The Authority should reside with the Responsibility.

A take-away from this great book.

A year ago my long time friend Sean Tierney joined our company as our Dir. of Sales. After a few weeks he hands me a book and said something to the effect of “whether you know it or not, this is how you run the company”. I read most of it quickly, then finished it a few months later (the last few chapters are gold). Highly recommend, buy it.

Of late, we have been growing at a good clip at Pagely, new faces at the weekly standup’s. A focus of mine as we have grown is to reinforce the culture that has made us successful.

A core tenant of that culture is that our team members are responsible for managing themselves on a day to day basis and are fully accountable to the team as whole. They are also given our complete trust to make and execute decisions within their universe of responsibility. Our team(s) excel within this framework.

Do less of this.

In a typical company structure you have a strict hierarchy of top down leadership. The Authority (and mission planning) resides in the C Suite and carved up among VP’s and various Directors. However the responsibility of executing against the mission goals resides at the department, team, and individual which collectively are held accountable for the success of the mission.

Employees are responsible and accountable for the success of the mission, but often times given zero of the authority to decide or determine how that mission goal should be achieved, or even given a say in if the mission is a valid one.

In a sense, leadership does not trust the workforce. Have you ever talked to a customer support rep somewhere to be told they had to send this up to a manager or that they did not have the authority needed to make that change?

Would you want to work at a place like that? Would you give 110% for someone who does not trust you?

Do more of this.

What Sean was telling me when he gave me that book, was in a sense we run a bottom up organization. We assign responsibility to our team members along with the authority necessary to make decisions and take action to accomplish the mission, then hold them accountable for the results.

But How?

Well first and foremost we attempt to hire for culture first: Is this person someone likely to consider the possible consequences before taking action  (mindfulness). Is this someone who has worked remote before and has solid references from peers to attest to their ability to self-manage (accountability).

Obviously then we look for the following: expertise in their field (competency) and what I call the ‘no sheeps’ personality traits of critical thinking and willingness to act.

If we did our screening right we are hiring people that we can trust with the fate of our company. The formula does not always work perfectly, we’ve made bad hires too.

Each potential hire is screened in the above manner. The final interview before they are hired is with me where we discuss almost exclusively our culture, the expectations we (as a team) have for them, and those they may have for us. We talk about the current mission(s) (globally and for their respective role) and if they have any suggestions at that time to improve the mission. Later on at our weekly standup’s everyone is encouraged to discuss and refine it. The mission is owned by everyone and is malleable.

On their first day a Pagely Support Engineer is granted SSH key based access to every single Amazon server we manage and tasked with solving any and all customer issues that come up (responsibility). They are expected to solve these issues to the betterment of the client relying on their skill set, the joint expertise of their team, and their ability to research and learn (accountability).

As they get up to speed: They should never ask for permission, they already have it. They should never fear making a mistake the first time as new mistakes are a valid part of the learning process.

Most importantly they should always default to a state of mindful action: using reasoned intelligence to process the current mission goals (whether that is a specific customer support task or a global task such as documentation or product improvement), share their intent (sanity check the action plan), and finally execute the action plan (authority).

This is not authority in the sense of Boss > Employee. It is the authority to take action. Trust is the mechanism the authority flows through.

Ultimately we place complete trust in our team. We hired them for a reason, why second-guess them at every step. They can refund a client, they can reward a client, they can go to any length to serve a client. Very little happens in their support universe that they personally do not have direct authority or influence over.

It works across teams as well. They can reach over to InfoSec, or DevOps, or Engineering or elsewhere for resources, guidance, or to lodge feature requests and request feedback.

We push the authority down to the level of the responsibility and accountability so they are one and the same. 

In the book they call this Leader-Leader (the opposite of leader-follower). It is not the elimination of corporate hierarchy but it has the effect of turning everyone into a leader that makes decisions and is expected to act on those decisions in accordance with the mission goals. The ‘subordinate’ decides how to accomplish their specific mission goal and simply state’s their intent to do so (with context) to their ‘superior’ for confirmation.

“If all you need to do is what you are told, then you don’t need to understand your craft.

However, as your ability to make decisions increases, then you need intimate technical knowledge on which to base those decisions.

Control without competence is chaos.”

Excerpt From: L. David Marquet. “Turn the Ship Around”

A real support case at Pagely.

Mission Goal: Return clients server to functional state after an automated alert from our DevOps channel.

A to Support Team: “I’m going to restart the php process on server x as it appears to be in a stuck state after the client’s latest code deploy. It seems to have created a bunch of runaway processes, likely a slow query. I will confirm the cause and remedy as needed, informing the client as I progress”

B to A: “Yes. We patched that once before, appears they did not commit our patch, the patch is at [github link].”

A to B: “Yeah I saw that in the account notes. Thanks for confirming”

… a few minutes later

A to Support Team: “Applied our patch again, and confirmed the client has commit to their repo for the future. Their wp-admin is back to < 1 second page loads.. Closing case.”

This scenario, not the client caused failure, but the demonstration of how our support team works together happens every minute of every day. The same in DevOps, Sales, Engineering, etc. We are a team of teams (another great book) that work cohesively to accomplish our mission goals and to set new goals.

Would we be as effective if say; the support agent notified their ‘superior’ of the issue, the superior being the gate-keeper of authority and knowledge either then has to clearly instruct the agent how to solve it and follow the resolution, or maybe has to escalate to someone else with authority to access the servers who fixes the issue and reports back, which is then reported back to the originating agent, who then reports back to the customer. Um, no.

A long story short.

  1. Craft and communicate your mission goals.
  2. Trust those responsible and accountable for the mission’s success with the authority to act.
  3. Reinforce good outcomes.

It’s working for us, YMMV.

To catch a predator

It is pretty telling what sort of business most PE and VC’s are in when they send out blanket lead gen emails. It’s a business for them and startup founders are the customer. Shared this with some friends privately and of course a few got the same blanket email.

Hi Joshua,
I believe you’ve connected with my colleague [redacted] in the past, but I wanted to reach out to introduce myself. As a refresher, I’m part of [redacted], a $30 billion private equity firm based in [redacted], which makes minority, non-controlling investments in a broad range of tech and tech-enabled service industries.
I’d love to reconnect with you and learn more about Pagely and how the business is performing, as well as provide you with an update of what we’ve been working on at [redacted]. Are you available next week for a quick intro chat?

Speak to you soon.
Senior Associate at [redacted] firm

> “Have you seen our investors page?”

Joshua:
I did not notice one on your website – did I miss it? I also checked Crunchbase before reaching out, which is typically very reliable for funding information, and I did not notice any prior funding.

> “https://pagely.com/about-us/investors/ :)”

Got it – if you don’t mind me asking, what are your reservations with partnering with an investment firm?

> “Just not my cup of tea.

http://saint-rebel.com/2015/11/18/looking-through-the-looking-glass/ Also http://saint-rebel.com/2014/01/15/venture-backed-tears/

Also, good friend of mine runs a PE firm, so I have a close contact should I need it.

Please do a little more research next time.
Happy Holidays. ”

Joshua:

Appreciate your candor and you’re right, I should have been more thorough in my due diligence before reaching out.

Candidly speaking, I understand your concern with the private equity model. At [redacted], we truly believe that we have a differentiated approach relative to most investment firms. We’ve played an integral role in helping our partners by assisting with the build out of their management, sales, and dev teams, making customer introductions, and serving as an outsourced M&A group (amongst other things). Capital is only a part of what we bring to the table, and I think that’s a fairly consistent message that you would receive from CEOs that we’ve partnered with in the past.

Thanks again for the conversation and best of luck closing out this year.

Looking through the looking glass

Let’s play a game: You have two lenses on the table in front of you. If you pick up the lens on the right and examine a random business you see it from the techpress/VC/SV point of view. If you pick up the lens on the left you see it through, I’d argue, a more realistic point of view reflecting that of the vast majority of entrepreneurial businesses out there.

With the right lens, the unicorn lens, you may see things like:

  • Latest $ valuation
  • Amount of money raised
  • Steep hockey stick growth curves (or not, surprisingly)
  • Customer acquisition pace, churn and ARPU, MRR, ARR, etc.
  • A Culture “statement”

With the left lens, the everyday business lens, you may see things like:

  • Growth of any kind (sustainability)
  • Employee engagement/satisfaction/turnover
  • Founder engagement, happiness level
  • Customer acquisition pace, churn and ARPU, MRR, ARR, etc.
  • A cultural vibe that shapes the tone, voice, and operations of the co.

So now that you know the parameters of the game we can look at our business through each lens.

I was chatting with a long time friend of mine this evening and we traded a few bits about cars, the Phoenix Suns, and work. I gave him an update on our progress at Pagely.

Pagely is a revenue-funded, founder owned and controlled, SaaS technology company that offers high scale, high performance, even bespoke at times, managed hosting solutions for WordPress.

This is our 18mo MRR graph.
screenshot2467

  • We are clearly growing, but at an even pace vs. a dramatic hockey stick
  • We’ve passed on acquisition offers in the tens of millions, so we can use that as a valuation.
  • We have raised $0 in funding
  • We have next to zero turnover as a % of our headcount. And by all feedback our staff is happy and healthy.
  • Founder engagement is high, and very happy
  • The other business metrics are pointed in the right direction. CAC is falling, churn is falling, Acquisition pace is slightly accelerating after our target market change, ARPU is way up as we go up-market, MRR and ARR of course are growing steadily.
  • Culture. Found in spades that reflect’s and re-enforces our core values.

With those basic details in mind.

The viewer with the right hand lens, may look at our co. and see a ‘lifestyle’ business, or label it some other term, and move on. Techcrunch won’t even notice it, and by most measures in that world it’s not even a conversation.

The viewer with the left hand lens will see ~285% MRR growth in the last 18months, an engaged and active founding team, an engaged and growing diverse group of employees, and when peering deeper a solid business unit going in the right direction on all KPI’s.

Mind you, it’s the same business. Only the vantage point (lens) has changed.

Confession: I’m a left hand viewer. And so is my friend I was talking to. As we were dialoging about building our businesses and sharing status updates he offered up to me:

What’s more impressive to me than the trajectory is the way you are going about it- family first, take time for yourself, focus and dedication.

Which from my POV is a ringing endorsement as I replied:

…goal was to build something, even if it was not a unicorn, that we owned 100% of, spun off cash, and still had residual value come exit time.  Basically we win in every outcome.

We win in (nearly) every outcome. 

We built something from nothing, it has real value unto itself that we may realize at some point in the future upon an exit. Our team is energetic and committed. The business spins off cash. And the best part: My co-founder wife and I became parents, 2x, while building this co. and spend the day, every day, with our 2 young boys in the house with us giving them the love and attention they need and deserve.

Not every co. needs to shoot for the moon in an attempt to deliver 10x-100x returns for the money guys. Not every co. should be run as a personally held sustainable ‘small’ business.

Pick the lens that works for you when evaluating your next opportunity.

More, and likely better reading on this topic: http://www.inc.com/magazine/201510/bo-burlingham/built-to-last-and-last.html

Employee compensation is more than just salary

Or healthcare, or stock options, or anything else listed in an employment contract.

At Pagely we are a distributed team spread all over the world, working different shifts in different timezones. They are some of the most passionate and dedicated people I know and I am fortunate to work with them.

As a business owner have you ever thought about what a conversation would look like between your employee and his/her best friend? Are they going to gush about how awesome their job is and how smart and talented their co-workers are? Are they going to share with their spouse that the CEO is a honest person, doing their best to build a company and making every effort to take care of customers and employees. Are they going to say the company they work for is grounded in integrity?

Now do the real mental exercise and ask yourself: What do your employees say about your company when in private among their family and friends?

How you conduct yourself as a CEO or manager, the words you choose and the tactics you employ in your marketing, how your company culture talks about the customers and the competition in private. All these things, these intangibles that are not listed on your offer sheets, are informing your employees on how they feel about the company and the people they work for.

Money makes the world go around, and rewarding employees financially is just the first step. Making it easy for them to tell other’s about the great place they work is a form of compensation that we at Pagely place a priority on.

Most people would be very uncomfortable saying:

My boss is a crook, and treats us like shit. Our support team is forced to upsell every ticket or lose their job, and the our marketing dept. are bunch of lying jerk off’s. But I need the job so I deal with it.

So don’t be that company.

 

Acquisition terms you may see when considering an offer.

Over the life of our business Pagely  we’ve seen a few term sheets from potential acquirers (None that we’ve accepted). There are few things I’ve seen in all of them that as a founder stuck out to me.

Cash is not really Cash until it is in your hand.

We’ll use some made up number’s here that make for easy math. 

You are minding your business and someone comes along and ask’s to buy your company. You choose to entertain them and see what they are offering. You got a number in mind, let’s see how how it all shakes out.

The term sheet has this nice big number acquisition price that get’s your attention: $30 million. Hey $30million, that’s a lot of cheddar and in line with what you were thinking is a good price for your company. Okay, so you keep reading and the terms go on to spell out something like this.

  • $8m cash at closing
  • $2m at milestone 1
  • $5m at milestone 2
  • $5m at milestone 3
  • 500,000 stock options

You think to yourself, hey that looks like only $20m, WTF? You keep reading and more details emerge.

  • $8m cash at closing
    • $3m of which will be held in escrow for 24 months
    • $1m of which is written in as a clawback you repay if you or any important staff leaves prior to 24 months
  • $2m at milestone 1
    • This is a simple time-based milestone, after 24months it’s yours.
  • $5m at milestone 2
    • This is a performance milestone, you only get it if your business unit they just acquired and integrated achieves some revenue goal
  • $5m at milestone 3
    • This is another performance milestone like above, but with a higher threshold
  • 500,000 stock options
    • 250k are granted at closing of deal, but on a 4year vesting schedule
    • 250k are actually part of the employment package for your team, but for some reason included in the total consideration of $30m they put in front of you. They don’t include the salary of your team, just the stock allocation. Odd right. And it’s on a 4year vesting schedule. So this doesn’t count as part of the acquisition price.
    • Option strike price is unknown, but for the math to work they assign an illustrative value of $20 per option. 500k * $20 = $10m.

Okay, so you have a better idea now of what you are looking at. Roughly $20m in cash, and $5m in stock options. Hey’s it’s still $25million right, and employement packages for your team. Well…

  • Of the $8m at closing, $3m is locked up in an escrow account you can’t touch for 24 months. This is essentially insurance for the buyer as if any legal trouble or anything pop’s up you did not disclose, they have easy recourse to just deduct what they want from the escrow account.
    • Of the $5m in cash you actually get in your hand at closing, you have to keep $1m of it liquid for the clawback provision in case you or a key team member quits early and you have to pay some of it back.
  • The $2m on the first milestone is essentially yours if you stick it out in 24 months. Cool.
  • The $10m tied up in milestone’s 2 and 3 are only yours if you hit those milestones, this is typically called an earn-out. Now more than likely the term sheet says something along the lines of “buyer will not intentionally make it hard for you to achieve these milestones, but will not put any covenant’s or assurances in writing to such effect”. What this means is that $10m is open to the whims of the acquirer; what if they decide to change tact and pull your team off your business unit to go work on another project for 9 months making it impossible to hit that milestone. Or the acquirer was acquired themselves and the new owner just decides to drop the business unit all together making your milestones not even feasible. So let’s say you only have a 50/50 chance of ever seeing a dime of this $10m.
  • The 250k stock options that are part of the business acquisition are on a 4 year vest. The acquirer is doing well from what you can see so these may be worth something in the future. Is it $1 or $100/share? Who knows. Most likely the default contract language will see you forfeiting any non-vested options if you leave the company prior to 4 years.

So after all that, you figure on the DAY you close this $30million deal (remember it’s really only $20m in cash, and 250k options they are telling you should be worth $20/share someday), you get.

  • $5m in cash, in your hand.
  • 250k stock options (not really yours yet as they have to vest over 4years).

Say it all goes well and a year later you get:

  • 1/4 of your 250k options are vested. It’s a private company, and there is no secondary market demand for these shares, so no realized value.

It’s still going well, and so at the 2 year mark you get:

  • $3m back from the escrow account
  • $2m for hitting milestone 1
  • 1/2 of your 250k options are now vested, still cant sell them as there is no secondary market.
  • You made it this far, so the clawback is void.. so you are not at risk of having to pay back the $1m (of the $5m you actually got at closing)

Yes! It’s now around the end of Year 3, things are still going good and you hit milestone 2. You get:

  • $5m sweet cold hard cash
  • 3/4 of your stock is now vested

Sometime later around the end of your fourth year you hit milestone 3 and you get the last chunk of change.

  • $5M in sweet cold hard cash
  • All 250k options are vested and maybe there is a secondary market or the company when public and you can actually sell these now for profit. WIN! (don’t forget to pay the taxes from your profit)
  • During your employment you likely got a nice 6 figure salary and some additional option’s along the way. Not a bad life really.

But wait, there’s more.

So it all went perfect, no hiccups, everyone is happy.

Let’s assume you have a fairly clean cap table when you sold your company. You own’d 80% of the shares of your business, and 20% is allocated to your employees, and for the sake of argument the 20% is fully vested.

So every  number up there you only get 80% of. 20% of the cash and 20% of the stock is spread around your former employees who had vested shares.

And DO NOT forget taxes at around 30% (of your 80%).

So your net, as the founder looks something more like this.

  • $2.8m at closing, of which $800k still needs to be liquid for for 12mos as your pro-rata share of the clawback
  • $1.6m from escrow at 24 months
  • $1.1m for milestone 1 at 24 months
  • $2.8m for milestone 2 at ~30 months
  • $2.8m for milestone 3 at ~40 months
  • 200k (80% of 250k) stock options
  • – deduct 1-2% in legal fees
  • – deduct whatever debt your company carried when purchased as this is cleared by funds at closing

Best Case:

Your $30million deal netted you ~$11m cash after taxes and dilution and 200k stock options that may be worth a little, or a lot. Not a bad deal at all really.

But, and this is a big but.

Every single acquaintance, advisor, attorney, entrepreneur, financial planner, and even private equity/VC friend I’ve ever talked to about an acquisition deal says the same thing: “You can’t count on ever seeing a dime after closing as hitting those milestones are out of your hands, so you need to be okay with the fact the cash at closing may be all the value you ever realize.” Sure you can negotiate a few things like double-triggers on the options, or reduced escrow amounts, or whatever have you. These changes around the edges of the deal structure can help but may not have an impact on the above statement.

Worst Case:

You go into it with good intentions, ready to work hard, but hit a cultural wall and offer your resignation after 6 months, your $30million deal nets you something around $2.2m after taxes, dilution, and clawbacks.

Average case:

For whatever reason (the acquiring company up and decides to change direction putting the other milestones out of reach, or you become disenfranchised and decided to go start a new project) you walk after 2 years, your $30m deal netted you around $5.5m and some stock (hopefully may be worth something).

Conclusion

So assume your company was generating $10m a year in revenue, you sold it for 3x topline or $30m in cash and stock. In the average scenario above you work hard at your new company, and decide after 2 years to move on. You net $5.5m cash + 2yrs of salary, and some stock. Would you still sell it?

Maybe you rode it a little longer, maybe you didn’t. The moral of the story here is between dilution, taxes, and the whims of the acquirer, you may do better off just continuing to grow the company and optimize it a bit more for profit and pay yourself a fatter dividend. Over time you may, or may not, pocket well over the $5.5m, and still own the asset that was valued at $30m a couple years prior (Maybe it’s worth $35m or $45m now).

So in order to net more cash in a deal like this:

  • Get a higher sales price (get competing offers/build your revenues)
  • Negotiate hard for better structured earn-outs, or no earns-out at all. (Maybe the total deal is only $18m+ stock, but $16m upfront)
  • Negotiate every other part of the deal to your advantage

The buyer is looking to reduce their risk, it’s a large sum of money they are agreeing to hand over to you and your team and they want to make sure they get an ROI on the investment. These deal terms are not bad or evil, they are just the acquirer’s way of reducing their risk.

As a founder it is your job to reduce your risk as well, it’s your company you are giving up. You are able to reduce some risk by selling (realizing some gains on your asset), but if the deal terms are not in your favor you are taking on even more risk that you’ll never see the full value you earned.

As a final note: I’m no expert in any of this. These are just my thoughts and point of view I’ve built over the years going through the motion’s a few times. In the end we have chosen to keep betting on ourselves and our company. This is not legal advice, consult your attorney.. blah blah blah.

 

Exponentially High times.

This is not a post about legal weed in Colorado and Washington. This is a post about the current status of our company Pagely and more specifically about how fucking thrilled I am to have our new CTO Josh Eichorn join our team.

There is some often regurgitated saying you hear that goes something like “A great developer is 100x more productive than an average one.” Whatever, fill in your own blanks. That moral of the meme is that a skilled programmer/engineer is exponentially better then an average one

Exponentially.

Pagely is a little over 4yrs old as an entity/brand and nearly 8 years old as a product. Managed WordPress Hosting started here, and our new CTO was the architect of it when he worked for us in 2006 as a contractor and built the prototype that became Pagely.

In 8 years since, Pagely was expanded and maintained, primarily by a very average developer: me. I had some help along the way, some of them more average than me, but all were very much average. Through it all though we made a great product that has achieved amazing things. Our historical learnings of what works and what does not work for hosting WordPress at scale are thick, even if the lines of code that processed it were less then perfect.

This summer we were fortunate to hire Josh back as CTO. He packed his family up and moved back to Arizona from the East Bay to shape the technical destiny of Pagely.\r\n\r\nIn the last 3 months or so, the backend infrastructure and site deployment/management tools at Pagely have undergone a dramatic transformation.

    • Legacy Technical Debt: Paid.
    • Site Performance: Vastly improved.
    • Service Uptime: Vastly improved, even while migrating thousands of sites over and debugging along the way.
    • Costs: Cut in half.
    • New systems/features: Game changing

It boggles my mind the difference in production, execution, and results that are achieved by a skilled and passionate engineer vs. an average one.

Exponentially.

My name is Joshua Strebel and I am a very average developer. I stopped pretending to be better than I am and invited a great engineer to take over, and it is exponentially the best business decision I have made thus far.

Talk softly and carry a big stick

I too built this model. I too was in awe when my Dad drove me about 1hour north of Salt lake to Hill air force base to see one for rea when I was about 12. [Read the article]

The quote below was from a book written by a pilot of an SR-71. It resonated with me. This is sort of how we do business at Page.ly.

One day, high above Arizona , we were monitoring the radio traffic of all the mortal airplanes below us. First, a Cessna pilot asked the air traffic controllers to check his ground speed. ‘Ninety knots,’ ATC replied. A twin Bonanza soon made the same request. ‘One-twenty on the ground,’ was the reply. To our surprise, a navy F-18 came over the radio with a ground speed check. I knew exactly what he was doing. Of course, he had a ground speed indicator in his cockpit, but he wanted to let all the bug-smashers in the valley know what real speed was ‘Dusty 52, we show you at 620 on the ground,’ ATC responded. The situation was too ripe. I heard the click of Walter’s mike button in the rear seat. In his most innocent voice, Walter startled the controller by asking for a ground speed check from 81,000 feet, clearly above controlled airspace. In a cool, professional voice, the controller replied, ‘ Aspen 20, I show you at 1,982 knots on the ground.’ We did not hear another transmis sion on that frequency all the way to the coast.

First mover or Fast follower; never having to say “me too”

We sort of pride ourselves at Pagely for being the “first” in just about everything we have done.

The merits of the first mover advantage have been hotly debated if not outright dismissed. However Brad Feld says be a niche first mover.

Several people challenged this idea in the comments and there are many investors that like to invest in “fast followers” (I’m not one of them.) There’s also a well worn cliche that you can identify early leaders as they are the ones with arrows in their back. While I understand the convention wisdom around this, especially in the context of corporate strategy and general innovation theory, I take a different approach, especially in very fast moving markets like the ones I invest in.

On the opposite end is the Fast follower argument. Which essentially says while the first mover faced the challenges of innovation, customer education, and proving the concept; the Fast follower has the luxury of entering a warm market and learning from the mistakes of the first mover. There is also the advantage of being able to say: “We are just like X, but we do Y differently”.  Being able to explain the gist of the business with a simple contrast is a luxury the first mover did not have during the market education phase.

If we were to do it again, I still think we would opt to be a first mover. Even with the extra challenges that go with it for 1 simple reason: Never having to say “Me too”. When your company is innovating in the space, you never get caught in the situation where you are forced to duplicate a feature or product to stay relevant. In the follower positon, companies do a lot of reacting to others in the space. The best efforts of the fast follower marketing team may present the new item in all sorts of gloss and sparkle, but the underlying message is “we now do this too”.

This is not the case across the board. Certainly many a 2nd-3rd or 10th entry into a space has out maneuvered the entrenched players and gone on to win the day: al a facebook, google, etc.

Recent happenings in our own space got me thinking about the Me Too’s. About this time last year we laid out plans for what is now our new API driven account and infrastructure management system. In June we relaunched our entire system and made our new Partner API available publicly a few days ago.

Company X in our space is working on a similar product, and they chose to mention our press to provide context for their Me Too pitch they made to the target users of the product a few days after our annoucement. This is the meat of slightly longer email sent out by another hosting company within a day or two of our Partner API announcement.

To Theme shop owner

We’re aware that there have been some announcements in the past few days about opportunities for theme marketplaces like yourself to partner with hosting companies and offer tightly integrated, white-labeled managed hosting to their customers via partner APIs.

We wanted to let you all know that, while we have not publicly announced this yet, [company X] has already developed a Partner API which we’ve been “bedding in” for a few months with a select number of partners in order to ensure stability.

… we’d hope there would be opportunity to speak with you about what we have going on over at [company X]  in this space.

 

*SMH*

Now getting beat to market happens all the time in all spaces. We were working on a product that was to be an “app store” for WordPress plugins and themes.. before we got it finished and to market the WP App Store plugin launched beating us to the punch. We had a choice, push ahead and be the Me Too, or shelve it. We ultimately decided to adapt parts of it for something else, and shelve the concept. We just had no interest in getting out there and trying to promote a product that was 2nd to the game.

Being a first mover is hard. Being a fast follower is probably difficult too. Startups in general are an exercise in self torture some say. At the end of the day it just comes down to execution and how well you do it. Some of the followers in our space have executed on things amazingly well,  some not so much, we have had our share of misses as well. Chances are good this other company will execute on their partner play well, and it will be fun to see how it shakes out. This affiliate seems to like Pagely.

For my personal taste I prefer getting out front, the target painted on ours backs be damned.