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You’d be hard pressed to find a business, both online and brick-and-mortar, that didn’t invest in their website over the last three years. With WordPress marketshare showing only a sliver of marketshare decline since pandemic heights, it’s still a force to be reckoned with.

Putting page builders and coding tools to the side: The client + agency collaboration process of designing a website can be one of the most costly parts of any new WordPress project. Atarim aims to solve this issue using their software aimed at WordPress professionals. Vito Peleg, Atarim’s founder, recently lead their first angel fundraising round. While he didn’t share the total value of the deal with me, it does provide a solid year and a half of runway, according to his prediction.

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Episode transcript

[00:00:00] It’s the WP minute.

[00:00:02] Special episode today as we report on the fundraising round by Atarim. We will have on CEO and founder, Vito Peleg, in a moment to discuss how the whole thing went down, what to expect if you’re looking to raise money and what the forecast around the WordPress economy looks like for those of us investing or raising capital.

[00:00:21]If you want to support independent WordPress content like this, go to buy me a coffee.com/mattreport. You can donate as little as $5 for a digital coffee or join the membership, the slack membership for $79 a year. Get into the group and chat about WordPress news and headlines, and literally shape the WordPress news every week.

[00:00:43] In our slack group, buy me a coffee.com/mattreport. Thanks to our banner sponsors, masher WP, and underrepresented in tech. They sponsor the weekly news episode and newsletter that goes out. Ok. Here’s Vito Peleg from Atarim.

[00:00:59] Hey, Vito. Congrats on raising some capital for Atarim. If you could just let the audience know what does Atarim do? What’s the value add? And why should they check out Atarim.

[00:01:09] Vito: Atarim is a platform that helps digital teams, agencies, freelancers, and internal teams in tech companies to collaborate visually internally and with their clients and stakeholders.

[00:01:21] Really the way that we approach this is that we’re looking at the fact that most projects have an inherent 400% increase to any task that is required, that is related to communication. There is back and forth, a lot of misunderstandings and just trying to figure out what the other side is talking about is a huge headache.

[00:01:41] And that is what Atarim is solving through technology.

[00:01:44] Awesome stuff. Can you share how much money you raised in this round?

[00:01:48] Vito: I would like to kind of keep that under wraps. I can tell you that it’s not an insane amount. We try to create enough for us to keep us running and, or basically double the team and keep us running for a year and a half until we go back to a new reality for ourselves.

[00:02:06] So, yeah, it’s not little, but it’s not a lot.

[00:02:10] What did you learn from this fundraising round? That was new to you. From your other businesses in the past?

[00:02:16] Vito: So this was quite a journey doing this fundraise. Especially in this day and age when there’s last year, there’s been a bunch of acquisitions and a bunch of money in the tech space. But this year it’s been a little different with recession discussions everywhere.

[00:02:33] And the stock market is kind of like plummeting. So it’s not the best time to raise money, but we do know that we have huge opportunities on the table that required us to do this right now. So instead of going down the traditional route of going to VCs and you know, just trying to get just straight up money,

[00:02:54] I wanted to get people’s talent along with it. And I also wanted to work with people that will understand the vision and the mission, and not just kind of look at us as just numbers in their portfolio. So that’s why we went and I reached out to my personal network. And that’s how we got Joost and Marieke on board.

[00:03:19] that’s how we got Devin on board and Matt and Andrew. And basically everyone came from a point of they believed in what Atarim does because they knew what I was doing with it and what my team was doing with it even before I came to them with this offer for investing. So, that is really what was important to me that we don’t lose touch with what the product is all about.

[00:03:42] And we don’t want it just to make it all about like, the bottom line, at least not at this point. And we just wanna keep building, keep serving our users, but also expand the pool of talent through the investors instead of just getting the money.

[00:03:56] So the main lesson is that you don’t just wanna go after dead money. Selling equity is something that is very hard to get back if at all. So while you’re doing this, there’s so much money out there in the world, you might as well think of who are the people that I actually want as partners rather than just who can give me the money that I need right now.

[00:04:19] So you and I, and most folks listening to this now know that the WordPress economy is pretty large. But what uniqueness or what kept you in the WordPress Community/economy for raising money?

[00:04:33] Vito: so WordPress has been our main niche. If you will. From day one, we started as a plugin before it expanded into a SaaS platform that serves every kind of website that is out there.

[00:04:45] But still, there’s a really warm, awesome place in my heart for WordPress. We’re gonna keep expanding on supporting the community and supporting WordPress as a whole. First of all, it’s half of the internet, so there’s no, no doubt about it. That it’s you know, it’s the biggest beast that is out there.

[00:05:02] And I used to run an agency building WordPress websites. So again, it’s very close to my heart. When it comes to the people that have come on board from the WordPress space, I think that they’re seeing the involvement of Atarim and myself in the community over the past few years.

[00:05:22] They kind of saw that it’s coming from a genuine point or kind of a genuine mindset rather than just trying to take instead of just also give. And that is something that is, is important to me. And I think it’s important to all of the folks that have come on board. And I think that’s what resonated with them a lot making this decision WordPress as a whole is just starting

[00:05:43] As an ecosystem. And we are just starting to figure out the right paths as businesses inside this massively growing ecosystem. And I think that even over the past few years, we’ve seen an interesting transition from this side hustle mindset into actual businesses that are here to create true impact in this space and on the web as a whole, not only coming from those large corporations that are operating in our space, but also from the ground up and rising.

[00:06:21] I think that’s something that a lot of these investors have identified in Atarim that we’re doing things…we started as bootstrap and we’re doing things from the ground up. And we are working a lot with user feedback and we’re working a lot with the community, creating our own community, creating our own events and, you know, all of those kinds of things are very true to the WordPress space.

[00:06:45] Then another thing that is interesting here is that a lot of these companies are being bought out by hosting companies. Are also customers of ours. So a lot of hosting companies run their own website building services, and we serve them. We wanna do even more of that over the upcoming year or so.

[00:07:04] We can work with hosting companies on two levels, one as users and the other side is as partners. We’re expanding and doubling down on this.

[00:07:14] If someone listening to this wants to corral their own merry band of investors for their product or service, what advice would you have?

[00:07:23] Vito: WordPress is a pretty hard space to raise money in. I think that external investors or people that are not part of this awesome community, they haven’t understood the power of it yet.

[00:07:38] It is starting to happen, but it’s still a bit of a challenge when you’re coming to VCs, for example, or when you’re coming to investors that are coming from even angel investors from outside of the space and you’re describing WordPress. And I think it was the same challenge that we had, that I had as an agency owner.

[00:07:58] A lot of times you would kind of tell them that you’re using WordPress and they wouldn’t know much about it. They would hear more about Squarespace and WIX and the likes of them, even though they are a tiny fraction of the market compared. So it really is kind of, the same challenge that agency owners are experiencing.

[00:08:17] Pitching WordPress to clients happens at a bigger scale when you’re pitching investors as well. So I don’t think there is much advantage as being in WordPress. If you’re trying to raise money, I think that can actually become something that will work against you unfortunately.

[00:08:34] So you might not be buying a new Porsche with all of that investment money, but it does sound like you have about a year to year and a half of solid runway with new hires, and new product features. What does that look like? What’s the first thing you’re going to execute on?

[00:08:47] Vito: Right. So there’s a full-on plan that we’re starting to execute on.

[00:08:51] So first of all, you can go to Atarim.io/careers to see all of the open positions that we’re currently hiring for. The main things is we wanted to double the dev team. We wanted to expand our support hours to serve 24 hours during weekdays. And I wanted to try and get as much as possible off of my table.

[00:09:16] So I’m applying some of the Buyback principle where I basically buy back my own time so I can focus my own day on doing a few specific things, which is serving larger clients as well as our partners, creating more partnerships. And so a lot of my day up until now was you know, I’m still doing all of the design.

[00:09:40] I created all of the UI. I built the website. I maintain the website and I do all the graphics. So every design aspect and every branding aspect is actually done by me. That’s something that someone else can do even better than me. So I’m happy to pass that along. A lot of the day-to-day marketing activities that is gonna be passed on to an inbound marketing manager.

[00:10:03] Managing the SEO team and the ads team and the affiliates and, you know, all of those kinds of functions. This is definitely something that we now can delegate out. And, and then, of course, doubling down on product advances. So there is a massive roadmap when I launched this product kind of laid out a four-year roadmap and now three years in, it’s still four years ahead of us.

[00:10:29] Not because we haven’t done a lot, but because it keeps expanding and there’s always cool, innovative ideas that we wanna bring to our users. So, yeah, we’re just gonna double down on that. Making sure that we basically take things to the next level as a company when it comes to creating internal systems and workflows, you know, the boring stuff.

[00:10:50] We’re applying for SOC 2 for enterprise-level security and, you know, a lot of those things that is very hard to do as a bootstrap, that needs to make these large investments into the company. So now, fortunately, we can do these.

[00:11:06] When it comes to the product itself? We recently released version 3.0 that added a bunch of new functionality, including the all websites URL based collaboration, where you can just drop in any URL and start collaborating within under 10 seconds.

[00:11:22] So we actually waited for version 3.0, to be out before embarking on this journey because what I feel is that the past few years have been us trying to figure out product market fit and what do we need to build to make sure that our platform creates the solid results consistently for our users With version 3.0, we feel that we’ve managed to do that.

[00:11:49] And now it’s a lot of it is about scale and building deeper rather than broader. So going deeper into each one of the features, making sure that everything is as stable as it can be. It is, but it can be a lot more stable. And this is something that we’re gonna invest in. So instead of going wide and completely changing the product, it’s not what we wanna do.

[00:12:12] We just wanna go deep now.

[00:12:13] Any last parting words of advice for somebody who’s looking to raise money, wants to start a new company in the WordPress space. The stage is yours.

[00:12:22] Vito: So if you’re looking to fundraise for your own company There is a few things that I learned. First of all, it’s easier to raise before you have anything because then imagination can take off and you can really pitch whatever you want, depending on your mark, on your sales skills.

[00:12:38] But as soon as there are numbers, then reality is anchored and that could be a good thing. And that could be a bad thing. Fortunately, it worked in our favor because we’ve had a pretty interesting journey over the past three years and we managed to gather quite a few users, even with just a premium model.

[00:12:58] So. Working as a bootstrap is something that kind of drives you to think harder of where you invest your money and where you actually putting your resources because you don’t have many of them. So, that actually worked in our favor. I think that if we would’ve done this sooner, we could have grown faster and you can actually see that with a lot of with some of the companies in the space that have raised earlier and that allowed them to run faster and I like to run fast.

[00:13:30] And so, if your goals are big, don’t shy away from doing this and going after this step. You don’t need to raise millions and millions, at least not at the early stage. Just make sure that whatever you do, you’re, you’re treating it responsibly. Like it’s coming from your own pocket. Like you are a bootstrap company to make sure that it gets you to that desired result at the end of the runway.

[00:13:54] And. Yeah, I think that’s pretty much it. I think that we shouldn’t be scared in the WordPress space to go after investments. But we should also be cautious and conscious of how this can change the company and how we’re utilizing our resources.

[00:14:13] Vito congrats again. Thanks for hanging out with us today and letting us know. About your new fundraising round at Atarim. Where can folks find you to say thanks?

[00:14:21] Vito: You can find out more about Atarim @atarim.io. You can start for free and experiment, visual collaboration and experience visual collaboration for your own team. And if you wanna talk to me, you can find me on Twitter @VitoPeleg.

[00:14:40] Thanks a lot for having me. Thanks for inviting me to make this little episode, like literally a minute after I tweeted out that this has happened. I appreciate it. I appreciate everything that you do for our community. Yeah, I’m looking forward to being on the next episode.

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