Thinking Through the WP Engine Acquisition of StudioPress

As a fun thought exercise I decided to think through the WP Engine and Studio Press acquisition. Specifically, what I would do, and think they will do, with the new asset. While I know all the parties, I have less than zero knowledge about the deal or intentions. In other words, this is pure conjecture and insights from a dude in his hammock and flip flops thousands of miles away from the discussions.

I will focus on what I would do with the asset and why I think it makes a lot sense. I won’t focus on the people or the community. I encourage you to also read StudioPress’ Release, Jason’s (WPE Engine Founder) Thoughts, Brian Clark’s position, and finally Bob Dunn’s insights.

Strategic Alignment

Strategically this deal makes sense. To understand this you have to understand the penetration the Genesis framework has amongst developers and integrators, and WPE’s strategic direction.

This is chess, not checkers motherfucker – Ben Horowitz (Hard Thing About Hard Things)

In my opinion, the Genesis framework is one of the most powerful and utilized framework in the market. They have been for years, and while the theme market has dramatically changed they continue to be at the forefront.

Interestingly, it’s not it’s themes I find most attractive – it’s the framework. Countless developers and agencies leverage it as the foundation of their development work. It’s so prevalent in this specific community (the Agencies) that I would argue that it powers more sites in WP than even the website owners are aware of.

I can also attest to its prominence amongst this market with my experience at Sucuri, agencies are also an important cohort for us, and I can tell you, without-a-doubt it’s the preferred preferred  platform.

Understanding this point makes the strategic partnership oh that much more so sweet.

Winning the Agencies

Coincidently, this week I read a report highlighting WPE initiative to win over agencies. It’s grown well over the past twelve months. This is an important insight, it speaks to what and where they are focusing their energy, where they see the opportunity

Note: You could argue that Agencies have always been at the core of their strategy, whether intentionally or not. 

If I were to guess, WPE realized that the Genesis  framework is most prevalent in their environment and amongst their core market.

Give the people what they want!

If you are strategically pursing a market and you realize they all use a tool, then the next step is obvious – buy it or partner with them. In this instance, buying makes the most sense. Buying will allow WPE to execute against their strategy to provide a fully immersive platform. Speaking of which..

Simplifying the Experience

If you think that WPE is competing against hosts, you’re wrong.

While WPE might have started out as a host I would wager they are positioning themselves towards a fully immersive experience. WordPress just happens to be at its core, but like Automattic’s .com I’d wager that soon it’ll be similar only in name.

What the hell is a fully immersive experience ? Think Hub-spot.

If you haven’t tried Hub-spot, you should. It aims to put all the tools you need around marketing, sales and the core application at your finger tips. As Sucuri grew, this became exponentially that much more important. I think this is where WPE is going. To do this though, they have to do it in pieces.

While they have simplified the end point experience (you never have to worry about the servers availability, state, security, speed, etc..), they have to move upward in the stack, into the application layer, to truly encapsulate the “experience”. That’s where the real opportunity with the Genesis framework comes into play.

In today’s world, those with the desire to get their presence online via a “website” have a number of things to think about across multiple vectors. There’s the endpoint, the application, the supporting systems and services, and the list goes on. Just to get online!

Imagine a world where you streamline that experience. Imagine a world where getting online is a seamless click of a button, and now you’re simply tuning. You’re not starting at zero, you’re starting at the 50 yard line. You don’t have to worry whether something is in the application, the server, the service provider.. it’s all one thing. You’ve removed all the blurred lines.

Oh yes, and all while giving your audience the tools they already use and love.

This is where I would go. This is where I think they are going.

Congrats to the Entire Team!

Huge congrats to the entire team. Having just gone through my own acquisition, I can tell you this is where the real work will began. I fully expect this acquisition to be very different than the last one with Copyblogger. In this instance you have a technology company buying a critical asset to propel them closer to their strategic objectives.

It will all come down to their ability to integrate.

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