🎙️ Episode #7

Miriam Schwab on Partnerships and the Power of Collaboration for Success

Miriam Schwab - Head of WordPress Relations at Elementor

Show Notes

Miriam Schwab is the Head of WordPress Relations at Elementor and co-founder and former CEO of Strattic. She has an impressive — and extensive — track record and boasts nearly twenty years of experience in the WordPress ecosystem.

In 2006, Miriam founded illuminea and served as CEO for 13 years. She also steered the company through an acquisition that saw it growing into one of Israel’s leading WordPress development agencies. On top of heading up a company, she’s been the lead organizer for WordCamp Israel five times and has shared her knowledge and experiences at multiple WordCamps.

In 2018, she co-founded Strattic, an end-to-end static and headless hosting and deployment platform for WordPress websites, which was acquired by Elementor in June 2022. The process further solidified Miriam’s experience of joining forces. In this episode, we explore Miriam’s in-depth understanding of strategic alliances and working with competitors to drive business success for entrepreneurs.

Thanks to Miriam for joining us and providing such valuable insights into partnerships. Join us next week with Matt Medeiros to chat about how solopreneurs can leverage podcasting for brand building and business growth.

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:

Miriam Schwab  — Guest

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

1:15 –  Impactful Partnerships: From Co-Content Creation to Small Collaborations

3:21 – Navigating Partnership Setbacks: Challenges and Lessons Learned

6:14 – Nurturing Partnerships From the Early Stages: The Role of Founders and Networking

11:09 – Exploring Partnership Opportunities and the Power of Face-to-Face Networking

18:00 – Building for the Future: Balancing Short-Term Goals and Long-Term Relationships

20:31 – Leveraging Hosting Companies: Opportunities and Considerations

22:51 – Strategies for Partnerships: Customization and Exclusivity Considerations

25:15 – Embracing Collaboration: Thriving in Partnerships With Big Companies

28:05 – Sealing the Deal: When to Put It in Writing

31:11 – Unlocking Success: Pros and Cons of Partnerships

35:45 – Forging an Impactful Partnership: The Path to Acquisition Unveiled

38:53 – Empowering Women in Tech: Building Your Personal Brand Through Speaking and Advocacy

42:48 – Outro


Miriam: I know that it’s scary. When you’re on stage, yeah, everybody’s looking at you, but they’re not noticing, like, you know, you’re like, “Oh, shoot, I should have said that.” Nobody knows that.

Patrick: Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of plugin.fm, the podcast where we dive into the journeys of entrepreneurs and product makers to learn from their stories and uncover valuable insights. My name is Patrick Rauland, and today I’m talking with Miriam Schwab, Head of WordPress Relations at Elementor and Co-founder and CEO of Stratic.

Miriam has nearly 20 years of experience in the WordPress ecosystem. In 2006, she founded illuminea and served as CEO for 13 years, navigating the company through an acquisition to become one of Israel’s leading WordPress development agencies. Not content with just steering a company, she also took up the helm of lead organizer for WordCamp Israel five times and has shared her knowledge and experiences at way too many WordCamps to mention here.

In 2018, she co-founded Stratic, an end-to-end static and headless hosting and deployment platform for WordPress websites. In June 2022, Elementor acquired Stratic, further solidifying Miriam’s experience in successful partnerships. Miriam’s extensive business successes are nothing compared to her personal life. She has seven kids, which has no doubt gifted her with the soft and hard skills necessary to successfully steer a company and manage sometimes difficult stakeholders.

With experience in driving strategic alliances and even collaborating with competitors, Miriam has a wealth of knowledge to share on the power of joining forces. Today’s topic is partnerships and the power of collaboration for success, and it is a subject that holds immense value for entrepreneurs. Miriam’s experience in establishing partnerships, including her journey of getting acquired by Elementor, provides valuable lessons for you, the listener. Miriam, thank you so much for joining us today.

Miriam: Thanks for having me.

Patrick: Wonderful! So, we’ve mentioned that we’re focusing specifically on the role of collaborations and partnerships today. So, just to get us started here, what is like one of the most impactful partnerships that you’ve had with Stratic or maybe in your entire career? 

Miriam: So, while at Stratic, we worked on a number of different partnership directions. The vast majority of them were kind of low-key partnerships, but they were impactful. So, one example of that is when we were working with Yoast, the SEO plugin. We were doing some co-content creation, and they were doing webinars, and we participated in them. I did one with Joast himself and some others where I was interviewed around different topics. Each of those was really helpful in getting our brand out there even further. But also, the reason that works so well is because, from the get-go, we made sure that Stratic supported the Yoast SEO plugin. We’re big fans; we think it brings a ton of value to WordPress users, and we wanted to make sure that our users would be able to get the full value of it. So, it’s very complementary to the Stratic ethos, which is that you should have the best performing WordPress website, and that includes on the SEO level. And also, we’re friends with the Yoast team, and so working with them was really, really fun and really great.

Patrick: Very cool. Yeah, so partnerships don’t have to be massive. They can just be a small marketing effort or, and they can also be, you know, product integrations and other stuff. But they don’t have to be massive. Some of the best ones for you are just this co-marketing one.

Miriam: Yeah, exactly. I’m a bigger believer in starting small with partnerships because if you wait until you get to that finish line in terms of the bigger partnerships, then that can take a lot of time and resources and can sometimes be relatively complicated around the paperwork, let’s say, and things like that. So if you get started on a small, kind of low-key level, you also learn what it’s like to work together, and you can also learn new ways that you can potentially partner together that you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. So it’s a great way to get started, in my opinion.

Patrick: It’s a trial run. Love it.

Miriam: Yes:

Patrick: Now, are there any partnerships that have, like, not worked out very well? Are there any partnership horror stories in your experience? 

Miriam: So, not exactly horror stories, but kind of disappointments, and I can’t say that it’s the other party’s fault at all. Sometimes it was hard to get aligned around where we both want to go with it, and it was also hard to allocate the necessary resources. And even though the partnership could have been very fruitful for both parties, and that was clear to everyone, sometimes it just can’t get off the ground. And then, when that happens, in that type of situation where it’s clear that everyone would win, that could be quite disappointing. So there were a few of those, and one, in particular, I’m thinking of, but I don’t want to mention who they are because I don’t want to in any way indicate or hint that it has nothing to do with them. It has much to do with us. But it’s just disappointing because we were friends, and we both, you know, we’re fans of each other. We wanted it to work, and we just couldn’t get it off the ground.

Patrick: Got it. Is that what I want to talk about? The failures of collaborating for a second. Is that primarily like culture issues, right? Is it just like one company loves to execute quickly and turn things around in two weeks, and the other company is like a long-term planner that takes six months? Like, is it culture issues? Or is it always, you know, dividing up the money if there’s any shared money or dividing up newsletter subscribers or something, where there’s numbers involved?

Miriam: So, it’s less about those types of numbers, even though you would think that that’s where it’s at. It’s more about, let’s say, in one example that I have in mind, the other company was like a massive company. And so, making sure that we’re, you know, working in the same way when we were way smaller and they were way bigger, it’s just the processes are very different. And it was hard to make sure that everyone’s needs were supported. And in particular, their needs were very, very specific and not flexible and not always something that we could deliver around or, at least, not deliver around at the future in the beginning, in the initial stages. If they could have been a little bit more flexible, which, you know, sometimes the larger organization just can’t, then we could have got things rolling and then potentially seen a lot of value from that. So, sometimes the sizes of the organizations, if they’re very different, that can get in the way. Yeah, so that’s just like one example.

Patrick: Got it. I can totally see that. Yeah, yeah, I can see how having worked at some larger companies, that sometimes is like our process for doing a joint webinar is this, and we want to make sure it’s—I don’t know—SEO optimized. But you don’t have an SEO expert on your team, so then it’s hard to figure that stuff out.

Miriam: Exactly, and then you’re like, “Okay, should we pull in additional resources that we don’t really have in order to make this work? Maybe we should have, but you know, there are so many things that need attention and resources. It’s hard to figure out exactly where the right place is to prioritize.

Patrick: Yeah, got it. Okay, so let me ask you about when. So when you’re first starting a company, you’re trying to find that product-market fit. You’re trying to make sure that, “Does my audience want this thing?” I imagine that’s too early for a partnership. At what point can you start reaching out to people for partnerships? Is it at that product-market fit stage or is it at one of the later stages?

Miriam: So actually, a form of partnership that maybe some people wouldn’t think is a partnership is something that’s really ideal in the beginning, which is the POC or design partner stage, where you find a large organization that is very interested in your product, and you basically build a lot of it for them to use in many ways, and they give their feedback. And that is a partnership where, okay, you’re giving a lot and they’re taking a lot, but that’s huge validation, and also it helps you get the product off the ground and start to get good real-life feedback, which helps you improve the product, and it can have a lot of significance. So I would say from the beginning, you want to look at ways that you can partner with other companies, particularly ones with a larger authority or brand, you know, and a lot of expertise where they can bring value to you.

Patrick: And you said POC, proof of concept, is that right?

Miriam: Yes, exactly right.

Patrick: Perfect, got it. Yeah, we definitely mentioned this on a previous podcast episode, but like building something for a client, I guess a client is like the most obvious partnership out there, but if you can build something for a client that validates the need, and then you can do stuff afterwards.

Miriam: I do want to say that it’s important to be careful about building something for clients and making sure that you’re constantly having in mind that you’re differentiating it from regular services. So, it’s not like you’re, you know, if you’re an agency (so I know), if you’re an agency and you’re developing for a client, then you’re developing for the client, and then something, you know, and then the next client might get to benefit from part of that but might not. It’s very client-specific. So, you want to be building something that’s scaling, so it’s not specifically for that client. It’s more, and that’s why it’s important to look good as a partnership. Yeah, you’re not like serving them and delivering to them. They are your partner in this. They want to make sure that they are getting a product that will really help them, and you want to make sure they’re developing a product that will really help them and they represent your whole market, kind of thing, or at least significant segments of your market.

Patrick: Yeah, so what skills would a founder need? So, going all the way back to proof of concept or product-market fit, those are both very early stages. What skills does the founder need to have to start those initial partnerships because it is probably just the founder at first?

Miriam: Yeah, the founder does a lot of stuff for a long time, and yeah, it wears many hats. So, it’s really important or ideal—it’s ideal that you’re coming from a place where you’ve already built up some kind of network, and you have relevant connections around this, so that we can go back to people who trust you already because they know your reputation, they’ve worked with you or whatever, and you can approach them and say, “Hey,” or they will approach you because they’re going to see what you’re doing. Like, in the beginning, I just posted a lot on social media about what I was doing and shared content and spoke at conferences, and so people would slowly but surely start to see what I was doing, and then they would start to reach out. So, I was kind of like inbound, but it was inbound through my network and through my connections. So, you definitely want to do that, and you also want to ideally—the founder will be the type of person who can make those connections and, you know, nurture them and build them so that when they get to the point where they’re ready to partner with someone in whatever way, they’ve already got some of that infrastructure in place.

Patrick: Yeah, that is definitely an underrated skill. I think developers, especially with technical founders who are developers, there’s the desire to go into a cave and just program whatever you want to build for two months. But then, if you do that, then you have no network to help you promote it and to get it out there and to partner with people. So, it’s counterintuitive to spend time networking to make sure that it can be as successful as possible.

Miriam: Yeah, and especially a technical co-founder is very results-oriented. And what I mean is, of course, everyone’s results-oriented, but they don’t see results today. Like, I wrote 10 lines of code, and now this does X. Networking is a very kind of soft activity where, you know, the results of it, you don’t necessarily see for years sometimes, you know? But it’s something that you’re building up all the time, and who knows? You never know what will come of it. You can’t be like, “I’ll do X, and Y will happen.” No, it doesn’t work that way. So yeah, so going on spending time might be something that technical folks might not feel comfortable doing. So, I would recommend that everyone should focus on what they’re good at, right? Don’t try to do something that you’re not. Just admit it, and then have someone else in the picture, ideally, maybe another co-founder who’s more that type of person who will take that role on while you continue to code in your cave.

Patrick: Yeah, cave coding. So, there are lots of opportunities out there. There are lots of companies to partner with, there’s lots of projects to work on, to collaborate on. Do you have a framework or mental model to help you pick which opportunities are worth exploring and which opportunities are a waste of time?

Miriam: As the co-founder, I spent a lot of time reading about our industry. It wasn’t just about what we were doing, but it was about what is going on out there that can inform a lot of what we do in terms of whether something is competition or not, exactly competition, or just other products and developments in the industry and where it’s going. And you can start to get a sense of where good collaboration can be. For example, the products are not at all competitive and completely complementary to each other. Or as you move along, you start to see overlap between your users and their users. And that’s something that happened with Elementor, which we’ll get to, and also with Yoast. We had many customers requesting support for that and using it. So, and then you start to get an idea of, okay, what type of company is it? You know, you can kind of get a sense of where they’re going, what they’re interested in, other partnerships they’ve been doing, and then see where you can fit in. But like everything, it’s a numbers game. And what I mean is, the top of your funnel needs to be pretty big. And only by talking or starting to communicate or whatever with different companies and products will you start to be able to, you know, focus it down into the ones that make the most sense for you. So, you’ll, like obviously, the top of the funnel needs to be relatively focused because you just don’t have endless time. But at the same time, it’s hard to understand where things can go until you actually start, at least have an initial conversation with the right people there.

Patrick: Right, I do want to ask you, so I guess a natural follow-up there is like, who, how do you know who to have the conversation with? Let’s start with that.

Miriam: You don’t always, not every company has someone with the exact title of, you know, “I’m the Partnerships person you should talk to” kind of thing. So, if you already have connections in the company, you start to explore who should I talk to about this? Who could, you know, can you introduce me to my person? They’ll be like, “Oh, it’s so and so,” or they’ll be like, “Oh, wait, let me check,” you know, “I’ll ask around and see who the right person is.” People are almost, in like the vast majority of cases, happy to help. So, most of the time, that will come through with the person. Just someone will just make a direct introduction by email, wherever, and you take it from there and have a call. If they don’t come through, it’s just usually because either they couldn’t find the person and it was taking too long, and they have other things to do, or they forgot about it, whatever. It’s not necessarily personal, but always ask. Just always ask. And also, like, if you don’t have connections, you can reach out on LinkedIn, be like, “Hey, you seem to be the person for partnerships, but if not, someone else,” you know, that kind of thing.

Patrick: So, I just came back from an email marketing conference, and a friend of mine basically reached, he loves reaching out to each sponsor in person. So, I’m curious, is there an advantage to that? I think online, you can get bombarded with messages, right? You can, they’re, if you’re the Partnerships person, there might be a hundred emails for you one day, and it’s really hard to distinguish the really good ones and the bad ones. If you do happen to go to, let’s say, a WordCamp or some other event, is meeting in person one of those, like, is that something you should take advantage of a situation?

Miriam: Oh, absolutely. Nothing can replace face-to-face. It’s the best way to meet and connect and, like, really understand another person, another company. So, most definitely, if you can schedule meetings in advance, identify who you want to meet with. Like, I always set up a Calendly link specifically for the conference with half-hour increments, 15 minutes in between, because sometimes it goes over or sometimes you have to walk around and takes time to get from one meeting to the next. Definitely try to fill your calendar with relevant meetings, and also, by the way, less relevant meetings because you really don’t know what can come from things.

Patrick: Well, okay, so let me go back to prioritization. Why would you fill up your calendar with less relevant things or less obviously relevant things?

Miriam: Throughout my professional career or whatever, all these almost 20 years of whatever I’ve been doing, I found that just getting to know interesting people is great. First of all, it’s great because you can learn a lot from them, and hopefully, they can learn a lot from you, right? Hopefully, it’s mutual, you know, mutually beneficial. But I just find it really interesting talking to people, learning about their experiences, what they’re building. And then something may come up that’s unexpected, and it’s a, you know, if someone’s building something interesting, and even if there’s not like synergy with what you’re doing right now, yeah, you never know. That’s a person who’s driven, smart, talented. Like, it’s a good connection to have. I generally just like to meet interesting people because they, I’m interested, and I like to meet people not because I think maybe something will come from it, but I’m just saying, like, and I like someone just asked me if I was going to another conference, and I said yes, but I’m not really looking. So fortunate because it’s not like as fun as other ones. Without your work, it’s not about having fun, right? But to me, I also want to have, like, an element to it, which is also just really enjoyable, and meeting interesting people to me is really enjoyable, and it keeps me going with everything else. So, that’s me. But in general, meeting good people is always a great thing, and so I recommend it if it’s for you. It’s not for everybody.

Patrick: Yeah, I’ll just share a little story of my own. There’s a guy I met at WordCamp Chicago many years ago, and I think it took us five years to do business together. But if I didn’t meet him at WordCamp Chicago five years prior, we probably wouldn’t have done business, you know, five years later.

Miriam: No, absolutely. That’s exactly how it works, and I have examples of our investors and Strattic for whom I met 10 years earlier, like some of them. So, there’s absolutely that. I had no idea that I was gonna found Strattic and that I was gonna fundraise, but, you know, things just kind of go in that direction. So, yeah, it’s a good thing to do, I think.

Patrick: Let me, one of my takeaways I’m getting, just as we’re speaking right now, is that I feel like partnerships, as you’re planting a lot of seeds. Like, all of this is like, maybe it helps in the next three to six months, maybe, but more often than not, it helps a year later, two years later, three years later, ten years later. I mean, let me ask you this, how do you balance work right now in the business today versus planting seeds for the future? Because I think that’s basically what we’re talking about, is how much time do you spend networking for the future of your business versus working on it today?

Miriam: It’s hard to strike that balance, you know. You need to define your short-term goals and aim for them. So, you know, you can be like, “I want to partner with three companies that are fully complementary, around the same size as us and whatever,” and aim for that for the short term. And definitely, you know, put the resources towards that. But, you know, if you just live for today, what’s going to be in store for you tomorrow or in a year? Like, it’s really important to always be thinking about what, how what you do today will impact what will be in a year’s time or five, or even ten—I mean, that’s a long time, that was an extreme example—but you want to be planting the seeds, laying the groundwork for your future, not just for your presence. Otherwise, you’re just going to see your future and, like, nothing will be there.

And by the way, another reason to also meet people who aren’t directly related to your business goals today is that, I don’t know about other people, but when someone’s, like, just full-on selling to me, it’s a big turn-off. Like, I don’t want to build that relationship because I want to build relationships. In the end, business is about relationships. It’s about truly each party bringing value to each other. When I’m working on a partnership, I want this to bring value to them truly, and, hopefully, I want it to bring value to me or my venture. But it’s definitely two-directional. So, anything that is built is based on relationships. And if it’s just, like, full-on “buy my thing” or like someone was, like, connecting with me on LinkedIn in a pretty friendly way, and I was like, “Oh, that’s cool,” but then when we met in person, it was clear that they were, like, just trying to get in front of me just to sell to me, right? And that was it. And, like, at least for me, I want us to also be friendly, if not friends. Like, I want to be working with colleagues, people that I like and appreciate. And I want that to be the same, not just that I’m, like, a business number, even though in the end, that’s also part of it. But, in the end, it’s relationships. So yeah, that’s, uh, that’s also why I think it’s important to meet people just for the sake of, like, meeting cool people because they’re cool.

Patrick: Yeah, love that. So, in the WordPress world, I don’t know if this applies outside of the WordPress world, but in the WordPress world, I’d say probably the type of company that people want to partner the most with are hosting companies. And I think that’s probably because they have money and they have a large user base that has needs, and then you might be able to partner with them for your product. What are your thoughts on partnering with hosting companies?

Miriam: In the WordPress space, it’s ideal. Like, there’s not a lot of hosting companies, a lot of companies that want to partner with hosting companies because it’s an amazing channel. They just, their reach is huge, they’re, they’re well-established, they’re very, you know, stable and structured, and generally, their brands are very strong. So, if you can, like, align yourself with them, you get access to a huge funnel or channel, and you get to associate your brand with theirs. It’s like, it just really has a lot of value. You have to be careful, though. Some might want to take your product and fully white-label it. You have to seriously think for yourself whether that makes sense for you. Someone gave me advice at one point not to ever do that. Um, I’ll actually, I’ll give him credit. It was Chris Lemma, and I think he’s absolutely right because your brand is basically the most valuable thing you have, and if people don’t even know that you’re using your product, then that’s not great.

So, another potential issue with partnering with hosting companies is that they may, their payouts or their partnership deal for your product being integrated may be tiny, meaning like fractions of cents per something or other. Now, sometimes that can work out well, sometimes that can be really hard, also in terms of increased customer support or things like that. So, it can be really valuable, but it’s also important to know when to say no. Around the terms, the hosting company’s terms are totally legitimate for them, it makes sense and they can get that, and if it works for another company, fantastic. But it’s important to seriously consider that. But if it is something that can work out well for the smaller companies, and hosting companies, I totally do it. It’s a great channel.

Patrick: Yeah, I can definitely understand that. I mean, there’s an audience there who literally needs, many of them need your product, so it seems like it should be a great partnership. (23:29) So, I think the two concerns I have, one is, it’s just a small company working with a really big company, which is hard. There’s multiple content managers and multiple SEOs and multiple, you know, all these people that need to be involved in a partnership. And then there’s also maybe their own particular infrastructure. Let me ask you, would you consider, like, customizing your product for a partner where maybe they need a certain PHP setting? And would you consider customizing your product at all for them, or tweaking it, or adding some filters just for them? Is that something you’d consider?

Miriam: Absolutely. Like, you need to make sure that the partnership is, like, at a pretty strong stage, meaning, like, it’s pretty clear that it’s happening, even if it’s maybe not signed yet, but, like, it’s pretty clear that you’re there. And, so many things, the answer is, it depends. It depends how much work is necessary around here. It’s also, we’re seeing, will this change be something that we can implement for other hosting companies that could be useful? Like, we can make it into some kind of variable setting that we can customize for everyone. How big is this channel going to be, you know, that kind of thing. But we’ve definitely customized for partners.

Patrick: Got it, and what about, okay, so another one just popped into my head, sorry, this is going to go long. What about exclusivity? Like, is there, like, if a hosting company wants exclusivity, how do you even think about that? Because let’s say a hosting company reaches out to me and wants to partner with me, but they want me to, they want me to only sell exclusively to them. I don’t right now. I don’t have any other data on if that’s a good decision or not, and how much money might I be leaving on the table? How do you think about that?

Miriam: So, I guess we’re lucky that never came up, but my gut is, head for the hills and don’t do it. Because then you are just putting all of your faith in the hands of this giant corporation that tomorrow could decide they don’t care about you. Now, it doesn’t mean that, like, let’s say there’s an agreement in place, it doesn’t mean that the agreement might be broken if they haven’t committed to some kind of minimum amount of sales. They could just kind of, like, let you disappear into the background of their products and they’ll be fine without you or, I don’t know what, or like, they have layoffs or they have to cut costs or, and they just, like, their focus goes elsewhere. Like, I would not put my fate in the hands of another entity like that. That sounds pretty scary.

Patrick: Got it, good advice, love it. So, I think the last thing then is, I guess, how do you just plan working with a big company, right? So, they have all these multiple people. Like, I could get a deal with you done in maybe three weeks. Like, how long does it take to work with a big company? Is that six months? Is it longer?

Miriam: It can be longer. Like, definitely be prepared for the long haul. And that’s why you need to have, like, a number of things in action at the same time and not just, but that’s also what’s hard. It’s okay, there’s a lot of things that are harder partnerships, but there could be a really lucrative partnership they work on, but it’s a big organization and everything can take forever. And again, no ill will, whatever. It’s just how things work. So, it’s like plodding along and moving forward, but it demands your internal resources, which means those, if you’re a smaller company, I mean, some of those resources should be going elsewhere, but they’re not. And so, it’s really hard to find that balance. But it’s really important to make sure that, like, the rest of the company is moving forward well while working on this partnership, in case everything falls apart. You don’t know how many stories I’ve heard of partnerships or, like, acquisitions or anything like that that fell apart at the last minute. Everyone was sure it was happening, and then just, it didn’t. So, again, putting all your eggs in one basket is very dangerous. So, somehow you need to make sure that you’re moving forward in different directions. But definitely be prepared for the long haul. It can sometimes be surprisingly short, but generally, these types of things take longer.

I do want to mention an interesting aspect of partnering with hosting companies, which is that in the WordPress space, and I’m not sure if it’s like this in other industries, hosting companies partner with hosting companies all the time, even though they’re competing supposedly, right? And so, or like, they’re both providing similar products, and they both are trying to get maybe the same customer base, and then they’ll still partner with each other. It’s really interesting. It’s hard to navigate but can be really successful for both sides, and some companies have got it really down, like how they do this in an effective way, and it’s, I think, it’s really cool.

Patrick: Huh, very cool. I can’t even imagine what that looks like. Very cool.

Miriam: It’s like scary, it’s one of those examples of something that’s full of risk but also full of great opportunity. And I just, I like the idea that companies that compete can also collaborate. And so, I’ll also say this, always keep that in mind that in my opinion, just don’t say bad things about your competitors. You can be factual, like we have a CDN that has 200 educations and theirs has 100. That’s it, that’s like a dry fact. But try to, you know, be… It’s never worth it on every level, but like this is another one where you never know if you might want to collaborate, but if you’ve broken trust, yeah, then it’ll be hard to collaborate in the future.

Patrick: Yeah, love that. So, let me ask you, at what point do you need to make sure that things are written down in, like, a legal contract? And the example I have in my head is just a week or two ago, I was emailing someone for, like, we’re doing, we’re basically co-marketing, and we didn’t have any contract to put in place because it was very simple. “I’m gonna do this for you, you’re gonna do this for me, here are the due dates,” and we just put that in an email, and I consider that good enough. Someone may say that’s not good enough, but that’s what I consider good enough. At what point, you know, is it based on the size of the partnership, do you need to, like, have a contract where things are written down legally?

Miriam: So, first of all, depending on the size of the companies involved, you might need to have something written from the beginning, have some kind of terms and conditions or I don’t know what. It’s very bureaucratic and annoying, but it might just be necessary for the regulatory stuff of the company or whatever their own internal needs. But ideally, you don’t have to do that, so you can just start moving forward at an early stage. I would say that comes along when things become riskier. Like, let’s say you have more exposure, more potential liability. There’s going to be more costs involved on your end. If you’re doing co-marketing, it’s like a few content creators will talk and then we’ll do our thing. But when it starts to become kind of heavier and more complex, you probably want to start, especially if it’s coming down to like actual money and numbers like rev share and when and how and or whatever it is, then it’s important to get that properly legalized.

Patrick: Is there, so I know when you’re buying businesses, they’re a thing, I think they’re called letters of intent if I remember correctly, which is basically like a promise that we’re actually interested in buying you. Are there any contracts like that that you should think of, or is this… I mean, maybe this is just when you’re buying businesses and that’s like massive amounts of money. Is it ever worth having some sort of legal letter that says we’re really interested in partnering with you? Is that a thing?

Miriam: So, it depends on what your goals are as a company. But if you’re building your company in the startup model, then you constantly want to be proving that there is market interest, that there’s product-market fit, that, you know, there are people out there who want to give you their money for your thing. And in that case, it is worth it to get that written down because you can show it to potential investors.

Patrick: Okay, got it. So, selfishly for you, it might be good to have that. Look, we have this. It’s almost like accounts receivable. It’s almost like, “Look, we will have this money coming in or a very high likelihood of having this money coming in.”

Miriam: Yes, and look, this company has expressed serious intent and interest in our product, and you could help guide how they write the letters of intent, and they’re often happy with that. You’d be like, “We want to buy this because it will save us costs and resolve these issues,” and blah, blah, blah. And so, that kind of thing, and then it really can show investors the value that you can bring to your customers.

Patrick: Love that. So, I have a double question here. What are just the pros that working on partnerships has brought to your career, and what are the cons that have come up because of partnerships?

Miriam: The pros of partnerships is that, in the end, business is about people. Nobody’s doing business by themselves. Whether it’s your customers or the design partners that you’re working with or partners on a lower or more complex level, in the end, all businesses thrive through relationships. So, I think, in my opinion, that brings the most success to everyone when people look for ways to collaborate with each other. It’s just… It’s like, regardless of how far my reach goes, and that person’s reach goes, bringing our reach together, we have this much bigger circle of audience, you know, attention, whatever, brand exposure. And it should be win-win for everyone, and it really is a situation where one plus one equals three or more, you know? So, I see almost everything that I do or we do in a business setting as partnerships, including internally. I’m partnering with teams internally, I’m partnering with other people. It’s a different kind of partnership. These are all just other examples of working with great people who compliment you and you compliment them to achieve even greater things. So, that’s how I see it in terms of pros.

In terms of cons, the only thing is learning how to navigate so that it doesn’t suck all your time. Because let’s say this didn’t happen to us, but actually, it did happen to us, but I can’t mention the big brand. There was a very big brand that was running their sites in a particular way, and they really needed something like Stratic. And we were like, “This is so cool! It’s so clear that they need us. They keep telling us they need us. We’re going to save them so much time and annoying processes and just solve all their issues.” So, we started customizing our product for them. And then, at the last minute, they decided they would rather continue with their annoying internal processes because for them, being a large organization, sometimes these things just start to feel better for them, even though they’re not better for them. And that was hugely disappointing. So, like I had mentioned earlier, make sure, I totally forgotten about that one, make sure you are always keeping things moving in a number of directions so that that one thing doesn’t take up all of your excitement and energy, and then collapse, and you’re like, “Oh shoot, we’ve been neglecting that,” you know?

Patrick: Okay. So let’s say you finish a partnership, maybe it was co-marketing, maybe something else. How do you measure if it was successful?

Miriam: You look for certain types of obvious numbers. Like, were there more mentions? Was there more attention? Did we get more social media interests, more visits to our website, more click-throughs, more leads? That’s the best, you know, and then obviously more customers. Sometimes you can’t see the results for some time, it’s delayed, so keep an eye on that. We did a webinar after Elementor acquired us about Stratic to explain what it is, and we saw people signing up for the webinar like a month later. It happened with the landing page still there, but they were still signing up for it. Somehow finding it, I’m actually not even sure. So the impact can continue to resonate down the line, but basically, it’s the numbers. Did it move the needle, yeah, in any way?

Patrick: Got it. I’m the type of person where I try to set numbers before we do anything. Is that the right call, as to always, you know, whether it be email signups or purchases or whatever it is, like I always try to define those ahead of time. Is that the right call?

Miriam: So the first time you do something, you can totally set numbers, but you’re totally guessing. You’re just picking them out of thin air, like, “Well, this sounds like I read somewhere numbers.” And then after that first time, you can start to learn what’s realistic. Like, okay, so let’s adjust it. Always aim a little bit higher. But the first time, you’re gonna be totally guessing. Okay, that’s fine as long as you’re admitting it to yourself.

Patrick: Yeah, I love that. So we’ve talked about Stratic and Elementor and being acquired. I would love to know, I want to get the details now. What were the factors that contributed to the success of that partnership and then eventually the acquisition?

Miriam: So, pretty early on, we just saw that more and more of our users were using Elementor on Stratic, and more and more of them were asking us to support different parts of it. Like, some of it we just supported out of the gate, but some of it needed our attention in order to make sure that we supported it. We started investing in making sure we supported it. It was worth our while, even without a partnership with Elementor, because it was a blocker for some people to join and actually use Stratic. We didn’t want that. We wanted to remove the blocker, so we started investing in making it compatible. And then we would hit certain types of walls or things that we weren’t sure about, and I had connections at Elementor. Anyways, I’ve known the founders for like 10 years. When I was organizing WordCamps, they would sponsor and they would come. Like, part of the Israeli WordPress community. So we connected around that. I reached out, and I was like, “Okay, we’re actively working on supporting Elementor, but we really need some of your developers’ input around certain things.” And so, we created this shared Slack channel, and we started working together from that perspective. And it’s a, I think, a good example of starting small, where you start to work together, and you see the value. So I think they started to see the value of Stratic. It made certain aspects of the Elementor experience better for users. And also, Stratic is very forward-thinking, and our customers were more enterprise. We got to know each other more and more around that from a business perspective. And we, at Stratic, wanted to kind of formalize that partnership because we were investing so much time in it anyways. We wanted it to be recognized by Elementor. So at one point, also, in Yoast, Elementor had a recommended hosting page, and Yoast does as well. I think they still do. And we made sure that we were in both of those. And the conversations just kept progressing with Elementor to the point where they concluded that we might as well just fully join forces. It was kind of like that.

Patrick: That sounds great. You guys weren’t specifically looking for fully joining forces, but you were looking for some sort of validation from them, and it turned into more than that.

Miriam: We were looking for validation because they’re a much bigger brand than us and also exposure to their humongous user base. Yeah, this was, I mean, we started working on this with them maybe two, three years ago, so it was like maybe 10 million active installs. Now it’s over 13. It may have been less, but it just was clearly growing and clearly bringing a lot of value to many users. And we wanted to bring value to those users as well and just trying to get exposure to that user base.

Patrick: Fantastic! You are a mother and a passionate advocate for inclusion and female empowerment in tech. I would love to know, what advice would you give to women who have a passion for building products and entrepreneurship?

Miriam: One thing that’s really helped me in my career is speaking at conferences. I know that the fear, you know, stage fright, is like the second largest fear or cause of anxiety after, I think, death. So, I know that it’s scary. I have been speaking for probably like 12, 13, 14, I don’t even know how many years. But in the beginning, I was so nervous. I would read from a paper, and my voice would shake, and I was not good. But I just kept doing it. I think getting on stage and doing it over and over and over to the point where it just kind of became natural. And, you know, now I feel very comfortable on stage. But there’s very few things you can do that can bring so much value to your personal brand and awareness of whatever it is that you’re working on in a high-quality way, because you’re not selling, you’re sharing knowledge, which shows that you’re an expert in your field. And, you know, people can kind of get to see who you are as a person, rather than as, like, a 2D avatar online or whatever. So, I highly recommend trying to find opportunities to speak related to your area of expertise.

The other thing is speaking up when you see that there’s something that can be improved. That’s something that I’ve learned to do, and that has had results. You know, it’s slowly but surely saying, “You know, I feel like in this situation, women aren’t being included,” or, “There’s not enough.” Sometimes, this lack of awareness is the problem, right? And people are just, there’s this flywheel of, like, “Man, who works with men, who are the men,” and then they bring more men, and they’re just, like, doing something that feels natural to them. And, like, you can stand up and say, “Make a little bit of an effort, make a lot of an effort, and open up your eyes to what’s going on here, and see which women you can give opportunities to, and which, I mean, you can pull into this kind of circle of opportunity.”

So, to build yourself up, I recommend creating content, writing, building up your network, and speaking once you’re in that position or even before that, like when you feel comfortable, but you also are in a position of influence. Start looking to where you can point out places for improvement. People are very often open to it and will take steps, and you’ll start, you can start to see results.

Patrick: Yeah, I love all that advice, and I love that you gave us advice. And, like many stuff, it’s like write a blog post, it’s like, you know, this much effort, and then speaking in public is like a little bit more effort. So, there’s a lot of different ways to grow there. And I just wanted to add on, I think the number one fear is public speaking, and number two is death. So, the joke, I think, is maybe Seinfeld, is like you would rather be in the coffin than getting the eulogy. Yes, something like that. Yeah, yeah, not me. I think that’s Seinfelding.

Miriam: Yeah, well, if that’s the case, and I didn’t remember that was the case, then yeah, then for real, I get how scary. But like, this is another example of us noticing our own flaws more than other people. You know, people walk down the street, and they’re like, “Oh, everyone’s looking at me, my hair’s not good today, and my clothes.” Nobody’s looking at you, and nobody cares about you. When you’re on stage, yeah, everybody’s looking at you, but they’re not noticing, like, you know, you’re like, “Oh, shoot, I should have said that.” Nobody knows that. Nobody knows whatever. Or like, you make a mistake and you move on. Nobody remembers that. You remember it, so just keep going.

Patrick: Love that. Thank you, Miriam, for being on the show and sharing your insights.

Miriam: Thanks for having me.

Patrick: And listeners, thank you for tuning in. If you enjoyed this episode, hit the like button and subscribe to let the robot overlords know that they should direct their algorithms to our YouTube channel. If you’re on the plugin.fm website, smash the Subscribe button to get early bird access to our future content or just share the episode far and wide on social media, so we can help entrepreneurs like you in their journeys too. plugin.fm is brought to you by Freemius, your all-in-one eCommerce 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 Freemius’s monetization experts. My name is Patrick Rauland, and have a good day, everyone. Bye-bye. Thank you.

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