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Lessons Learned
from 7 Years in
WordPress Products
Cory J. Miller
iThemes
@corymiller303
@corymiller303#WCMIA
Share Success, Failure,
TBD Product Stories
• The Goal(s) - why we did it
• What worked
• What didn’t
• What we learned, are learning
@corymiller303#WCMIA
1. Themes
@corymiller303#WCMIA
What Got You Here,
Might Not Get You There
• January 2008
• One of the first commercial theme providers
• Goals: Help people build sites; make money, establish the brand,
business for what’s next
• Kept innovating but hit a wall
• Market became saturated, 

ultra-competitive (i.e. Theme Forest)
• (Design) Talent + Execution was key
@corymiller303#WCMIA
2. Hosting &
Services
@corymiller303#WCMIA
Miserable Failures Lessons
• 2009 & 2012-2014
• Hosting - wanted recurring revenue & 

control of server environment
• Services - additional revenue line + 

value add to customers
• If you or team isn’t interested / passionate 

about it, it’ll likely flop but mostly suck
• Became distractions & drains to what we 

& our customers cared about more
@corymiller303#WCMIA
3. BackupBuddy
@corymiller303#WCMIA
Grand Slam Home Run
• March 2010
• Came out of our own disaster(s) and loss(es)
• First to nail it backups, restores, migration
• Hit every customer and market; natural upsell
• Customers said, “Shut up, take my money”
• Insider said, “Oh, I wouldn’t do that …”
• Utility - save money, effort, time
@corymiller303#WCMIA
Getting Back to the Plate
• Sometimes a product gets more brand love
than the company (i.e. BUB, Gravity Forms)
• Keep iterating for the customer 

(i.e. BUB 6.- & Deployment)
• Take chances - uhm, rather make
investments - in new, innovative products
• Helping fund the next things
@corymiller303#WCMIA
The Future
Our Next 3 Investments
@corymiller303#WCMIA
4. iThemes Security
@corymiller303#WCMIA
Better WP Security
• December 2013 & changed name in 

March 2014 w/ big release
• One the most popular plugins in WP 

(600K+ sites)
• Found it (and ChrisW) because I needed it personally
• Challenge: Take freemium & establish sustainable
business model on it (i.e. make money helping
people)
@corymiller303#WCMIA
Batman’s Robin
• Perfect compliment to BackupBuddy
• Huge user base (headstart & established)
• Security becoming huge need / topic in community
• Appeals to almost all of our customers
• Security + free WP plugins are sometimes brutal
• Very promising present and future in many ways
@corymiller303#WCMIA
5. iThemes Sync
@corymiller303#WCMIA
The Centerpiece
• November 2013
• Solution for core customers: freelancers/builders
• Integrating all our products together
• Recurring revenue / glue
• 6K users / 34K sites and growing
• Optimistic about short-term and long-term
@corymiller303#WCMIA
6. iThemes Exchange
@corymiller303#WCMIA
“Hey, let’s tackle the
biggest, most expensive project
we’ve ever done …
with entrenched competitors
… oh, and give it away for free.”
@corymiller303#WCMIA
Ecommerce is HARD
• June 2013
• Make ecommerce easier; Plant a flag
• Tried eating the entire elephant (Never-ending
roadmap)
• Core audience is vastly different
• Fundamentally changed & improved how we
work
@corymiller303#WCMIA
My Key Takeaways
• “Be everything to someone” — Know and serve your key/core
audience better than anyone; lead, guide, iterate for them,
EVERY day
• Know who you are, what you’re good at, passionate about …
and DON’T stray from it
• Be early
• Don’t make it harder than it needs to be
• Always, always, always be investing in the future
• It’s only failure if you don’t learn and grow
Thank you!
cory@iThemes.com
@corymiller303

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My 7-Year WordPress Product Journey -- Success, Failures & TBDs