I had the chance to sit down with Devon Walker and Matt Cromwell of GiveWP to talk about their sale to Liquid Web.
GiveWP has been the dominant WordPress donation plugin over the last few years. This move makes sense for Liquid Web as they continue to round out a complete managed WordPress solution for their customers.
Liquid Web acquisitions have been on a steady increase lately, with their most recent large acquisition of the Events Calendar plugin.
I hope you enjoy today’s episode with Devon and Matt.
Liquidweb acquires GiveWP
[00:00:00] Matt Medeiros: [00:00:00] We were just chatting before we hit record. Devon, you were mentioning that things were getting wrapped up started to get almost wrapped up last week.
[00:00:06] I’m sure this has been a process. When did this start? What does the timeline look like for some kind of acquisition this size?
[00:00:15]Devin Walker: [00:00:15] We’ve known Chris Lema for a while now. I’ve known him probably 10 years almost. Around November of last year, I received an email from him that said, Hey, would you be interested in talking about how potentially we could work together, more liquid web? And what does this look like? And throughout the rest of 2020, we kind of went back and forth , “Hey, what does this look like?”
[00:00:36] What it, what does it potentially mean for you? What does it mean for us? And then come the new year we landed on. Okay. Potential acquisition could be in the cards. And then a lot more negotiation around that into the LOI phase. And eventually we settled on something that made sense for the both of us our company and liquid web, but our entire team.
[00:00:59] And [00:01:00] then once we went through that, we got into more of the due diligence process, which was a very interesting and. A good learning process for everybody involved and then eventually closed on April 30th of last month.
[00:01:12]Matt Medeiros: [00:01:12] Same brand new parent company, more resources to the customers.
[00:01:17] As people listen to this today, not much is going to change. Matt, Devin turns to you and says, “Hey, we’re thinking about getting acquired by liquid web from a CEO’s perspective, where do you start going to dot the I’s cross?
[00:01:27] The T’s? What was that whole process like as somebody who kind of sees every oversees, everything?”
[00:01:32]Matt Cromwell: [00:01:32] Don’t mess with my tools. I got stuff going here. The biggest thing Devin and I always have been on the lookout for is more resources. The ability to, to inject more energy into the stuff that we’re doing.
[00:01:43]One of the most important resources we have all the time as our team. So that was definitely my very first thing is do they want the whole team? And the immediate question answer to that was, yeah. They understand. And they see that the team makes the product.
[00:01:57]Most folks, I think listening here know what it’s [00:02:00] like to, to run their companies on their own and bootstrapping all their resources as best as they can. And it, stretches everybody thin, but we’re always trying to look for the best way to support our people.
[00:02:11] And I do feel like this is a win-win across the board for all of our team members.
[00:02:16] Matt Medeiros: [00:02:16] Devin when you first start to have these conversations with Chris and you say, Hey, it’s great to add more resources, but man, this is my baby. I mean, you and I, you were a guest co-host of the Matt Report for a little while years ago, when you started giving WP, we’ve obviously met up at word camps and certain sort of senior journey highlighted your journey.
[00:02:35]How do you start putting up the mental guardrails to say. Okay. This is, this is for the greater good of everyone.
[00:02:41] I’m sort of giving this up. This, this passion, this dream, how do you do that?
[00:02:47] Devin Walker: [00:02:47] Yeah. Well, one, one major thing was they want the leadership to come along with the product. And so. Matt and myself, Matt C CommonWell here, and me are not going anywhere. We are still fully in charge [00:03:00] of the destiny of our product, and of course we’ll have lots of good advice and good, good mentoring that now we don’t have to pay for
[00:03:08] Matt Medeiros: [00:03:08] using Chris’s clarity line.
[00:03:10] Devin Walker: [00:03:10] That was, that was painful to pay that bill every month. But no, we, we Yeah, you’re right. Like my ownership and mats ownership. We, we no longer have that any more, but we have great incentives in place to meet certain goals that they’ve set and we’ve sat and and a lot more resources to do that.
[00:03:28] So, while w it was sad to see kind of my ownership go away in the product. It was, at least gratifying to know. We’re we still have. The ability to pull the levers that we’ve always
[00:03:39] Matt Cromwell: [00:03:39] had. Yeah. It’s a really good question though, because I feel like folks who build things that grow and scale and get larger.
[00:03:50] At some point you do start to recognize that this actually is. Larger than me. And one thing that, I already mentioned, one thing we’re super proud of is our [00:04:00] team. We start to recognize that our team really is the people that have built this over time. And, and no product that has this much success is, is, is just on the back of one person anymore.
[00:04:11] So, But the ability to just say, okay, I’ll just do this different with our business. We don’t have that ability anymore, but give in itself really gets to continue and and go strong and probably stronger than we could have done it on her own. So, yeah.
[00:04:26]Matt Medeiros: [00:04:26] We’ve the three of us have chatted personally about the business and some of the clients you’ve had, I won’t say the names here, but I’m sure they’re on your website and you can feel free to say some of your notable clients, active WP, but you have some.
[00:04:37] Really notable clients, some really big brands use your product and something like this, like you said, this is, this is bigger than us. There’s no longer can we just play with some of these not plays, not also, not a great word to use, but we can’t just focus on, on, maybe even doing things the WordPress way anymore.
[00:04:55] Maybe we have to broaden our horizons, open up the different technologies and in [00:05:00] a place like liquid web is going to have. Some real broad reaching technologies. Cause they don’t just do WordPress. They do all kinds of things. So, yeah. You start to really sit back and look at this and say, yeah, if we’re going to turn this into a air quotes, serious business, we need some serious support, whether that’s other minds of the brains pumping into this machine or dollars, right.
[00:05:21] To help support and grow this infrastructure. No real question there, but just sort of phrasing that. I don’t know if you have any
[00:05:28] Matt Cromwell: [00:05:28] thoughts around that. I mean, for sure, like in many ways A struggle that a lot of WordPress folks, WordPress products have is that we are, we get inserted into a giant stack that you don’t have control over.
[00:05:41] And anybody who’s been watching liquid web for a while knows that they’re really attack. They’re really tackling, managed, hosting in a serious way. And honestly, that’s something that. That we are really excited to keep talking about and see if there’s a way that we can make sure that there’s a kind of managed nonprofit stack that we could be talking about.
[00:05:59]Th [00:06:00] that give isn’t just one of the plugins, but it’s basically the engine behind the whole entire stack, and it’s a lot more predictable. It’s a lot more manageable that would ease the pain of a lot of. Folks, a lot of our customers that we’ve had over the years. And that is the kind of thing that’s really hard to accomplish just on your own.
[00:06:18] That liquid web really is primed to already do. .
[00:06:21]Matt Medeiros: [00:06:21] Everything sounds great. So far but Devin, from a product builders perspective, what have been the big challenges for you over the last couple of years to even entertain something like this and say, you know what?
[00:06:32] Yeah, I do want to have that, that conversation as something in the market, something in the WordPress market. Anything in, in technology or, or donations at large that are, that make this a challenging space, if any,
[00:06:45]Devin Walker: [00:06:45] One of the challenges that we’ve been trying to overcome is providing a solution for those folks outside of the WordPress space and trying to learn about SAS and, and what our market fit is there.
[00:06:59] And really bringing a [00:07:00] solution that doesn’t compete with, give it up a, but compliments it. And and we think we know what the answer is now with the help of liquid web. Now we really feel strongly that we could provide a real good solution in that space. It’s going to be something that we’re not used to, but having people on our side that have done it before and done it successfully will definitely help us.
[00:07:20]Get over there the Hill on that one, I’d say that was probably one of the main challenges, but also, growing and scaling the development team and recruiting and all these things yet at the point where we hit around 25 total team members Matt, Matt was going crazy playing the HR game.
[00:07:39] And we had to do everything under the sun as partners to keep things rolling. And it’s really hard at that point to continue growing when you’re bootstrapped.
[00:07:47]Matt Medeiros: [00:07:47] As soon as you add somebody else, it’s scaling that. Very difficult to find out why. I think a lot of people just overlook because they don’t know, they don’t know, like they just get over the hump of I finally optimize my Google ads. I’ve just got [00:08:00] a marketing machine running and now I have to manage people and figure out pods and stuff like that.
[00:08:05] Pods, like in, from a human resources perspective, very challenging. Speaking of the team, how did you present it to the team and what was their reaction?
[00:08:13] Devin Walker: [00:08:13] Yeah. So I’ll answer the first part. Matt, you can kind of jump in after. So we, we thought a lot about this because we have a lot of team members.
[00:08:21] We don’t want to rub them the wrong way. If we told them at the very last minute, some companies you show up. One morning and they said, Hey, we’ve been acquired, sign your new employment paper right now. It’s, they don’t give you any chance. But we have a couple of key leaders on our team.
[00:08:34] Our head of support had a customer success, lead developer. We pulled them in and told them weeks in advance and made sure they were in the know plan accordingly with the team members. And then we let the team know the same week, a couple of days before the entire team, explain our reasoning there.
[00:08:51] And. Yeah, I think it went over really well.
[00:08:53] Matt Cromwell: [00:08:53] Yeah, for sure. I mean, anybody who’s employed and either as an employee or as a [00:09:00] contractor at their employment is, is important to them. And learning that essentially. Well, I mean, literally what happens for the folks who don’t know is that you, you let all of these people go and they get hired by the other company.
[00:09:13] And that is a jarring experience, no matter who you are. And so being able to talk to that and be really upfront about it, that LiquidWeb has guaranteed that every single one of you are coming on board, whether you’re an employee or a contractor or not, that was really important to us. But it’s still something that they have to wrestle with.
[00:09:29] So it was really. Good and fortunate that we were able to basically give the news on a Friday essentially. And give them time to, to, to, to at least think about it just a little bit. I think they appreciated that some of them didn’t realize that like when Devin said that. That it literally could, like some folks really do give you like an hour to make sure decisions.
[00:09:48]And we’re giving them a whole weekend. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it, it, it does make a big difference. So, I mean, the contractor experience is different than the employee experience. Everyone had their own [00:10:00] concerns, but the best thing was essentially that, that I really. Worked hard to bring the HR team from like web into the picture and for them to get to know them and to really work with them directly.
[00:10:12]Misty in particular was just awesome, really helping out a ton. Once they saw the effort that we were all going to, to really. Kind of help them in the transition. It really, really ease things up quite a lot. So, by and large, I think 92, 93% of everybody was, was basically like, yeah, I’ll sign that.
[00:10:30] No problem. There’s others that had questions and concerns. But we were really happy in the end that we got them all addressed and all onboarded.
[00:10:37]Matt Medeiros: [00:10:37] Who do you turn to in these moments? I know Chris is such a, a mentor for a lot of WordPress companies.
[00:10:44] Your mentor is essentially buying you, which mentor did you turn to to say we’re making the right decision here.
[00:10:48]Devin Walker: [00:10:48] So we have a long-term mentor that has been with us for many years, that we we consulted with quite a bit on this, but also our, our attorney for a long time as well helped us start the [00:11:00] business years and years ago, then using a member since, and those two have really helped quite a bit, get the deal done, evaluate the deal, figure out if it was a good thing, work
[00:11:09] Matt Cromwell: [00:11:09] through it.
[00:11:09] Matt Medeiros: [00:11:09] I heard some folks in some other podcasts say that their attorneys have felt like they’ve become their best friends. I’m like, yeah. Well, if I was paying my best friends, tens of thousands of dollars, maybe pick up the phone every time I call too.
[00:11:19]Final question here, payments or, or the donations In WordPress, where do you think it’s going? As there’s so much competition, I feel, and I’ll throw out everyone’s favorite, jet pack, woo commerce automatic owned entities, I feel like there’s always just a new payment thing coming out, whether it’s for donations or for simple, I’m throwing my air quotes against simple.
[00:11:39] E-commerce where do you think this is all going in terms of making it easier for the customer? Are we just going to see. Easier integrations into PayPal. Stripe is, is web. We’re going to launch their own sort of one click checkout thing. Like this world is so crazy moving so fast. Where do you see this all going for the [00:12:00] end user?
[00:12:00]Devin Walker: [00:12:00] With the pandemic hitting last year, it’s never been more important to be online, whether you’re doing e-commerce fundraising membership sites. E-learning what have you. So people are going to build around that and simplify it and try to get more of that market. So you’re going to see major players like automatic, bring more of that into whether it’s Jetpack or a new product or acquire stuff.
[00:12:21] You’re going to see large families of brands like liquid web. Continue to invest into products like us so we can continue innovating and growing our already substantial market share. But then I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of the new products coming out and I’m trying to capture some more of that.
[00:12:37] So, Stripe and PayPal lead the way Stripe being, every developer’s favorite. And then I would see a lot more popularity with that. A lot more solutions come out for that.
[00:12:47]Matt Cromwell: [00:12:47] In general, like a lot of folks, we really are imagining that there we’re going to have a one button solution for, for payments in general.
[00:12:53] I don’t know if they always think about what it takes to make that happen and what it takes is sharing a lot of private data in order [00:13:00] for that to happen. And so at the same time that we want things to be a one button thing. Everybody also has a lot of privacy concerns right now, too. So how do you have your cake and eat it too?
[00:13:09] Well, just making a really streamlined, simple form because. If you enter in the information yourself, then you know, that it’s that it’s information that you provided and not just gleaned from your phone or gleaned from your account or anything like that, like that. So being able to continue to do the best forms possible is really right now in the immediate, I think still the most optimal path that, that everybody’s going to still continue to need.
[00:13:33]The day when we all just can show our phone and just be like, here, I’ll give you money. Is the day when honestly there’s sources that have all of our private information about everything we’re doing. So, it’s a mixed bag. It’s a careful balance trying to try to have our cake and eat it too in that
[00:13:47] Matt Medeiros: [00:13:47] scenario.
[00:13:48]At least try to take some of that cake back from Apple, Google. Facebook and all these other places that have our information in our payment sources, Devin Walker, Matt Cromwell… Well, give wp.com. We can still go to give [00:14:00] wp.com. Right.
[00:14:03] Matt Cromwell: [00:14:03] Please do
[00:14:04] Matt Medeiros: [00:14:04] forwarding to liquid web signup page gentlemen, thanks for taking the time to hang out.
[00:14:09] Tell us all about your wonderful news being acquired by liquid web. Congratulations. It’s been a long time coming to see the success of you guys and your team. Is, is quite phenomenal. And I’m happy for you guys anywhere else that folks can go to say, thanks.
[00:14:23]Devin Walker: [00:14:23] Well, we have a town hall coming up on Tuesday, May 18th.
[00:14:26] At what time again, Matt 11:00 AM Pacific time. So if you want to join us, ask us any questions. It’ll be a great format. Come on over.
[00:14:35]Matt Medeiros: [00:14:35] Thanks for listening to everybody. The WP minute.com. Sign up for the newsletter and the podcast. See in the next episode.