downloads at the time of acquisition to more than 16 million today.
Balkhi reports that the MonsterInsights acquisition has been a success but the product was a very different type of acquisition from the one announced today. He said he has no plans to build an email deliverability service but rather wants to invest in a solution that will help his customers and others in the WordPress community.
WP Mail SMTP plugin users can expect improvements to the plugin and a more “beginner-friendly” redesign, which Balkhi anticipates to release at the end of Q3 or Q4 of 2017.
“In terms of growing our WPForms’ user base through WP Mail SMTP, that’s not our primary goal,” Balkhi said. “Our top priority is to solve the email deliverability issue that our existing users and the larger WordPress community faces.” Balkhi said he hopes to leverage the 600,000+ user base to negotiate better deals with established email deliverability services.