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A Look Behind the Scenes of Modern Tribe Buying GigPress

Over the years, the WordPress sphere has become an area of serious business. Many people are making a full-time income thanks to the WordPress platform either directly or indirectly.

In addition to that, there are more than a handful of WordPress companies with six-figure revenues and beyond.

Considering this fact, it’s no wonder that more and more people are trying to figure out how to open a successful WordPress business and get a piece of the pie.

Who would have thought this possible from the platform’s humble beginnings?

Yet, there is no denying that WordPress products have become valuable commodities just like “real-world” products.

Thus, it’s also not surprising when they change owners from time to time as happened in March this year.

Back then it was announced that Modern Tribe acquired GigPress, one of the leading event-management plugins for the WordPress platform.

Usually, that would all you and I would hear about it. Neither of us would have the slightest idea idea about the ins and outs and the effort that went into making this deal happen.

However, lucky for us, things are different this time.

Zach Tirrell, who as Director of Products at Modern Tribe was involved in the process from beginning to end agreed to talk to us and give us an insider’s point of view of how it all went down.

For anyone who has never been involved in a deal like this, the interview below will be a great opportunity to look behind the scenes of a real-life WordPress business deal and the decisions and considerations that go into it.

It’s especially interesting since Modern Tribe is one of the bigger players in the WordPress industry. Any would-be entrepreneur can surely learn a thing or two from the way they do business.

So, if that is something you would be interested in (and why wouldn’t you?) I recommend you keep reading. But first, let’s start with some background information.

Background

Before diving into the interview, let me first set the stage and give you some additional information about the parties involved.

Modern Tribe

Behind their tribal name hides one of the leading digital agencies in the WordPress sphere.

Modern Tribe not only specialize in user experience, content strategy, publishing and product development but also build websites of all types and sizes for their clientele.

Their portfolio includes projects for MTV, ebay, Microsoft, CNN, Motorola and other well-known names.

Besides that, Modern Tribe have also contributed a number of plugins to the WordPress repository, some of which have over 400,000 active installs. One of their most well-known works is The Events Calendar.

GigPress

As mentioned in the introduction, GigPress is an event management plugin for live performances. It is one of the favorite solutions among musicians as well as one of the most widely used.

Noteworthy users include The Cult, Blind Pilot and Flight of the Conchords (which I highly recommend).

GigPress was created by Derek Hogue of Amphibian Design in 2007 who also single-handedly maintained and supported the plugin for nine years (you can read the full story here).

At the time he handed the reigns off to Modern Tribe, the plugin had more than 260,000 downloads and 20,000+ active installs — quite impressive numbers!

So, why did he decide to part ways with his creation anyway? In his own words:

Eventually I started using other CMS’ more often than not, so my passion and impetus for improving GigPress fell off a cliff. […]

For several years I kept GigPress alive via mostly bug fixes and compatibility updates. Last year I finally decided that the best hope for bringing my baby from its extended adolescence into adulthood would be to find it a new home. […]

You can give away your plugin for free all day long, but as soon as you hit a certain scale, support becomes a burden, and creating revenue from plugins in WordPress takes an infrastructure which is prohibitive for many small developers.

At this point is when he approached Modern Tribe and now we will learn how exactly things went down, which decisions were made and why as well as what will happen to GigPress under its new ownership.

Modern Tribe Acquires GigPress – The Interview

Below you will find Zach’s answers to the questions I emailed to him. He was very open about everything and provided me with many of interesting insights, which I hope you will appreciate as much as I did.

But now, without further ado, the interview.

Can you introduce yourself to our readers really quick and give us a few bullet points about your background?

I’m the Director of Products for Modern Tribe. That puts me in the wonderful position of overseeing all the incredible work our support, development, and strategy people do with our suite of plugins.

I’ve been working with WordPress since way back in 2004, starting with version 1.2. I spent ten years working in higher education at Plymouth State University, then jumped from there to Gigaom.

I managed their engineering team, running everything WordPress in a high traffic environment.. Last year, I transitioned away from Gigaom to join Modern Tribe, where it’s my role to help our team do good work.

Please say a few words about Modern Tribe for anyone not acquainted with your work.

We’re a digital design and development agency that works with Fortune 500 companies, educational institutions, government agencies, and well-funded start-ups. What makes us really unique is that we’re 100% remote, working with a fully-distributed team of 50+ creatives (mostly) based in North America.

In addition to our services, we have a big focus on product development and maintain a portfolio of popular WordPress plugins downloaded by millions of users. Some of our popular plugins include The Events Calendar, Event Tickets, Image Widget and Advanced Post Manager.

You recently acquired GigPress. What was your role in the acquisition?

I was the point person at Modern Tribe on that. Derek Hogue and I had been talking for almost a year before we figured it all out.

Was it the first time that you personally went through this process?

Yeah, it was. I’ve done a lot of contract negotiation and this acquisition certainly shared a lot of similarities with that. Derek is a great person and was a pleasure to work with on this. While working with him the tone was conversational and really focused around what would be best for existing GigPress users.

How did everything get started? Who was the first party to establish contact?

Derek reached out to us. He was ready to hand off the day-to-day attention that GigPress required, but also felt a strong attachment to this product that he’d lovingly grown since 2007. I was pleased that he saw Modern Tribe as a great new home for his users.

Can you give us a bit of a road map of how it went from there to the final contract signing?

This was something we were interested in from the first discussion. The main challenge was finding the right fit with features we’d already been planning within our own product lines — it took a lot of strategic planning and attention from our leadership to determine what would produce the smoothest transition for existing GigPress users.

What factors do you look at when you consider buying another product?

One of the biggest considerations is reputation. Considering all WordPress plugins are GPL, the code itself isn’t what you are buying. It’s really more about seeing if there is an opportunity to serve an existing group of users.

If there is a clear path forward for them and a roadmap that aligns with what we are trying to build, then it may be a good match. In the case of GigPress, this is a great niche that we believe our products can serve very well now and in the future.

What swayed the decision for GigPress?

I think our reputation played a big role on Derek’s side of the transition. He’s familiar with our support team and our involvement in the community, and knew that GigPress would be in good hands after he made his exit.

GigPress has a large install base, and the folks that are running it are in the same space we are interested in serving — this aligned nicely for us.

How does GigPress fit into the existing Modern Tribe portfolio?

GigPress serves bands and performers in a more direct way than our existing plugins. This is an important niche and we see GigPress continuing to speak to that audience.

What are your plans for the plugin, especially considering monetization?

In the short term we are going to focus on maintaining the plugin. Keeping up support and compatibility for the 10,000 existing users is our first priority.

From there, we’ll offer opportunities for them to use our existing suite of free and premium plugins to do more than what they can today. We have no intention of directly monetizing GigPress as a paid plugin or via paid support.

Do you have any advice for people considering doing something similar? For example, how they can get started and find suitable products?

It’s really important to find a good match that aligns both with your own goals and will serve the existing users of the product you are considering. WordPress has always been about the community; that needs to be foremost in your thinking when working through something like this.

Any hints on what plugins or products you are planning to bring into the Modern Tribe fold next?

We have a lot of ideas for what’s next! We are definitely investing more time and attention in solutions that help event organizers manage and promote their events. We have a number of things in development now that continue to build out our offerings in this space.

Summing Up…

In a highly developed environment like the WordPress sphere, digital products have become sellable commodities like their real-life counterparts.

That also means that like other, more tangible products, ownership sometimes changes and assets or whole companies are transferred from one hand to another.

When they do, there are a lot of things to consider in order to preserve both the product, serve its existing users and provide a road forward.

In the interview above, we got a good look into a process that usually happens behind closed doors and that isn’t easily comprehensible by someone who has gone through it.

The two most important takeaways:

  1. Focus on what’s right for the existing user base
  2. Make sure the product you are buying integrates well with your existing portfolio and future plans

From the above it seems like GigPress users don’t have to worry about their favorite plugin. Modern Tribe seems determined to do well by its community and have nothing but good plans for it.

This also seems to be how Derek feels:

I knew that [GigPress] would be going to a home where it would be further developed and always be moving forward. Seeing all of the work that has gone into The Events Calendar really convinced me of that.

Adding in the fact that it’s going to an organization that has more than one person – a large group of people with a variety of skill sets that can all work on one product together – is important because that’s what’s needed to take a plugin like this beyond where it’s been hovering for a long time. Having backing from the team at Modern Tribe will be hugely beneficial to everyone who uses GigPress on a daily basis.

For anyone who is interested, you can download GigPress here. Modern Tribe will surely be happy to count you among its user base.

Are you a user of GigPress? How do you feel about its recent acquisition? Any thoughts on the interview above? Let us know in the comments below!