Joining a Suite of eCommerce Solutions for WordPress

Do the Woo Podcast Woo BizChat Guests James Kemp and Zach Tirrell Episode 145
Do the Woo - A WooCommerce Podcast
Do the Woo - A WooCommerce Podcast
Joining a Suite of eCommerce Solutions for WordPress

In this Woo BizChat we are looking at a different angle when it comes to the blossoming acquisitions in the WordPress / WooCommerce space.

StellarWP is Liquid Web’s home for a collection of plugins that have been acquired. The range of plugins touches the WooCommerce space at different levels. But in this show we have asked two of the brands to join us. James Kemp from IconicWP and Zach Tirrell, from The Events Calendar. Zach is also on the leadership team at StellarWP.

This approach of acquired plugins make for an interesting conversation with a mix of company cultures and expertise.

Maja and Robbie talk with James and Zach about:

  • The journey to the acquisitions
  • Both sides of the experience of an acquisition and the process
  • How they brought their own teams into the large StellarWP team
  • What effect it was on everyone celebrating the acquisitions virtually vs. physically
  • The advice they give to other plugin shops to prepare for a possible acquisition or to acquire one themselves
  • How they communicated the merger with their own teams, how they reacted and did anyone leave as a result
  • Any challenges with the culture mixture of the different teams
  • What future plans they have for any plugins in the Woo ecosystem

Connect with James and Zach

Thanks to Our Pod Friends


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Maja: Hello everyone. Thank you for joining another Woo BizChat episode as a part of our series of talks highlighting the business values we see in the web industry. And with me today is Robbie Adair. Hi, Robbie.

Robbie: Hi, there. I'm so excited. We're on episode 145 of Do the Woo. Amazing.

Maja: Great to have you today here. And also, we have our guests. So, first of all, we have James. Hi, James. How are you?

James: Hey, good. Thanks.

Maja: Nice to have you tonight. James is the founder of the IconicWP and then, Zach Tirrell. Hi, Zach, how are you?

Zach: I'm good. Thanks for having us.

Maja: It's such a pleasure. So, you've been previously The Events Calendar team, but now you're overseeing the StellarWP group. So, welcome to our podcast. I hope you're doing fine. And just after this short introduction, I will leave the floor to Robbie. Thank you very much.

Robbie: Thanks, Maja for opening us up there. Okay, guys. So we're going to just hop right in. And our focus as Maja mentioned is BizChat. So we like to just kind of dig in and talk about the business side of things. And that actually is a pretty broad topic. But looking at the unique situation you guys are in with StellarWP and the acquisitions that have happened with both of your plugin companies, what we'd like to do is just kind of get a feel for how did you both get started with your individual plugin companies. So, James, why don't you start us off?

James: Yeah. Iconic came around as a bit of a side project. We started out as a web agency building WordPress sites for our customers. And the plugins that we built came from that process, so a customer might want the ability to add delivery slots to their checkout. So, we made a website for an Indian restaurant in the UK and they needed that functionality so that we make the plugin. And as part of that, we kind of worked out an agreement that we were allowed to then sell that plugin to other people. And it kind of just built up from there. So, that was... Our first plugin was built in 2012. So, almost 10 years ago.

Robbie: Wow. Do you guys still do any agency work or is it all plugin work now?

James: No, it's all plugin work. Since we switched to the Iconic brand. It's always been just plugin work. Prior to that, the plugins were so just under my own name.

Robbie: Cool. Thanks, James. Zach, let us hear about your journey.

Zach: Yeah. So, just brief clarification to start. I'm not over all of StellarWP. I'm one of three general managers in Stellar. So, I came into this kind of role from The Events Calendar. I joined The Events Calendar in 2015 and The Events Calendar has been around since 2010. So, it's been a long-running plugin and it was owned by Modern Tribe. And the partners there primarily ran an agency and The Events Calendar started to take off as a really successful plugins business. And so, they brought me in to kind of run that business independently. And so, for five years there, I ran The Events Calendar, the whole business and grew it from what it was kind of a budding distraction in an agency business to a full-blown products business that was like 45% of Modern Tribe's overall portfolio of business.

And then in late 2020, we sold just The Events Calendar business portion of Modern Tribe to Liquid Web. And so I, came along with my whole team and all of the wonderful people that make The Events Calendar over to Liquid Web in this like blossoming software division that Liquid Web's been putting together. It wasn't until earlier this summer that we finally had a name for what that was, and we're calling that StellarWP. And so that includes lots of brands that you would know, lots of other really great products. The iThemes suite of products are under that brand Cadence, now Iconic, Give, The Events Calendar. It's a pretty strong and powerful group of super smart people with similar interests. And we're able to kind of work together. We're all still very much running our businesses independently, but taking advantage of some of the scale and the kind of cross-learnings that we can do between each other.

Robbie: That's cool and both plugins resulted out of agencies needs. So those plugins, which I always find successful plugins or extensions or whatever, depending on the CMSs out there, when something is developed, because it fits the need, it's like it already has its path to success, right?

Zach: Yeah, so it's more customer aligned that way, right? You're developing a solution that's needed. It's not just something you created out of your mind and said, "Oh, I'll think I'll solve this niche problem that may or may not actually exist." You have a customer to start with. You have a point of view.

Maja: So, when we talk about business trends in web industry, it seems that it's a global trend like mergers and acquisitions are happening all over the place. And as we see the same thing actually happened with two of your companies becoming part of the StellarWP group. So, how was this process for you? When thinking about it and then implementing it most probably have its hurdles and joys, right? So, if you can just let us know how the process of joining companies actually took place.

James: Yeah. Mine was most recent, although not dramatically. I think Zach was in January. It's a very complicated process and there's a lot of steps that take place in it. There's a lot of due diligence that goes on, but in terms of actually starting talking about it and initiating that process, Iconic has partnered with Liquid Web and Nexcess for a number of years now. They offer our plugins as part of their WooCommerce packages. So, we already had that kind of relationship there. By the time that the idea of an acquisition came into my mind, we were approached by another company to buy us and I felt it was worth reaching out to Chris, at Liquid Web, Chris Lema, to discuss if Liquid Web would be interested and that's how our discussions kind of came into place, but it was quite nice that we already had this relationship. And Chris was already aware of our products and what they do. How we've kind of grown over the past few years as well.

And then from there, it's just a case of meeting with a few people. I had a call with Zach, and Matt, actually from iThemes to see how their experience with the process went, which is quite nice because it was good to get that understanding from people who were in the same position that I was going to be in. And yeah, then there was a massive spreadsheet of 100 or so items that I had to gather and prepare. And I would say that the whole process from initial discussions to actual acquisition was probably five months. So, not ridiculously long, but no, it was very smooth. I think because I'm the latest acquisition and they've done a number before me that they already have this process in place that they know works, which definitely made things easier.

Zach: For sure. And we sort of fell in love with James the first time we met him. So, we were happy that all went so smoothly. A little bit different process for The Events Calendar. We, myself and the partners at Modern Tribe had started shopping the company in early 2020, just starting to understand kind of what a diligence process was going to look like, what sort of data we needed to compile, how we needed our books to be structured so that it was easily understandable by somebody who is going to kind of look closely what we were doing and understand all of our sources of revenue and The Events Calendar it's a fairly large business. We have a number of products. We've got roughly 50 human beings who work for our business spread across all the continents except for Antarctica, the contractors and employees, and international employees.

So, there was a lot of complexity and the partners and I really felt strongly that whatever we did needed to be a journey for the whole team, it wasn't the sort of thing where we were going to sell off this product and someone was going to take it apart or tear it down. That wasn't the kind of vision we were looking for. So, late in the year, we met with Joe Oesterling and the Liquid Web team. And to us, it was pretty clear right away that their vision for what they were building aligned with what we wanted to do and that they were very supportive of the direction. And Joe likes to say like, he really just wanted to pour jet fuel on what we were doing.

He didn't want to change our roadmap or what our approaches were, he just wanted us to be able to have more resources and go faster, which was exactly what we were looking for too. So, it ended up being a really nice match. Similar to what James said, it was an intense spreadsheet in our case, how we went from sort of a letter of intent stage to closing in just under eight weeks. So, it was very fast for us, pretty whirlwind and intense, but yes, we got all that done. We needed to get it done before Christmas. And so we were able to do that and then announce in the new year.

Robbie: Okay. So, Zach, you said that you were getting prepped in 2020. So was this prior to COVID hitting?

Zach: It was, yeah. So, we had started thinking about this prior to COVID hitting. Shane and I knew that it was going to take us a while to figure out exactly what this was and how to navigate it and how to get the value that the partners needed out of a deal. So, we had started talking about it in January and then March came, obviously the world changed in March and we thought, "Oh, this probably delays this process three years." That was what we said. We're like, "We're going to have to buckle down, or we're probably going to have staff turnover. We're probably going to have to shrink the company for a little while. We're probably going to have to kind of reset and rebuild a little bit.” And we're running an events business, right? Like events. What other business could be more disrupted than events? But our team got really scrappy in March and we were able to put together some really great virtual events stuff for our customers.

And instead of sort of going into a down period through the pandemic, we spiked. We had the best summer we'd ever had our year-over-year growth was solid. So, coming into the end of the year, instead of having this story of getting beat down and having to build back up over years, instead, we had like sailed through this tumultuous time in a way that was... There was a great story instead of a story of heartache. So, we had a lot of interested parties late in the year as things started to get a little bit more economically stable.

Robbie: Awesome. That's great. It's great to hear that too. And there were a lot of people website-wise that do have those stories and it's fantastic. I mean it, thank goodness, I wasn't running a restaurant is what I always say.

James: For sure.

Robbie: Yeah. There were businesses that were hit in such different ways, but online, thank goodness it is overall a fairly painless process. And sometimes like you said, it was better. So, as you guys come into the StellarWP ecosystem, you said that you still work with your own teams, but is there still an overall team that you see it as? And what do you guys do to kind of bring your teams into this new environment, this new team ecosphere, as it were?

Zach: I'll admit we're still going through some stuff with Iconic, the first few months of trying to figure that out. We're definitely still in the middle of that.

James: Yeah. I was going to say it's a new experience for everyone. StellarWP, like Zach says, is pretty new in itself. But we've got a community behind the scenes as the whole Slack group where everyone is involved. We have regular catch-ups and Zach and I talk pretty often. But yeah, it's very much like these different brands kind of carrying on as they were prior with these additional resources behind them. And this collective kind of mind that they can interact with at any point. But yeah, we're working through the processes, we're trying to figure out the best way to get everyone involved and also get everyone involved in world time zones. There's people spread across everywhere. So, trying to find the time where every leader of each Stellar brand, for example, can sit down and have a chat all at the same time is a complication, but we're getting there.

Zach: Yeah. Everybody's kids have different bedtimes.

James: That's the issue.

Zach: Yeah. All right. We also talk a lot amongst the sort of people who are leading the various Stellar brands. So, Matt Cromwell and Devin Walker who are running Give, and Matt Danner. We spent a lot of time talking about things and validating strategies because suddenly we can be really open. I know exactly what the revenue is for every one of these brands every single day at my fingertips. So, if we're having a down week or something, I can say, "Is this is a down week for us or down week for WordPress?" And you go look and you're saying, "Oh yeah, it's summer doldrums. Okay, this is fine. I'm not going to freak out right now." Or you're like, "Oh no, that is us. There might be something wrong. I should go look."

And then sometimes you see a spike from one of the other brands. You're like, "Well, what did you do? What did you put in place?" And they're like, "Oh, well, we did this thing." "We can do that thing. That's a great idea. Let's go try that out." So, we're doing a lot of that kind of sharing across brands of sort of establishing best practices. One of the most Stellar things we've done, like actually for the brand is we now have kind of a shared marketing resource.

So, Hazel Quimpo probably talked to some of you to arrange this is running kind of digital marketing for Stellar. So, there are things that are not particularly brand-specific that we can definitely share. So, things like managing affiliates or doing ad buys or email automation, those things they're not particularly brand-specific other than all the brands need that stuff.

But then if you start talking about content and marketing strategy and campaigns and those sorts of things, it starts to get much closer to the brand. So, the individual brands still kind of own and run that piece while they can defer to kind of a shared resource for the pieces where we can kind of gain scale, which actually makes all of us be able to act bigger, right? Because you can have one full-time email automation person and no single brand probably would have hired that particular role because it wouldn't have been a full-time kind of gig. So, we're starting to figure out how to take advantage of some of that scale stuff and share resources where it makes sense, but also remain independent and focused on our unique niches where it doesn't.

Robbie: Do you think that having this all happen during a pandemic where everything is still so virtual, were there unique challenges to that? Wasn't like you guys all had a big acquisition party and cheers to everybody and everybody got to meet the teams of the other teams, and actually had faces and real live experiences with them? So, did you find that it was different? Did it hurt? Did it help? What do you think?

James: Yeah. I think there would have been complications to that anyway, being that we're in different countries, but that definitely would have been a good experience. And I think we will likely do that when we're able to. I imagine we'll probably meet at least once a year, once we can, but I think we're all fairly used to the idea of remote working. My team is all remote and I believe most of the other teams are pretty much all remote as well. So, I guess you kind of get used to it. You become complacent in it, but yeah, I think there's definitely a lot to be said for having the kind of social in-person interaction that we've missed, even from doing WordCamps. I feel like meeting at a WordCamp would have been a good opportunity for all of the teams to meet as well.

So hopefully we can do a lot more of that in the future. I don't necessarily feel like the pandemic has impacted how the process has gone, but then I can't say, because I don't know what it would have been like without that.

Zach: Yeah, I'm definitely missing that kind of human interaction piece and The Events Calendar is 100% remote as well. And I think that's actually true for most of the Stellar brands. I guess Give has some physical office space and iThemes has some physical office space, but mostly we're distributed, but we did get just this summer, we did get together for a few days. I think it was either just a week after James had closed with us or maybe right before that, I guess. I don't know the time exactly, but we did get the kind of Stellar leaders together in Austin, which was fantastic. It was the first time meeting some of these people in person and it was a nice opportunity to hang out and make those connections. I'm looking forward to doing some more of that, if we can ever get this pandemic behind us.

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And now back to the show.

Maja: You guys have gone through a lot of changes. Like a butterfly, through so many different phases from having an idea in your head, then having a plugin and then to be acquired. So, I think that's one of the journeys that some solopreneurs are actually trying to get through, right? So, what would be the advice that you would give to other plugin companies if their goal is to eventually be acquired? Are there any tips and tricks that save them time and actually reaching their goal?

James: There definitely is in terms of how you structure your business. But I honestly think that... I mean, me personally, my goal when I started this wasn't to be acquired. That kind of came as a natural path that it felt right at the time. It gave us the ability to amplify what we were doing and do it better. I guess there's two paths that you can take when you're acquired. You can be acquired and go with the company like Zach and I have, or your product can be acquired and you can just break away from it right there and then. I felt that I wasn't ready to break away from what I'm doing now. I've been doing it for almost 10 years like I said, and it feels like my baby really and yeah... But my point is that I don't think necessarily that you should start a business just with the goal of being acquired. I think you've got to have passion for what you're doing.

And I think that's also what people buying businesses are looking for, that they're not necessarily looking for something that you've spun up and made it look as pretty as possible for a seller. They want the product but they also want you and your experience and your passion behind that product to push it forward. But in terms of actually structuring your business so it's in a good position for acquisition, after this experience, I would say that focusing on renewals in a subscription-based pricing is a massive thing that particularly Stellar were looking for and just having a sustainable business and making sure that your business is in is encapsulated as one entity. So, if you do agency work and you do product work, they need to be easily identified when looking at your books and your income and your revenue. That probably would be the key thing for me.

Zach: Yeah. I think both of those points are so good. James, I think having clean books that tell a clear story is really important because whoever's going to acquire you needs to know where's this going? Where am I going to take it? Right? And if you, as the business owner don't have a path or that you don't see where it's going, then it's really hard for someone to come in and layer vision on top of what's already there. And so, that's something we look for and the subscription revenue is pretty critical because that's repetitive, right?

You know if I've got subscriptions, if I've got reasonable renewal rates, I've got some sort of predictable revenue model, as opposed to what's very common in our space, which is lifetime licenses, which are very customer-friendly, but they're definitely not super acquisition friendly, right? Because it's like, "Well, you made that money once, but you're never going to make that particular money again." And I guess you could put together a business model where you have some sort of additive nature of what you're selling back to those same customers, but it means you already paid the cost of acquisition on that customer and you're kind of done monetizing them. That's a real challenge in terms of putting together an acquisition offer that the seller feels good about. Your business ends up being much lower valued than you think.

Yeah. But I also think one of the things about WordPress businesses, it is an open source ecosystem. So, oftentimes the track record of the team and what they've been able to accomplish is equally valuable maybe to the products that you're looking at. So, when you look at Iconic, for example, you say, "Well, they've sustained great growth over many years. And they've been building these great products, expanding their product portfolio." Well, how have they done that? A lot of that's James, right? James is this really smart guy. If James doesn't come along, then some of that historical pattern, or where's the guarantee that that's going to continue to happen. Who's going to be James if James isn't in the equation or any of his teams? That who's coming along in the deal and what their commitment is and where they're going? I think that's almost equally important.

James: Yeah. It kind of ties into that. If you're thinking about acquisition, you need to have a clear idea in your mind if you want to be acquired as well, or you just want an exit, a swift exit, because that's going to change who you should be talking to.

Robbie: 100%. And that kind of leads me into the next question that I wanted to pose to you guys. And I know that Zach, you probably will have a little more experience because you were there when James' company was acquired. But the question is, is there any advice that you would give to companies that are looking to acquire other companies, plugins in particular because that's what you guys did, or even individuals that might be looking, not just a company, but an individual? So what advice would you give to them for what they're looking for? And I think some of what you just answered in prepping for it also kind of applies here, but looking at it from the buyer's point of view, what do you think would be something that they should be really looking for?

Zach: Okay. I think you got to know what your goal is, right? As a buyer, "What am I trying to do?" Because there's plenty of opportunities, right? Especially right now, there are so many opportunities to pick up some really great products in WordPress that are looking for various different next stages, whether that's to join something like Stellar, where it's like, you're going to join a group of people that want to work together and make each other better, right? That's kind of our thing. Or are you looking like James just said to exit? Are you looking for a buyer that's going to take your product and you can move on to the next project, which is a perfectly reasonable thing to want as a seller.

But as a buyer, you also have to know, "Well, what do I want? Am I looking to buy a bunch of WooCommerce products that I can then lead, or am I looking to buy a business that already knows how to build WooCommerce products and has a leader, and I'm going to facilitate them to continue to do good work? Am I just an investor that wants to inject money in something and get a certain profit margin and treat it purely like a business and be completely hands-off?" Right?

A buyer should be going into those situations with some sort of idea about what they want as an outcome. "What am I trying to achieve as the buyer?" Because that helps to narrow the focus of who are you going to talk to? Which conversations make sense, which ones don't, right? Because if you're looking to put together a collective of people and the person you talk to is like, "No, I'm not interested and nobody on my team is interested. We just want to sell our products."

Well, that still might be worth it, but it's a very different conversation you have to understand where that's going to fit your org if you're going to do that as the buyer.

Maja: Interesting point. How did you actually communicate the merger to your team? Were they like having some second thoughts or doubts, or how did that process go?

James: I think for me, it was probably easier than Zach's process because my team is quite small as there's under five of us. But we got quite a way through the process, myself and Liquid Web. And once I kind of knew it was official, it was going to happen, we had an idea of where this acquisition could take us. It was at that point that I thought I'm going to let the team in on it. And I think their biggest concern is that oftentimes an acquisition means that they're acquiring the products and the teams out the window and they've got to go find a new job. I think that was probably the biggest concern from the team. But the great thing about this style of acquisition is that it doesn't work without them. We need the whole team to come across as well.

And I think once they understood that, it becomes quite an exciting prospect because they've gone from a reasonably small company with a certain path that they could take to kind of expand their career, I guess, into this much larger company with loads more routes that they could take and loads more people that they could learn from to kind of work their way up. We have the ability now to hire in more people then some of our team might become team leaders and form their own team within Iconic. And to do that prior to the acquisition would have been quite tough. So yeah, I think it's a case of making sure they know that they are valued and they are Iconic in my case it was the most important part for me.

Zach: Yeah. And you mentioned sort of the human empathetic portion. It was emotionally probably the hardest part of the overall acquisition, right? The first part being the kind of that quiet period where you can't talk to anyone on your team about what's going on. And so that's kind of terrifying. In my case, I sort of was doing a really bad job at my day job while doing eight weeks worth of diligence, 50 hours a week, right? Trying to get a deal close. And it was like, "What are you doing? Why aren't you around? Where are you? What's going on?" So that was very kind of lonely and strange.

Zach: So we did an announcement, again, when we were certain that the deal was going to happen. We brought the whole team together on a big Zoom, everybody, explained to them what was happening. In our case, those emotions were ramped even higher because it was kind of like a divorce for us, right? Not necessarily... Like not in all of the negative ways, but we were separating from Modern Tribe, right? The Modern Tribe agency continues to exist today and they're doing great work, but they're not us anymore. We're not Modern Tribe and we were, right? We all have the Tribe apparel and shirts and blankets and coffee cups and now we're The Events Calendar, or we're Liquid Web, or we're StellarWP now.

Even though you didn't work with this person, but you may be shared a room with them at a tech team trip, they're not a co-worker anymore. And so, that kind of stuff was hard. And the other part is on both sides, they were sort of a little scared at first about, "Is my job secure? Am I going along for the ride, which we repeatedly assured everyone that they were, that was a universal thing we wanted everyone and was always clear and consistent messaging because it was 100% true. But also on our side of, "Are all of these people going to go with us?" Right? This is a disruptive event to the team, how many people are going to say, "You know what, I've been thinking about other opportunities, and maybe now's the time to go do something different."

So that's always a risk in that conversation too, because you want everybody, but you're not necessarily going to get them all, because it's a big deal. So, it was challenging and emotional. And we actually have just some absolutely wonderful leaders within The Events Calendar team. One of them wrote this piece for the team about sort of this raw piece to the team about all the emotions he was feeling. He's one of the engineering leader on my team. And it was just very open about everything that he was feeling and how it was affecting him, but then also why he was excited and why some of these opportunities, and if truly all of our jobs were protected, why this was a good thing and how we were going to do more interesting things?

And so that, I think really started to cement the like, not just looking back, but looking forward ideas of what this was going to mean to the team. And I think still sometimes it's like we're struggling to fully percolate that vision down of what we're all trying to do collectively, but the good news is at least in TC, nobody got a new boss except for me. So, from a day-to-day standpoint, six weeks into this thing, it was like, "I'm still working with all the same people I was working with before. I'm still getting paid. I'm still talking to everybody in Slack. The culture really hasn't changed that much." So, it didn't end up impacting people's day-to-day as much as it maybe felt like it would when we first announced it.

Robbie: Did you lose any team members, either of you?

James: No. I didn't.

Robbie: Zach, yours is a little different because you were separating a team, but of your team, were there any of the team that didn't want to move?

Zach: So I had one team member who had already been considering going back to the agency to work. He'd sort of come over to work with us kind of on a tour of duty. And he had been around for probably two years. Well before the announcement, he was already starting to lean back towards agency. So he stayed.

So, that was initially one out of 50. We have had probably, I wouldn't say high, but higher than normal turnover this year. And it's hard to know 100% if was it this disruptive event or was it just that we're in a ridiculously good market for engineers, right? It's probably a little bit from column A, a little bit from column B, but I didn't lose anyone in my leadership team, which I think is great. And we've had a bunch of people who've had opportunities to kind of either move up into bigger roles or were ready to graduate from support into engineering.

And so we might've had an engineer who left for a new role somewhere else and... So, most of the turnover we have had has been pretty healthy though it's always painful to lose people.

Robbie: And you are right though, but right now, there's a lot of turnover for everyone just because the job market is insane right now. Just like housing, it's crazy. All of it. It doesn't make sense after this pandemic, it is crazy.

Zach: Yeah. Yeah, somebody comes to you. They're like, "I got an offer to be paid 50% more." It's like, "Well, okay. Well, that's wonderful. You should go do that."

Maja: How about the values? Have you guys experienced perhaps the mix of different cultures within your teams? Are there any new values that you gained with this new grouping?

James: So, our team's always been quite multicultural anyway, but yeah, I think there's definitely a lot more openness within the overall team of Stellar and everyone's always communicating with each other, giving praise where praise is deserved and everyone's just quite open and inclusive on how everyone feels and works. I haven't been around long enough to be impacted by any dramatic cultural changes. Overall I think, especially in our industry, everyone is quite aware of different cultures anyway. It's quite a key thing to take note of. So yeah, for me personally, I haven't experienced too much that would change how I already interacted with people.

Zach: I will say there was a little bit more of some initial culture clash between us and kind of the hosting side of the Liquid Web business. There's absolutely great people there, but they predominantly worked out of offices in San Antonio and at Lansing, Michigan. So there was a lot of talk around, "We can't wait to get back to the office after things start to open up." And we're like, "We don't have an office to go to." Those kinds of things. And they didn't necessarily have the same experience with vastly distributed workforces and contracts that needed to be written for various different countries and various different national employment laws. And so, some of the stuff that we had kind of grown some muscles around because half of our team was international contractors that we treated the same as a full or part-time employee, where everybody's just a person on the team contributing.

So, that was a little challenging early on to kind of break those walls down. And in Liquid Web's grace, they were great about handling that, right? They're good about saying like, "We don't know how to do this. We're going to be bad at this for a little while or you can help us, please." I think it were maybe a little better by the time that James joined, all of those people being international. I would say the biggest hurdles in the Iconic acquisition were probably around international employee contract writing because Liquid Web just isn't great at that still, they're getting better.

James: Yeah. There were definitely complications around that. And I think I'm not sure whether we were the first UK based employees.

Zach: Yes. Despite having, I think 20 other countries represented, we didn't have anybody from the UK at that moment.

James: Yes. There were some hoops to jump through there, but like I said before, everyone was very open. You're aware of everything that's going on all of the time anyway. So, there's no behind the scenes stuff that you don't know about, it's all very involved.

Robbie: Well, so because we are on Do the Woo, so you know I'm going to ask you some questions about the plugins that are related to WooCommerce. And are there any future plans that you can share with us about that or any challenges that you can share with us about those plugins?

James: There's definitely both of those things. Yeah, we've got some great plans coming up. We've got a big collection of plugins anyway. I think we've got 15 live plugins at the moment, and we have some really nice plans for some of our most popular plugins to kind of open them up a bit more to even more people and just bring in some nice new technologies that we haven't had the capacity to do prior to this experience. So, that's going to be really cool. Say for example, that's going to be with Flux Checkout delivery slots.

Zach: I'm really excited about the stuff you're doing with Flux Checkout. I think that's such a cool product.

James: I was going to say Flux Checkout is probably going to be the most impactful change that we make. The checkout space in WooCommerce is quite thriving at the moment. And there's a few key competitors and we've got some stuff up our sleeves that's going to bring Flux right out in front as well. So, we're really looking forward to that. And that's underway now. We do have some additional plugins which we will be releasing into the mix as well with regards to better filtering for WooCommerce. We're going to be doing a nice comparison style plugin, but you know what, we're pretty open. We want to keep improving what we've already got and making sure that they're focused around the customers, but also keeping up with where WooCommerce is going.

And that's part of the challenge that anyone can make products for WooCommerce and you see them coming out all the time and so to keep up and make sure that yours is the best not only do you have to have equivalent features, the actual support that the customer receives behind the scenes as well is vital. And it's something that we really pride ourselves on is offering the best support that we can and having our products very customer-focused.

Zach: On our side, we have our Event Tickets Plus product it's a compatible WooCommerce product for selling tickets. And it's honestly, probably the plugin we see with the most sort of ceiling for growth. So, we're doing lots of investment on that project and we've done tons of work around better attendee management. And we're hoping... We had kind of delayed some work we were doing on our mobile app for in-person check-ins for events and stuff like that last year, we're going to dust some of that work off so that as people go back to events, we can get some of that stuff going. So, yeah, lots of really interesting stuff in the ticket space that we're hoping to do even more with, and really build it as a strong platform to power commerce around events.

Robbie: Awesome. And have guys been integrating the Woo Payments in as that was introduced?

James: There's not really much that you need to do. If it works with WooCommerce then it works with our products as well. That's always our aim that we don't want to create new conflicts. So, they've built that out in a way that it's literally just a payment gateway, so it's going to work the same way that other payment gateways work. It's a very nice-looking solution.

Robbie: Awesome. So, James, if people wanted to follow along and see whenever there's new releases and what's coming up, or when you guys drop something else, tell us how can they find you guys and the information about it?

James: So our website is We're on Twitter as @iconicwp, and we're on Facebook as IconicWP. So, basically just search for our IconicWP and you find us and sign up to our newsletter via the blog. We tend to do weekly newsletters with content from the blog and also announcements of what's new in our products.

Robbie: Fantastic. Zach, What about you?

Zach: Yeah. Similar idea. You can find assets at Our Twitter is TheEventsCal. And certainly, come subscribe to our newsletter. We'll send you all sorts of updates and tell you what we've got going on, but I also should plug and our StellarWP Twitter handle as well. So, we're starting to build a following and get more recognition out for our new collective umbrella brand.

Robbie: Right, Well, thank you guys so much for joining us today. I really appreciate it. We've really enjoyed the conversation here. I think that the information that you guys provided will help other business owners, whether they're thinking that maybe one day they could be acquired or whether they're looking to grow their own company by acquiring another company. I think the information that you guys told us today will really be of benefit to them. So, I thank you very much for that.

James: Thank you.

Zach: Thanks for having us.

Robbie: Yeah. And don't forget. You can always catch Do the Woo podcast, sign up, subscribe, and we want to thank our two pod friends for their support today. You can check them out at and 10up's So, thank you again for joining us and we'll see you next time.

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