🎙️ Episode #9

Techies Need Marketers: Devin Walker and Matt Cromwell on the Power of Partnerships to Build Successful Startups

Techies Need Marketers: Devin Walker and Matt Cromwell

Show Notes

Software product builder Devin Walker and marketing and entrepreneurship expert Matt Cromwell are co-founders of GiveWP, a platform that helps non-profits and individuals collect donations from their websites. They’re also an example of when tech-oriented and marketing-savvy partnerships lead to hugely successful startups. 

Struggling with the challenges of growing GiveWP by himself, Devin realized it was time to bring a partner on board. By combining Matt’s marketing and business acumen with Devin’s tech know-how, the company has raised over $250,000,000 in donations since 2015. Matt and Devin recently passed GiveWP into the safe hands of hosting company Liquid Web, where they both serve as general managers of multiple product brands.

Entrepreneurs are often faced with the dilemma of whether forging a partnership is the best move for their business. In this episode, Matt and Devin discuss how effective partnerships between technical founders and marketers can fast-track the process of growing successful startups.

Thanks to Devin and Matt for joining us and providing such valuable insights into partnerships. Join us next week with Hadas Golzaker to chat about why product makers have to keep branding in mind.

plugin.fm is brought to you by Freemius, your all-in-one eCommerce partner for selling software, plugins, themes, and SaaS. If you enjoyed this episode, head over to plugin.fm to check out previous episodes.


Episode Contributors:

Devin Walker & Matt Cromwell — Guests

Patrick Rauland — Host

Vova Feldman — Content quality control

Scott Murcott — Content research and preparation

Robert Nolte — Content research and preparation

Zee Hazan — Audio and video quality control

Emiliano Pioli — Audio and video editing

Chapters & Episode Notes

0:00 – Intro

1:21 – The Journey of Bringing a Partner Onboard: Building Trust and Finding Complementary Skills

5:16 – Navigating Partnerships and Equity: How Devin and Matt Formed a Strong Business Bond

10:42 – Crafting a Well-Rounded Team: Leveraging Skills and Evolving Marketing Strategies

15:49 – The First Years: Overcoming Challenges and Embracing Focus

20:46 – Resolving Disagreements and Embracing Long-Term Partnerships

27:06 – Reflecting on Lessons Learned and Missed Opportunities in Business

33:10 – Tips for Technical Founders and The Power of Three Partnerships: GiveWP Insights

35:55 – Mastering Partnerships for Tech Enthusiasts: Finding Balance and Building Success

39:53 – Outro


Devin: You need a hacker, a hipster, and a hustler. That’s the three, right? 

Patrick: Love it. Hello everyone, and welcome to the plugin. fm podcast brought to you by Freemius. On the plugin. fm podcast, we’re on a quest to seek valuable insights and actionable tips from successful entrepreneurs and product makers. To help you make bigger strides in your own business journey.

My name is Patrick Rauland, and today I had the pleasure of talking with not one, but two revered WordPress warriors, one tech oriented and the other marketing software product developer, Devin Walker and marketing entrepreneurship expert, Matt Cromwell are co-founders of GiveWP a platform that helps nonprofits and individuals collect donations from their websites.

Struggling with the challenges of growing the business itself, Devin partnered with Matt to take the business to new heights with his marketing and business acumen. Devin and Matt are a successful case study of when a technical and marketing co-founder partnership is a big success. Since 2015, GiveWP has raised more than 250 million dollars in donations.

And not so long ago, they exited the company to the hosting company LiquidWeb, where they now serve as general managers of multiple product brands. We’re going to discuss with Devin and Matt the secret to their symbiotic success, and what technical founders and marketers can take away from their story.

Devin and Matt, welcome to the show. Hey. Hey, thanks for having us.

Devin: Hey.

Matt: Hey, thanks for having us.

Patrick: Thank you so much for being on here and for giving us your time. So, I want to get right into the meat of this episode here. Devin, you are the technical person on this side. What, you know, I think a lot of people who make their own products have a hard time giving up control. So, what made you want to bring someone else onto your team in the first place? What struggles were in front of you that made you want to bring someone in?

Devin: Sure, yeah. So looking back to 2014, is when we really were starting to assemble the real plans to making this happen. Matt and I had met at several meetups and WordCamps in the San Diego area. Matt used to live here in San Diego until, I mean, about a year ago. So, you know, we’d always go, it was the Advanced WordPress Meetup, so it was mostly developers and designers showing up, and Matt was doing quite a bit of work that was really interesting with non-profits too.

And we actually had another partner, his name’s Jason, he was partnered with me prior to Matt coming on board, and we were doing a lot of client work through a small boutique agency that we had. And I was doing individually some product work with plugins that I built back in 2011, 2012. Matt had known about some of this stuff through the Meetup, and Matt was also working for a plugin company doing support. So, we just continued building that relationship through several months and years, actually, through the WordPress meetups and WordCamps, and developed a friendship. And eventually, that led into some conversations that got more interesting about, hey, you know, what are you doing, what are we doing, how can we start grouping up?

And I noticed that Matt had a lot of qualities that I don’t, you know, have myself, that aren’t some of the traits that I, you know, think of my strongest, right? Like you said, I’m more technical and more design-oriented, less of I can do marketing, you know, I can build pretty badass websites, but as far as going out in the community and doing a lot of the hard work and supporting my products, not really. that was great, those are some of his strong suits, yeah. So, I guess that’s sort of the picture that set up our meeting, and then it was a couple of discussions, and eventually, we started to try it out. It wasn’t just like jumping in the deep end; it was like, let’s test this out for a while. And eventually, you know, we started to jive on that. So, it’s kind of where it started.

Patrick: Yeah, well, give me, so paint the pit, what is the timeline here? So, how long did you know him before you thought about bringing him on board? Was this, you know, a month or two, or was this, you know, three years, like what is the timeline here?

Devin: Yeah, what was it, Matt? Probably two years, two years at least.

Matt: Yeah, I think at least two years.

Patrick: Yeah, I imagine you build up a lot of trust with someone over that period of time, you know, even if you’re just meeting them, seeing them every month or every two months or three months at a meetup. I imagine you build up quite a bit of trust, especially if you’re giving, you know, I’m Matt. I’ll bring you in here. Well, did you give any presentations at the meetup? Did you talk about your areas of expertise, anything like that that sort of brought you to maybe Devin’s attention?

Matt: Yeah, at the time, I was really very proactive about my blog. I was really blogging a ton, and I was doing presentations at the Advanced WordPress Meetup, which was like a big meetup at the time. And on our Facebook group, also, it was a big Facebook group at the time. Now there’s like a billion of them, but we kind of had a tight-knit meetup community, and I was pretty active there, for sure, both in presentations and blogging. In particular, for me, it was like word of mouth was my best way to get clients and things like that, so I was hitting the street hard overall.

Patrick:  Yeah, so, okay, so then, Devin, you wanted to bring them on. I mean, is this like, you know, four hours part-time per week to start, 10 hours, 20? Like, was there a ramp-up period where it was part-time? And I know you said you had an agency, was this mostly for helping with the agency or mostly with help with the product?

Devin: It was mostly for helping with the agency to start. It ramped up pretty quickly, but it wasn’t, you know, he wasn’t sure if there was a fit or there was enough work. And, you know, we were, me and Jason, were single guys, and Matt has a family, so he, you know, has a little bit of, he was a little bit, you know, apprehensive to join up with these young guys who’ve never done this before. But eventually, after, I’d say a month or two, we had him pretty much fully employed with us. But then we started building a lot of sites for non-profits, and that’s really where he started to show his real expertise with that and teach us really what it means to serve these types of clients, what their specific needs are. And we were, and that’s really where we started feeling the need of that could be a real tool here we could build for these folks.

Patrick: Got it. I mean, the theme, you guys don’t know this, but the theme for me and this podcast is almost every guest is speaking about how they built a tool for a client and then they realized that many people needed this, and then you, you know, productized it and turned it into a thing that you could sell many, many times. So, I love seeing that theme over and over again. So, Matt, let me ask you, what was it like for you to go into this agreement? Was this just like another client at first, and then it turned into something more?

Matt: No, I mean, Devin was actually pretty straightforward about the fact that he really wanted to bring on a partner in the long term. And like he said, I was, I was a little more gun shy, but I was definitely excited about the opportunity to do something more full-time because I was doing a lot of, like Devin said, I was doing, like, part-time support work and a lot of little individual client work. I wasn’t really happy with the way that my revenue streams were definitely like feast or famine-oriented at that time and the opportunity to do one thing and do it really well was really attractive for sure.

Patrick: So, okay, so we talked about this a little bit before we hit the record button, but tell me, so you were brought on as a contractor or a full-time hire effectively in the beginning, and eventually, Devin, you wanted to bring on a partner, but I obviously, you didn’t start that way. How does someone navigate that? You know, is it, you know, we’re gonna do a trial period for three months and we’re gonna make sure we work together, and then I’m gonna let you, is, and do you like buy into a partnership? I have no idea, like, how does one slowly become a partner?

Devin: Yeah, so we vested him over time. So there was like a three-month trial period, and then, over two years, each six-month increment would receive an additional allotment of shares, which were valued at the time at, you know, some nominal number, so that we didn’t actually, for tax reasons and whatnot, and so technically he bought in with, with time. If, you know, another partner wanted to come in with money or with investment, oh yeah, yeah, time and blood, sweat, and tears, lots of that. He had to deal with us for the first couple of years, but that’s how it worked over time. There’s multiple tactics like you can do that. I think the one’s called drip or something like that, it’s like an acronym, I forget what it stands for, but sort of like that.

Patrick: So from my point of view, this is only done at large companies. I only see, you know, what is that, RSUs? Restricted Stock Units, I forgot what that stands for, but I only see people getting equity ownership of a business in larger companies and usually, like, you know, publicly traded companies. And I think there was a time in my, I’m imagining, 50 years ago, that when you were a doctor in a practice, you could slowly buy either the old doctor out of the practice, and then it became yours. That feels just really unusual today, and it feels unusual to set up your business where you give away equity. Why? I mean, I don’t know, why, and I don’t want to comment on that, but why did it feel good for you, Devin? I think a lot of people don’t, and I don’t know why, and I don’t want to comment on that, but why did it feel good for you to build a business this way instead of, I think the traditional way would be, “I will raise a lot of money through Venture funds or whatever and then give my employees lots of money rather than giving them equity directly.” Why go that way?

Devin: Well, we were bootstrapping it, so we thought about investment. We were really funding the business, the product side, from the agency side, and due to that, the nature of the way that it was set up, it was a win-win situation where we felt safe, and Matt felt safe. And as the relationship grew, it just gave plenty of space for us to focus on the business, not really worry about who’s getting what, like, let’s just grow this thing. And then, if things work out in the end, we’re all going to be successful. And fortunately, that’s what happened.

Patrick: That’s good. So, Devin, is there an awareness that you needed, like I guess I want to say it like a team with a full set of skills? The way you were just talking there made me, like, I think a lot of people say, “I will do it all. I am the king of my empire, and I will run this business.” And the way you just spoke made me think that, like, you’re aware that you’re a human and you have blind spots, and that’s why you’re okay with this. Is that something a special skill of yours?

Devin: I’d say I do have pretty good self-awareness. I can keep it pretty real with myself and understand, like, where I’m good at things and where I’m not so good at things. Maybe back, almost 10 years ago, I wasn’t as good at it as I am now, but still, at that time, I recognized in Matt, he’s like two sides of a puzzle piece that can just fit together in ways. Like, I bring a lot of the technical attention to detail, the side of building out the product and the brand, and having it ready to be received in the market. And then Matt’s like the shepherd that we’ll go and check all the things that I do, make sure it’s up to his standard, so he’s really a good a good reviewer and then really help promote it in the community, will also bring me along, you know, so it’s like I don’t want to be fully in that area, but I want to have, you know, one side in and still focus on what I need to, and so that’s been really great. I think Matt, we both share some of that, like I’ll bring him on the technical side. Matt can code pretty well, and he can design pretty well, whereas I can, of course, support people and market, but just not quite as well as Matt.

Patrick: Matt, on your side, are there any other thoughts on this? I know you started doing a little bit more technical stuff as you were brought on as a developer and did some support. And then I guess, Matt, was it you who discovered we need to do more marketing? Is that something that you sort of realized and you just stepped into it, or was it a decision that was made?

Matt: Well, it kind of just evolved a little bit naturally, honestly. I was involved with marketing. Devin’s great with marketing too, like we all were, really. We didn’t have a dedicated marketer for a while. For several years, we had some part-time folks helping with social or email and things, but like it took a while till we really had some folks doing dedicated marketing. And so we were all really involved, and we even said, like, marketing is baked into everything we do. That was kind of like our mantra in the early days. And there came a point at which it was like, “Ah, marketing needs to be something that somebody does all the time, not just baked in,” because it was taking away from Devin’s time with code, it was taken away from my time with support, there were all kinds of things. But I think the biggest thing that freed me up to be able to do that was when we brought on Ben Meredith to do technical support. Once we had more prowess on the technical support side, that freed me up on that side a bit, and we brought on eventually a couple of developers as well. Kevin Hoffman joined us really early on, and Jason Adams and eventually two.

Devin: Don’t forget about Ravinder.

Matt: Absolutely, Ravinder was clutch in the early days. That really helped us to free both of us up a little bit in order to kind of carve this role for me. And like I said, I was doing it already in a lot of ways with some of our other folks, but so it kind of just was a good natural evolution.

Patrick: I just want to put a pin in “marketing is baked into everything we do” because I actually really like that. And so let me ask you this, how long was that your motto? Was that your motto for six months, for two years, like that? Because that seems like a good way to start, at a minimum.

Matt: For sure, I mean, we always hired folks who were really kind of embedded in the WordPress community, and that made it an easy pitch. Like, if you just love to do technical support tickets and you want to be heads down working on tickets, and we tell you marketing is baked into everything you do, they would be like, “That doesn’t work, that doesn’t fit at all.” But because everyone was kind of like a natural, like, they love going to camps, and they love doing those things, it was a really easy fit. But we really kind of operated that way for, I’d say, at least three years. Like, I would say from, like, 2015 all the way through 2017. I think 2018 is when I really started doing marketing full, or maybe ish. Patrick, you’re making us think back a long time, so yeah, I think it was 2018, so several years.

Patrick: Pop Quiz history lesson, sorry. So this is really good, so tell me what was the learning curve, let’s say, through the first year of working together and figuring this stuff out. Like, what are the things that maybe the stumbling blocks you hit, and what did you guys learn from that, that first year, and maybe actually, let’s go all the way up to three years since that’s when marketing kind of took off?

Devin: Yeah, well, the first year, we were doing a lot of agency work still, so that’s when Matt really took the six months that it took to build the MVP of GiveWP. Matt took over all the client work from me so that I could focus entirely on building that product. And now, I’m not, I mean, he took 90% away, and then 10 percent I helped, and then, likewise, 10 percent roughly he helped shape the product. And then at the end of that period, when we launched it, the market was like, “Oh, this is wonderful, but it really needs recurring donations, like subscriptions.” So we totally missed that mark, and so it took another about four or five months to build that first integration with subscriptions. And then after that, things still really started to take off for us, and that’s when we started to pull out of agency work, so we shut that down. One thing I think we could have done to shut that down a little earlier, and then looking past that mark, so let’s say a year after we launched recurring donations, growth was really good, but we got a little greedy, and we wanted more. So we got distracted and started building other products that weren’t related to GiveWP. Now looking back, I think one of the biggest mistakes we made was the lack of focus, and I see this made every day within the WordPress Community, is that folks just want to build, build, build, build, and move on. They don’t give the products the time it needs to grow and to be accepted in the market and to actually become something substantial. I can understand if you’re taking too many swings and misses over a large period, just give up at that point, but to continue building and building and not focusing is something we did, and luckily, we got a great mentor early on that said, “What the hell are you doing? You got something good here. Shut all this other crap down and focus on this. This is what’s going to get you to the next level.”

Patrick: Wow, yeah, I love hearing that, and I think my bias is also in agreement with what you said, that people in the WordPress world, and I think just online in general, and developers and engineers love building things, and we love working on the next project, whatever the next project is. Even if you could make more money by fixing a bug in your old project. Let me go back to the agency for a second. So I think I’m a risk-averse person, and I would find it very hard to shut down, sort of, you know, the agency side of my business that’s bringing in money every month. And you can always ramp up your agency work a little bit, you know, if you need cash flow. So how much money were you making from your other, your product, your software products, that made you feel comfortable to shut down the agency? Was it like this is just as big as the agency, or was it even bigger than the agency? Like, how secure did you have to feel to shut down that agency income?

Devin: Well, the agency ramped up pretty good too, like, I think we hit a couple seven-figure years there early on, which wasn’t insubstantial. These were big clients, we were well, a couple medium-sized clients and one or two big ones but as their needs continued to grow and our needs and our bandwidth continued to shrink, we saw some natural churn from the agency side that we just really didn’t care too much about. So there’s some natural churn there, but then also some hard conversations and then also some pass-offs. So, you know, we handed off some agency work, so it’s not like we just closed the books and there goes that seven-figure stream. It was more like a 12 to 24-month ramp down, and meanwhile, our revenue on the product side was probably a quarter of what it was on the agency side. And so eventually, as the years progressed, that far exceeded what we were doing on the agency side, and it was just a really nice trend line where these graphs were going. So I don’t know if everybody can get that perfect ramp down, ramp up, but we sure did hit it pretty nicely, huh, Matt?

Matt: Absolutely.

Patrick: So, Matt, you were doing the agency side until that closed down, and Devin, you were doing mostly the product side. Sorry, were you partners at this point, or were you still just an employee at this point, Matt?

Matt: No, I was a partner by within a year of starting.

Patrick: How does delineating responsibilities work? Like, you know, was it Matt who has the word with the clients, and even though Devin, you’re helping out with 10 of the clients or for random projects, it’s Matt’s direction and Matt’s timeline and deadlines, and vice versa with the product? Or is it, you know, Devin, since you were the OG, do you always come in and say, “I’m doing it this way”?

Matt: We had a third partner too, and he was really influential on the agency side. There was a large portion of the agency that I didn’t have anything to do with, and our third partner, Jason, was doing that. So that was actually helpful and convenient when it came to front-end web dev-type clients. Honestly, we had one of our more significant clients was another web dev agency where they were basically subcontracting to us for that, and so we just got to receive whatever they had going, and that was actually a good steady stream that we really didn’t even have to worry about all that much. So it made it also easier to just be like, “Hey, we’re not going to take any more clients. We’re all done here,” so it worked out.

Patrick: Got it. So, Matt, I think no matter, it seems like you two have a great rapport, right? You’re both in the podcast right now and chatting. But any relationship, no matter how good it is, has conflicts, has struggles. So when you did have an argument or disagreement, you know, how did you navigate that?

Matt: Never happened.

Devin: Yeah, right. Well, Matt and I don’t really yell at each other too much. Maybe a couple of times over the years, but our third partner, we got into it quite a bit back in the day, which, you know, wasn’t terrible, but there were some sticky situations in there once in a while. But with me and Matt, we really are calm, cool, and level-headed. So, like, we have a special way of disagreeing with each other. Where, I don’t know, Matt, how would you describe it? Help me out.

Matt:  It evolved over time, I think it did. It definitely did. I think the biggest thing that we learned over a period of time was the ability to be like, “I totally get where you’re coming from. I totally disagree.” To be able to say that to each other’s face really clearly was a special art, I think, over a period of time. And I think also, even like, it paired really well with the way that our responsibilities evolved and changed. Like very often, Devin will disagree with me because he wants development to happen in a very specific way, and I want support to happen in a specific way, or marketing to be able to do this other specific thing. So it’s really not about like that your idea is stupid, it’s more like I have goals, you have goals, our goals feel like they’re not together, but truthfully, we just got to work out exactly how we get a win-win out of all these different goals, essentially. And so I feel like that evolved a lot, and it definitely was not easy at first because we also had a lot of overlap, like you said, like Devin can do really great technical support and also really great marketing, and I have strong opinions about how development should be run. Like, we had a lot of overlap, so navigating our responsibilities was the first step. And then once we had a much clearer path of, “This is your domain, that’s my domain, these are my goals, these are your goals,” things started to get a lot more easy to navigate those difficulties.

Patrick: So something that just popped into my head as you were speaking is I think maybe because they’re partners, you view each other as, like, you’re much more long-term. I think a lot of people who work for a company, it’s very short-term, and a lot of people in the tech world, it’s like two years is, like, good job, you did two years at a place, and that can sometimes feel long in the tech world, which is shocking and surprising. But I think when you’re a partner, you’re definitely committed to the long term, and does that help your arguments, knowing that you’re both working towards the same, both of you have vested interest in the company and want to work towards bettering the company? I guess my thinking, in my experience at some of the places I’ve worked at in the last 10 years, is that some places think very short term, and it’s just do whatever the boss says, and I love hearing the disagreements that you guys, that you two are having, and it seems like that maybe is like a hidden benefit of being in a partnership.

Matt: I think it is because it goes a little bit towards what you were asking earlier about like why partner up in the first place and I honestly do think it’s about skin in the game in so many ways. We know what our partnership agreement was and like if it’s like this is really coming to a head and like we know kind of the legal jumps we’re gonna have to go through to get rid of a partner, it’s not easy, and so it’s like, well, is this argument actually really worth, like, really being bothered about? No, I much rather just work this out rather than deal with all that legal crap. Like, in many ways, the partnership agreement is there to be like, “Yeah, we’re in this and we just want the business goals met, not that our name gets on this big successful thing or whatnot.”

Devin: Right, so, and what he’s saying is like, easier to get divorced than it is to get rid of a partner or something. There’s some business saying like that and it’s so true.

Patrick: But there definitely seems something about that stickiness that you know you’re in it, you’re all in it for the long term, so you kind of have to find a solution rather than it’s just easy for a boss to say, “Do it my way.” So it’s nice that there’s a little bit more back and forth.

Devin: Yeah, we always ran it as a mostly flat organization, you know, very few times with anybody wielding a voting power over one another. I don’t think we ever did that, Matt. We always came to a conclusion on as a team what would be best and there’s some jocking and rallying to get there your way, but we never resorted like, “Look at the operating agreement, I have the shares, you can’t say anything, blah blah.” You know, that’s not a way to run anything.

Patrick: Love it. So what are some of the, you know, looking back at everything and navigating some conflict, what are the biggest lessons you took away, and what could you have done differently? 

Devin: Well, it’s hard for me to get away from my emphasis on Focus because that was definitely something I’ve been looking back and reflecting over the last two years since we exited the business. And people have asked me, “What would you…?” That same question always goes back to, “I would have focused more on this product.” But, and at the same time, it’s hard to see the future and the potential of a product. That’s why you want to hedge your bets and build other things. That’s why people do this. So, I think we really started believing in 2016 when we saw some of that momentum that really went into 2017, and from there, it was just clear, like, our mentor hammered it into us, like, “Just shut down all this other stuff, sell it, or shut it down, and focus on GiveWP..”

Patrick: So, Matt, I’ll come to you back in a second, but I do want to dig into this, now that we brought up another time. How long were you developing other products that you know eventually didn’t, weren’t worth the time, not that they didn’t work, but just weren’t worth the time? How long were you doing that, you know, was that six months, two years? How long did it take you to figure that out?

Devin: There was a lot, okay, so we built a Google Maps plugin that took probably five, four or five months to develop the MVP of that. We released it, and continued iterating on that. I think that got decent revenue.

Matt: I loved that plugin, I thought it was great.

Devin: It did have a pretty sweet interface, but it had flaws and support was a nightmare. So that one… We also developed a couple of WooCommerce extensions that were in the marketplace. We eventually sold those. I had some review plugins to pull in reviews from Yelp and Facebook and other things like that. Those are still around today, those never died. And then we developed a plugin called WP Rollback for the Orange County Plugin Palooza contest, which was really fun. We still love that plugin today, it’s got 200,000 active installs, but that was free, and it was always free, and that was just for the community. So those types of things are cool, do those but don’t sell for pro plugins if you want.

Matt: To answer the question, how long do we do it, we’re still doing it, we’ve got a ton more focus but they’re still around.

Devin: Not to mention building out a SaaS version of GiveWP over two years and spending probably half a million dollars on it just to never see it see the light of day.

Matt: And never ship it, yeah.

Patrick: Well, what’s the story there? I don’t know if I’ve heard that.

Devin: So the story was that we were going to build a SaaS version of GiveWP called Give IO, which we got that domain. It’s a sweet domain, I still have it. But, we saw when the pandemic hit that just valuations and everything were going through the roof, and we were getting approached left and right. I was like, “Well, either we’re gonna go and seek investment and really try for the next five to seven years to get this Give IO off the ground, really, really make a big company, or we’re gonna take what we have right now and exit with all these high valuations coming through because it’s just time.” And looking back, it was a perfect time.

Patrick: Yeah, hindsight’s 2020 for sure, and looking at the valuations of companies in the pandemic, tech companies were bunkers, so that was just bad timing, right? So, getting Give.io, it was just like the market was so crazy hot for tech, it makes sense to sell in that market. Got it.

Devin: Exactly.

Patrick: Yeah, Matt, but it’s certainly hard to, I mean, put half a million dollars, you know, six months or a year of your time or whatever into a thing and then, you know, theoretically, they could still launch it but probably not. Crazy.

Devin: It’s still there. It’s on the shelf. If you could pull it down, yeah, dust it off.

Patrick: Matt, let me ask you, so I think you were saying that was also your regret. Looking back, would you change anything?

Matt: Yeah, I was having a fun conversation at WordCamp EU about, I don’t know if you know about the Enneagram, which is like a personality test. I’m a seven, and I will say that sevens do not regret, like it’s just not in us. Of course, everybody regrets, everybody has regret, you know, I just have this like stupid ability to just be like, “Ah, that’s fine,” and so it’s really hard for me to rack my brain and think of regrets. But I think I’ve missed opportunities, and GiveIO was like the big one. Like I, and I was one of the voices that was like, “We just can’t do this,” and it was mostly because a SaaS requires so much marketing, and I had two people on my marketing team, and I was like, “We’re doing full-time 120% GiveWP, like, I don’t know how in the world we’re gonna launch a SaaS product at all with this marketing team.” I just, and I think my biggest regret was just trying to, I never took the time to really think a lot more creatively and said, “You know what, maybe let’s contract some of this out, maybe let’s just get like a small business loan or something for some marketing spend, and maybe we could do it that way.” I didn’t do the hard work of if we’re going to do this, here’s the path for marketing. I just felt overwhelmed at the whole concept and idea and was like, “I don’t know how we do this.” 

Patrick: Got it. Yeah, so I just went down a quick rabbit hole of the Enneagram. I haven’t looked at that in a while, but yes, it is a very fun personality test. I am a type three. I just pulled up my results. So, oh yeah, it’s very fun too, I do love those personality tests. They’re good. Thank you for that response there. So I kind of want to start wrapping this up here. I guess, you know, we talked about regrets or not regrets, but what are your tips for technical founders who love writing code but they know they want to bring help in, maybe business help, maybe marketing help, maybe support help? What, how would you recommend this to other people, and I think specifically, would you recommend this partnership equity route? And this is for both of you?

Devin: I think now that we’re sort of, I mean, WordCamp EU showed that we’re back from the pandemic. I mean, it was just, there was an amazing WordPress conference. I’m hoping meetups come back too, but I would say get involved with your local WordPress community or Laravel community or React community, whatever it is, and get out there and meet folks and know them. You want to really get to know somebody before you partner with them and make sure that relationship is going to be something that can withstand time because even if you have a great product and a great idea, if your partnership’s not there, it’s not going to work. So my suggestion would be to get out there and network and to know those people. And if it’s friends or family, be careful. I never really wanted to involve friends or family because Matt, although he’s become one of my best friends, you know, and I love his family now, but we weren’t really that close, like hanging out on the weekends back in 2014. We were, yeah, WordPress chums, and that’s what it was.

Matt: I think I would say I do really like the partnership route a lot, and I think it’s, I would recommend it for sure. I do think that finding a really great partner is challenging, but I would go a step further, and I do think three partners is kind of ideal. If you can really make sure that you get the right people, and I really like the way in which three requires a bit more consensus for things to happen. I think that’s a good natural way to have a strong business model, essentially a single founder, I feel like.

Devin: You need a hacker, a hipster, and a hustler, that’s the three, right?

Matt: I don’t know which one of those I am.

Devin: The hipster.

Matt: All right, that’s interesting, yeah. So, I like the three, I like the rule of three for sure. I think it’s a good one, so it’s worth doing.

Patrick: And Devin, when is your book coming out, “The Hacker, the Hipster, and the Huckster”? 

Devin: I think I jacked that from another book, I think it’s already out there.

Matt: Absolutely, that sounds like it. That’s fun.

Patrick: That’s fantastic. Okay, so I think the last question here is, how do you, I think the biggest thing is self-awareness, and how do you know what you need? Because I think a lot of people struggle with, they think they can do everything, and how do you develop that awareness of, “This is not my area, my zone of genius”?

Devin: Yeah, I think looking back 2014 through 2016-17, I wanted to do everything myself, and I’ve gotten a lot better at that now that I’ve seen the power of a team, but back in the day, it was really, “I could have done that in two hours” or something like this arrogant attitude in sort of ways. So it was really hard for me to let go. I still see that with, you know, Matt and I maintain more than just GiveWP; brands at Stellar now, and I still see a lot of that within our internal org and then even our WordCamps, talking with other smaller companies and founders. The ability to let go and empower others and really put some trust in your team is an art, and it’s hard to do that sometimes, especially for something that you built and sort of your baby. So, yeah, I would say that’s an acquired skill that took me a while to learn.

Matt: Yeah, 100%. I mean, in the conversations I have with other folks, I feel like it very often becomes obvious the things that you need to let go because they’re the things that when you do them, you’re walking through mud when you do them, instead of the things that you’re running and jumping and doing them with your full energy. Like, it just kind of happens, I feel like, with founders who are at least paying attention a little bit. You’ll start to pay attention and notice that like, “Oh, every time I have to manage my team and help them understand XYZ, I’m like, ah, but whenever I jump into the code, I’m like, yes!” Like, it just starts to be kind of a little bit more obvious, not to take it for granted, but like, I think that is a big teller, though, where you find you put your most energy when you do the work. When you’re like, “I’m really motivated, I want to do this,” when you wake up, and the very first thing you want to do is code or the very first thing you want to do is chat with your team and give them direction or very first thing you want to do is answer some support tickets or write a blog article, like whatever it is that makes you want to jump into the day, that’s probably stuff you should be doing more of and less of the other stuff.

Patrick: Love that. I sort of summarize that, and I think there’s something like if you are in your zone of genius, I forgot which book I took that from, but if you’re in your zone of genius for most of the day, I feel like you can’t not make your business successful. So if you can just find other people who are in their zone of genius for their day, I just feel like it’s just a recipe for success.

Matt: Absolutely.

Patrick: You know, if you’re excellent at coding, you get in the flow, you’re staying up to date, you understand all the technicals, it’s just really easy for you to do your job. And if you can just focus on that all day, every day, it’s, you’ll make huge strides, huge progress. 

Matt: A funny example is like at Impress before I kind of ran our HR and it was like, it’s something that needs to happen, and I was doing it and I was like, “I do HR, I guess I do HR now, so I’m an HR guy.” We got acquired by Liquid and we started interacting with real HR people and like we have this one guy named Rob, oh my gosh, Rob does HR, and I’m never gonna say that I do HR ever again because I know what good HR looks like now. That’s just one example, he’s definitely in his zone of genius, just helping people do their job better.

Yeah, that’s a great example. Love that. Well, thank you, Devin and Matt, for being on plugin.fm.

Devin: Thank you.

Matt: Absolutely, thanks for having us.

Patrick: And thank you, listeners, for joining us on plugin.fm. On plugin.fm, we sit down with exceptional product entrepreneurs and business owners who share their unique stories as well as actual tips and strategies based on first-hand experience. If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe to our YouTube channel so that I can keep talking to awesome people like these two right here, and you can keep learning from them. Go ahead and hit subscribe on YouTube and be the first to be notified about new episodes and anything else plugin.fm related. If you are already subscribed, go ahead and share the podcast with your friends and business peers on social media so they can get in on the entrepreneurial action too. plugin.fm is brought to you by Freemius, your all-in-one e-commerce partner for selling software, plugins, themes, and software as a service. If you’re struggling to grow your plugin revenue, send a note to [email protected] to get free advice from the Freemius monetization experts. My name is Patrick Rauland, and thanks for listening to plugin.fm.

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