Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Georgi Petrov and I am co-founder of WPX. We are a WordPress hosting company, both technologically and financially independent and our main goal is to provide the fastest possible service by having both the fastest server platform and the fastest tech support. We believe this is what our clients need - solopreneurs, online marketers, change seekers, people with some great idea or a cause, who need a fast performing and reliable online presence, but who also are not techies. And indeed they don’t need to be. We do the tech stuff, so they can focus on their ideas.
We started with just 2 people (me and my business partner Terry Kyle) and we are now a team of 100+, we have 11K+ customers all around the globe and a $3M yearly income.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
8 years ago I met Terry Kyle. He had just moved to Sofia and he was looking for an office. I already had an office, so we shared it. We had different businesses back then, both of which were using other hosting providers for their operation. So we started constantly talking about how bad the hosting business is. And indeed it was - slow servers, bad and unresponsive tech support, complex and heavy customer panels, that almost needed a tech degree.
I had a lot of ideas on how to make the servers faster and Terry on how to make the user experience better for non-techies. So we decided to give it a try. I built the first server, tuned the management software, Terry wrote all the texts and promoted the new service through his existing marketing channels, and voila, we had our first 5 customers in a day.
Do everything iteratively. Do the best you can in a limited amount of time. But then, don’t forget to come back in a few months and do it again, better.
At the end of month 3, we had 100+ customers and at the end of month 6, we had 250+. At that point, I decided to quit my other business, which was harder anyway, and focus completely on WPX. And this was one of my best business decisions ever.
My other business was a freelance expert type, depended on just a few bigger clients, all of which had different demands, wanted private meetings, always wanted great ideas, which eventually improved their product, but didn’t bring anything to me in the long run. And if any of them decided to not use my service, I was in trouble to end the month with a positive financial result. If you only have a few big clients, you need to fulfill all their crazy demands, because you depend on them financially, which leaves you no room to improve your own business or brand.
With switching to 250+ customers and the subscription model, it was a night and day difference to me. We could now focus entirely on improving our own and only service, make it better and better every next month, really start building our brand, start getting feedback from our clients on what to improve. But if any of them had crazy demands, we would just tell them, we had a specific vision about WPX, which probably is not best for them, they should look elsewhere and that was fine.
Later through the years we’ve faced many more challenges and we’ve learned a lot, but our first step to independence was made. The independence from the demands of every single client and the freedom to follow our path.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Our baby years were messy. We had a really small team and all decisions were made by me and Terry. We would just talk for 2+ hours straight in our room (we didn’t have separate meeting rooms at that point) on colors, shapes of the buttons, text size, while nobody in the room was a designer! I had a little working experience in an ad agency, Terry had much more, back in Sydney, but still, none of us was a designer. So we had to use our common sense. And it was almost the same In the tech area of the business.
I am a bachelor IT engineer, but we had to adopt so many new technologies, I was constantly feeling I know nothing about the stuff I am supposed to make decisions about. So the answer was research, read and adapt, adapt, adapt. Most of our time was spent on research and making prototypes. Eventually, they worked.
We are never discouraged by the fact we don’t know something and we have zero experience. We have a rule now about our plans: if they don’t sound crazy, they are not brave enough.
At some point, we realized it's a model: we just needed to do the best we could with the resources we had at the moment (and it's probably not going to be great), but then a month or a year later, come back and redo it with all the knowledge we gained. And it's going to be much better.
Our home page, for example, was redone completely at least 5 times for 8 years. We are now having an official schedule - every year we go back and rethink it completely.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Our launch was really on the safe side: we started WPX as a side project and we were not depending on it to make our living. Terry and I both had other businesses making OK money so we could wait for months and months for WPX to become financially feasible. This is also the reason why we completely bootstrapped it. We bought a server and a few licenses with our spare money and we could wait as long as it takes.
It didn’t take too much though, by month 6 we already earned what we spent and we started making an additional salary from it. But we decided to go another way and reinvest. So we started hiring people. This way the size of the business was organically tied to the number of the staff. When the business was 1 year old we decided to start getting salaries from it. And this became our main financial strategy: we never took any loans and we always spent within our limits.
One might ask: Wasn’t that limiting the growth of the business? But the answer is no. What was limiting us was something else. It was our skills, knowledge, and time. As soon as we started hiring people we realized we had zero experience with management. So we had to learn.
As soon as we went big with making our technology stack, to make a huge leap in performance, we realized we had zero experience with building such a complex system from the ground up. So we had to learn. It was never the money that was not enough, but our knowledge and skills. We realized the hard part was not launching the business, but scaling it.
But this also became one of our pillars - we are never discouraged by the fact we don’t know something and we have zero experience. We have a rule now about our plans: if they don’t sound crazy, they are not brave enough.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
What worked for us is consistency. Consistently high-quality service, for a consistent market, with a consistent price model. And a consistent vision for whom we are building WPX. And since the beginning, it is the same person: Somebody with a great idea, cause, or a business, who needs an independent online presence - their website, not dependent on Facebook, Google, or any other Big Tech’s publishing rules or technological limitations.
This is why we chose WordPress when we started, this is why we are constantly trying to make our platform integrate seamlessly with it and this is why we are so fanatical to make it as fast as possible.
But our clients needed more. They not only need to be independent, fast, and reliable, they also need not be bothered with tech details. Installing an SSL, making a 301 redirect, backing up your database, have you tried this manually? If yes, then you know what I am talking about. And what if something goes wrong and your website goes down? And why do you even need to learn all this tech babble, you are not a dev or admin after all? So we built our tech support team around this idea. Tech support that answers quickly (average 30 seconds) and fixes things instead of throwing tech articles and guides at you.
And our customers seemed like they liked it all: fast reliable service and tech support made for nontechies. So we just kept improving in these two main areas day after day after day.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
In the last 1 or 2 years we have entered our maturity as a company, I think. Today we have a much clearer vision about who we are and where we are going. And we’ve learned we need a really strong team to stay at our best, so most of my own time and energy goes into building our teams and company culture.
We have a steady growth in terms of revenue and customer acquisition, which allows us to be even braver with ideas.
The biggest thing coming soon for us is our next cloud management platform. It is done from the ground up by our technical teams, uses the latest technologies, and includes all the know-how we gained through the years. This software platform will control all our servers, manage accounts, payments, client features, all of our internal team processes and will replace our existing one.
The benefits for our customers will be faster and safer websites and much more “one-click” features for nontechies. But behind the scenes, being made by our team will allow us to innovate technologically and keep winning speed comparisons or introduce more and more features. This will win us our full technological independence (along with our financial one) - not being dependent on somebody else's cloud platform or software. This is important for us and will allow us to follow our vision without the influence of industry giants, which eventually become dinosaurs.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Here are a few lessons I’ve learned:
- Starting a business is hard, scaling is harder. As soon as something works out, you need to start creating a process that will consistently give you the same good result. As soon as you have the process, you should start thinking about how to improve it. This can be a process too.
- Do everything iteratively. Do the best you can in a limited amount of time. But then, don’t forget to come back in a few months and do it again, better.
- Create a team as soon as possible. Your team is your first “reality check” on whether your ideas are good and doable.
- When creating a team, it's all about two things: Process and Culture. But the culture is more important.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We are heavily using JIRA, which is great for agile processes and we are now testing Notion, which also looks great for management processes. What is great about both is not only do they provide you with a tool but also they also push you to follow a good process. I am personally also very dependent on Google Calendar, literally everything in my day goes there.
We are also using LiveChat inc. as our main chat software. It has some great features. Though, we plan to replace that with our technology at some point.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
- The Ten Commandments for Business Failure by Don Keough - it's a must-read
- The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
- Outliers, The Tipping Point and David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
- Tribes, Linchpin and Purple Cow by Seth Godin
- Start With Why and pretty much everything by Simon Sinek
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Wake up, make yourself a nice cup of coffee and use the rest of your day for 3 things in relatively equal proportion, which is also the fastest way to achieve anything:
- ask (or get information)
- think (or reflect the information through your own experience and vision) and
- do (in most cases try). If you are not fully happy with the result, go back to step 1 and repeat. If it didn’t work out at all, you are probably skipping one of the steps completely, so fix that
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are currently looking for software engineers. More info here.
Where can we go to learn more?
You can also contact me personally at:
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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