Last April when we announced we were rebranding and relaunching the Managed WordPress hosting system we developed in 2006 as Page.ly we did a survey of the market and found that while there were traditional hosting companies offering plans for WordPress users, no one else was offering the unique set of tools and security benefits we had developed specifically for WordPress.
The market was wide open for our unique and specialized WordPress hosting solution.
Traditional hosts at the time were advertising a “1 click WordPress install” was using a piece of software called Fantastico that is essentially a library of web applications a cpanel user could install into their hosting account. While the concept was cool, Fantastico was notorious for lagging behind in updates and tying the hands of the user to some degree as the WP instance was managed by Fantastico and they had little control over updates and security. Even today this is the system that powers the vast majority of “1 click” installers you see advertised.
This summer has proven to be the Summer of Security meltdowns (Sucuri has been tracking it) at the big traditional hosting outfits. Everyone from NetSol, GoDaddy, and MT where hammered with security breaches affecting hundreds of thousands of customers. The big hosts tried to blame the malware outbreak on outdated versions of WordPress running on their systems. Question: Why were they outdated? Because again many hosts were using Fantastico which was lagging behind current releases. Ultimately most of the big hosts admitted faulty server configuration as the reason for the outbreak after trying to blame it on WordPress when called out by Ma.tt himself.
While the term “1-click WordPress Hosting” that referred to Fantasico powered installs by the economy hosting companies has been around for many years, the term we use and coined “Managed WordPress Hosting” is how we refer to our unique system of fast setup, automated backups and upgrades, and uber secure environment.
Our Managed WordPress Hosting system has been custom built from the ground up to specifically focus on 1 single application, WordPress. We understood the common frustrations users had installing the application, and the common problems users face keeping their sites updated and secure. Page.ly was designed to address these pain points, yet allow near total freedom of the user to customize their site. We took a very holistic and unique approach to manage the technical details for the user without interfering with their ability to customize, and it has paid off with the success we have seen with our product.
Prove the model, and others will follow
When we opened for business and began accepting customers in August of 2009 we had more than our fair share of people thinking we were crazy. Why specialize in one platform they said; You are too expensive they said; Along with all the other bits naysayers like to say. Over a year later we have an ample and growing customer base, strategic partnerships with others vendors in the WordPress space, plans to fit all types of sites, and recently booked our best month to date with 55% growth for September over August. (A sweet 3x since May)
So it did not take long after we started gaining some traction and success to see the wake behind our boat beginning to fill with other companies trying to make a go at their own take of WordPress hosting service. Some have put their own novel spin on the idea, others have sadly thought a bad attempt at cloning was the way to go. Even worse many have chosen to use Security as a positioning point with little or no track record of security or explanation of how their leased servers are any more secure than the other servers by that hosting outfit that was just in the news for massive security exploits. For Page.ly we have chosen to hire the most secure datacenter around to manage our server infrastructure and have a perfect record of zero successful malware or hacking attempts; ever.
The moral of the story is though that as any company proves the existence of a viable market, others are going to follow. Ask Groupon about the 500 or more clones of their very successful product. People are going to like the idea, think they can do it better than you, and it is inevitable that your new company will soon have a plethora of eager competitors.
Competition is healthy for business. Personally I stress cooperation over competition even speaking on the topic often about reducing duplication of efforts within communities. But good old competitive capitalism is vital and essential for your company. It helps you position you product in space and helps educate the market as a whole to the available options they have. The arrival of competitors in our space did more to validate our business model than we could have done with a year of marketing and education. We no longer look crazy when someone else is crazy enough to agree with us.
Those companies that enter your space may choose from a variety of means to distinguish or call attention to themselves. Some may offer a legitimate unique spin or improvement over your service, some play Walmart and undercut you on price, some go negative and trash you, while others consolidate offerings going for the super store approach.
One such newcomer to the WordPress hosting space has taken the “go negative” approach vocally trashing us as a company and as persons at community events. We have not even met this person yet they somehow feel compelled to impugn our character. Unfortunately par for the course for many in business that think that is the way to get ahead. Maybe if they had a novel idea they did not get from us, they could compete on their own track record instead of this tired approach.
The recent announcement of the StudioPress-Copyblogger merger is a good example of the super-store approach. The new mega company is pooling their WordPress resources and expertise together to make a play at the “everything you need under 1 roof” type business. What they have also eluded to is a distribution channel to get this bundle into the hands of their customers. StudioPress is a theme vendor of ours and we have spoken to them and with Clark (when he was with Thesis; but shelved due to the Thesis GPL issues) about a hosting vertical in the past. However we are not involved in their future plans, so in essence they will join the ranks of those coming into our space in the near future.
Page.ly specializes in and will continue to focus on the Managed Hosting aspect of WordPress. We have no plans to move into the plugin or theme space as there are so many solid offerings there already that our model is much better suited to partner with and promote these companies then to attempt to duplicate their efforts.
The first to market moniker is a coveted one and also one that paints a large target on your back. This article explains nicely some of the pitfalls of being the first mover. How you use the opportunity, timing, and luck all play into the success or failure of your business if you are the first to define and enter a space. We have had our share of luck, and the timing this go around has been been near ideal, and thankfully we have been able to innovate and push the momentum at such a pace that being first to market has been a blessing for us. It’s up to us to keep it.
Image courtesy: http://jfcbookstore.org/