Guest host, Amber Hinds is sharing with us her POV on Equalize Digital’s first “exit.”
“This post tells the story of how WP Conference Schedule came to be and why we ultimately ended up selling it before even launching the paid version of the plugin.”Amber Hinds
Hi everyone, This is Amber from Equalize Digital. Last week we announced the sale of one of our plugins, WP Conference Schedule, to The Events Calendar.
Matt reached out to me to provide some additional information about the sale. As someone who appreciates acquisition news and podcast episodes, it only seems right to add our story to the mix as a resource for other developers considering selling their plugins.
You may know my company or me from our work in the WordPress Accessibility space or our plugin Accessibility Checker. Most of you have probably not heard of WP Conference Schedule, though it was actually my company’s first foray into commercial plugin development.
WP Conference Schedule is pretty small; that’s why you probably haven’t heard of it. It has a free version on WordPress.org with just under 300 active installs. We initially developed the free version of the plugin and what was going to be our first version of WP Conference Schedule Pro to meet clients’ needs at our agency. But, before we could monetize it, COVID hit, and we set the plugin aside, switching gears to focus on Accessibility Checker.
When setting our company goals for this year, we initially thought we were going to release the pro version in March of this year. However, when March rolled around, we did some soul searching and decided that it made more business sense for us to sell the plugin as-is rather than trying to turn it into a monetized product.
I wrote a detailed blog post explaining why we decided to sell the plugin, but in short, monetizing and growing a WordPress plugin requires a large time investment in marketing and development that our small team couldn’t see putting in a new product when we still have a lot that we want to do with Accessibility Checker.
So, how did we sell it?
Honestly, since this was a pre-revenue product and we were not trying to sell our whole business, we didn’t bother working with a broker or posting it in a marketplace.
The day we decided to sell it, I posted about it in Post Status and Tweeted about it. My tweets were picked up by a couple of WordPress new sources like The WP Minute, and prospective buyers reached out to me directly via email, Twitter, and Post Status DMs.
I spent about an hour putting together a Google Doc that outlined key information that I thought a buyer might want:
- Number of active installs and Freemius opt-ins.
- Links to real sites using the free and (beta) Pro plugin.
- A list of tasks left on our to-do list before the Pro plugin could be launched.
- Possible ideas for what could be done with it in the future (essentially our roadmap).
- The pricing tiers we had planned to sell it for and research on what competitors charge for their products.
- Some very basic documentation on the shortcodes built into Pro.
The current WPConferenceSchedule.com website was a subsite in a multisite, so I also spent an hour or two migrating it into its own install (because we planned to use the website as an asset in the sale) and setting up the Pro version of the plugin with some demo content so that prospective buyers could see what had already been built (since we didn’t have a demo created yet).
When people initially reached out, I sent them this doc and access to the demo site, then we set up calls to answer their questions.
Having never sold a product before and because WP Conference Schedule was a pre-revenue product, I had no idea what to expect as far as response. But I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of interest we received from prospective buyers.
The fact that The Events Calendar threw its hat into the ring was especially exciting as we had discussed internally how it could fit well with their products long before even deciding to sell. Most of the clients we had built WP Conference Schedule for also use The Events Calendar on their website, and I see so much potential for how conferences could use the Events Calendar ticketing add-on for event ticket sales or even session registrations.
Since we do have current clients using WP Conference Schedule on their website, it was important to us that we find a buyer who could steward it well and would be able to give it the attention it deserves, and I don’t think we could have found a better buyer on that front.
What was the hand-off like?
Of course, because WP Conference Schedule had yet to be monetized, it made due diligence pretty easy, and there were no challenges associated with trying to hand off customer accounts or subscriptions. A code review was required during due diligence, but that also didn’t feel very major us. From the time of the offer to closing happened was only a matter of weeks, though I imagine that would be extended if financial audits were necessary.
Once all of the paperwork was signed, and funds cleared our bank account, it took a few minutes to transfer the .org repo ownership and Github repositories. Because I had already done the work of pulling the website out of the multi-site, transferring it and domain was likewise very easy.
Now we get to all anxiously wait and see what cool things The Events Calendar is going to do with it.
On our end, selling the plugin provided a cash infusion that we will be able to invest into furthering Accessibility Checker (and we removed the distraction of having to respond to support tickets on an unpaid product), so it really feels like a total win for our team.
If you have a plugin languishing on WordPress.org or one that no longer fits into your company’s goals, it’s worth exploring selling it so you can stay mission-focused and have additional funds to invest in the parts of your business that matter most.
I hope you found our story interesting. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @HeyAmberHinds if you have any questions and thanks for listening to The WP Minute.