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Commercializing plugins

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Talk given by Duane Storey of BraveNewCode at the March WordPress Sydney meetup.

Talk given by Duane Storey of BraveNewCode at the March WordPress Sydney meetup.

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  • 1. Commercializing a WordPress Plugin Duane Storey (@DuaneStorey) Co-founder, BraveNewCode (@BraveNewCode)Friday, 15 March, 13 1
  • 2. About Me: From Vancouver, Canada. Used to work in fiber optics at JDS Uniphase; largest corporate write-off in history ($50.1 billion) Changed to Voice over IP; helped Yahoo! add voice/ video to Yahoo! Messenger Got injured in 2006, started a WordPress blog to write about it initially.Friday, 15 March, 13 2
  • 3. Matthew GoodFriday, 15 March, 13 3
  • 4. Me and DaleFriday, 15 March, 13 4
  • 5. About BraveNewCode: Started in 2008 by Dale Mugford and myself. Originally operated in the evenings as a WordPress-centric web-design and development studio.Friday, 15 March, 13 5
  • 6. WPtouch timeline (free) • 2007: Created as a proof of concept for Matthew Good’s website, primarily focused on music • 2008: Generalized version released into the WordPress repository • 2009:Voted #1 plugin for WordPress at WordCamp San Francisco • 2010: Activated on WordPress.com, served 60 million pages a month • Today: Downloaded nearly 4 million times from the repository, 9th most popular plugin in terms of downloads (out of 23,000)Friday, 15 March, 13 6
  • 7. “Avoid popularity if you would have peace.” ~ Abraham LincolnFriday, 15 March, 13 7
  • 8. Choices • Abandon the plugin completely • Release it to the community • Find a way to make some money to support itFriday, 15 March, 13 8
  • 9. We realized that making money from WPtouch was the only option to sustain it.Friday, 15 March, 13 9
  • 10. The GPL License: Free as in speech, not beerFriday, 15 March, 13 10
  • 11. Potential Ways to Monetize • Sell the code only • Sell documentation (passive) (passive) • Sell customization • Sell themes or add-ons services (active) (passive) • Sell customer support • Sell licenses to (active) proprietary CSS/JS (passive) • Sell access to future updates (passive)Friday, 15 March, 13 11
  • 12. Dual license at your own risk!Friday, 15 March, 13 12
  • 13. Trademarks™ can be ™ your friendFriday, 15 March, 13 13
  • 14. Example GPL & Open-Source Revenue ModelsFriday, 15 March, 13 14
  • 15. WooCommerce • Freemium Model - fully functional version in the wp.org repository • Premium add-ons to augment the ‘free’ version (most around $99 price point) • Cross promotion with themesFriday, 15 March, 13 15
  • 16. Shopp (eCommerce) • 2 pricing tiers • $55 (1 site) • $299 (unlimited, priority support, better docs) • Many incremental add- ons (consumables) available in store (support, installation help, etc.)Friday, 15 March, 13 16
  • 17. Gravity Forms • 3 pricing tiers • $39 (1 site) • $99 (3 sites) • $199 (unlimited) • One year of support + auto-updates • Incremental add-ons based on license typeFriday, 15 March, 13 17
  • 18. Gravity FormsFriday, 15 March, 13 18
  • 19. WPtouch Pro (the plan): Initial revenue model based on 3 license tiers that include professional support & per-site auto-upgrades. Required $40k in capital and roughly 4 months of effort from two people (Duane and Dale) Stopped taking on new business.Friday, 15 March, 13 19
  • 20. “Real artists ship.” ~ Steve JobsFriday, 15 March, 13 20
  • 21. Launch Day June 13, 2010: We silently launched at 1am in the morning; when we woke up there were already 6 sales.Friday, 15 March, 13 21
  • 22. WPtouch Pro today: Approximately 25,000 customers scattered all over the world.Friday, 15 March, 13 22
  • 23. BraveNewCode today: Discontinued client-based web development. Five full-time employees funded primarily by the sale of WPtouch Pro.Friday, 15 March, 13 23
  • 24. Taking a look under the WPtouch Pro hoodFriday, 15 March, 13 24
  • 25. Translations • To sell in multiple countries you need to support multiple languages • WPtouch Pro now in almost 15 languages • iCanLocalize.com is the service we use • Charges per word for translation • Works with WP .pot filesFriday, 15 March, 13 25
  • 26. Infrastructure • Hosting: Dedicated server at WiredTree • Main site: WordPress on bravenewcode.com • Licensing system: Custom code on api.bravenewcode.com (leverages WordPress on bnc.com) • Revision Control: BeanStalk (SVN & GIT support) • Support forums: bbPress (shares user table with bnc.com) • Project management: BaseCampFriday, 15 March, 13 26
  • 27. Commerce Engine • Main commerce plugin: WooCommerce • Tried Shopp and WPEC as well, with poor results • Payment gateways: • Paypal (50%) - lots of fraud with PayPal Pro • Beanstream (Canada, 50%) - extended to support Verified by Visa and SecureCode • License emails sent via bnc.com based on WooCommerce purchase eventFriday, 15 March, 13 27
  • 28. Auto-Upgrades • Mimic the WordPress.org repository • A tag is created on Beanstalk for a new version; our server creates an archive and stores it on S3 • License key is effectively a shared-secret between client and our server • Clients contact server periodically to look for a new version • Leverage WordPress auto-upgrade mechanism, grabbing new version from S3 (time-limited link)Friday, 15 March, 13 28
  • 29. Total Costs • Startup: • $40,000 CAD investment, mostly in time • $5,000 for language translations • Ongoing: • $400/mo server • $50/mo Amazon S3 • $100/mo RCS, Project Management, etc.Friday, 15 March, 13 29
  • 30. WPtouch Pro: Our Experiences To DateFriday, 15 March, 13 30
  • 31. Scathing emails saying we weren’t allowed to charge for itFriday, 15 March, 13 31
  • 32. Approximately 30% of sales come from existing WPtouch (free) usersFriday, 15 March, 13 32
  • 33. TorrentingFriday, 15 March, 13 33
  • 34. Raised prices 2x with only two complaintsFriday, 15 March, 13 34
  • 35. Virtual products make you a target for friendly fraud; it’s a real problemFriday, 15 March, 13 35
  • 36. Our affiliate program increased sales, but led to a large increase in fraudFriday, 15 March, 13 36
  • 37. Location Independence: Employees scattered throughout North America. I’ve worked on WPtouch in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, Hawaii, England, Serbia, Malta, Italy, France, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Indonesia (Bali), Singapore, Malaysia, and Iceland.Friday, 15 March, 13 37
  • 38. Working in SydneyFriday, 15 March, 13 38
  • 39. Paywall helps combat ‘piracy’, but are a pain for customersFriday, 15 March, 13 39
  • 40. Revenue effectively doubled when we released iPad versionFriday, 15 March, 13 40
  • 41. What We’d Change • bbPress doesn’t really work for support - move to something like SupportPress • Switch from WordPress to WordPress Multisite • Only choose affiliates who care about the product • Possibly get rid of paywall altogetherFriday, 15 March, 13 41
  • 42. Final Remarks • Many different models exist to sell/commercialize GPL products; not a huge barrier to monetize a plugin • Decision to commercialize WPtouch was born out of necessity, not desire for profit • Original goal was to make enough to cover expenses for two people, thankfully able to support five people • Sales for WPtouch Pro have allowed us to continue working on our free pluginsFriday, 15 March, 13 42
  • 43. WordPress and WPtouch have changed my lifeFriday, 15 March, 13 43
  • 44. Questions? @DuaneStorey / @BraveNewCodeFriday, 15 March, 13 44

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