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Mark Forrester talks about WooThemes, how the deal with Automattic came about and What is next.

August 12, 2015

5 Min Read
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Many names from around the globe have had an influence in the world of WordPress. Many people became an inspiration for developers and freelancers around to fall in love with WordPress. The love just kept on growing with new additions to the community, all because of the hard work put in by the people who were passionate about its growth. These people are the symbol of success for WordPress.

Today, we catch up with one of the most successful entrepreneurs coming out from the world of WordPress, Mark Forrester. Mark is the co-founder of WooThemes and like many other WordPress heroes, he paved his own way to success. He is the man behind the success of WooCommerce, the biggest ecommerce platform for WordPress users. His commitment towards delivering the best products to the WordPress community has helped many other themes and plugins businesses to grow.

Mark shares with us how the acquisition came along as WooThemes is completely a part of Automattic now, and tells us what the future holds for Woo.

Mark Forrester interview

Cloudways: WooThemes is a big name within the WordPress industry now. How did you come across WordPress? Was it all a planned journey, or was it just a bit of lucky charm for you to join in WordPress at the right time? How will you define success?

Mark: I discovered WordPress around 2005 when I was experimenting with various blogging systems. I had built a couple of sites in Mambo, the predecessor to Joomla, as well as Expression Engine. WordPress was by far the simplest to use and design on top of.

How would I define success? By how much fun I’ve had along the way.

Cloudways: Automattic – the company behind WordPress has acquired WooThemes.  Do you think it was the right decision? How will this acquisition affect the working philosophy and the organizational culture at WooThemes? What are your predictions for the next five years?

Mark: I think anyone contemplating the sale of their own company, after years of blood, sweat and tears, will often be plagued by that question. The good news, sitting on the other side of the fence, post acquisition, is that I’ve never felt so confident about the WooThemes fit within Automattic. Of course the work ethic and culture is somewhat different – going from a 55 person team to a 400+ organisation, but the team have welcomed us so warmly. They’ve also been open to our feedback as to how we can take all the tools, processes and quirks WooThemes had to ensure Automattic is an even better place to work.
Mark Forrester

I think it’s safe to say all us Woo ninjas are learning at a jet-propelled speed and the bigger talent pool we now have available means great things for the next five years of Woo products. Five years is a long time to predict. Let’s start with one and the opportunities in making ecommerce simpler, faster and more scalable.

Cloudways: Five years of hard work took WooCommerce and WooThemes to the level where it has been named as one of the biggest WordPress agencies. Whom do you give the credit for this success and how important are the Woo Ninjas for you?

Mark: The WordPress community and how they’ve shaped the growth of WordPress. We piggybacked off that growth and provided functionality and templates that made WordPress do things it wasn’t designed to do out of the box.

We certainly hired up when building out the WooTeam. Always hire people smarter than you. Being able to hire from any corner of the world and from such a large international community has meant we’ve been able to meet and attract people equally passionate about WordPress. Passion is everything.

Cloudways: Being an entrepreneur, you must have known what it takes to be one. What successful entrepreneurs do differently from others? Is there any secret formula behind your overwhelming success? How much important is the teamwork in making WooThemes a great success story?   

Mark: I don’t know at what point you are defined as an entrepreneur. Personally, I was frustrated by how limited my time was. Being a web designer building WordPress powered websites meant I could earn money for every contract I could secure, and every hour I was in front of my computer pushing pixels. What if I was on holiday or sick? By taking my web design service and packaging it into a digital product meant I was commoditising my service. And that meant I could earn exponentially more money, all the while saving customers’ money by providing them with a toolkit for their website.

Cloudways: WooThemes is known for its wide range of innovative and trendy themes and plugins, including WooCommerce – one of the most famous plugins for ecommerce websites. With so many products to the credit, is there any plan to expand your product base? What other products are you working on?

Mark: It’s clear our focus is on WooCommerce and democratizing ecommerce, but all of our products complement that goal. Themes help you sell all the things more beautifully, whilst plugins like Sensei allow you to sell even more types of products and services.

We’re planning out the next stage of our roadmap at the moment. We currently have a huge catalog of themes and plugins. There will be some retirements, inline with what our data and customers propose, to make sure we can focus on our core offerings – making them more powerful and usable.

We hope to simplify some of our WooCommerce extension offerings with hosted services, all the while respecting WooCommerce’s unique selling point – the ownership and flexibility it provides you.

Cloudways: Food tempts me a lot. I enjoy different eateries in my spare time. What are your activities other than work? Tell us about your interests.

Mark: Entertaining my 3 year old boy. Braaing. Snapping photos – I love photography and cameras. Football – both watching and playing it.

Mark Forrester

Cloudways: WordPress security is a prime concern for many users. We have seen vulnerabilities and brute force attacks commonly with themes and plugins. What activities performed under the banner of Woo to protect its customers? Is there a plan to bring out a product aimed at improving the security of WordPress websites?

Mark: Being part of the Automattic family now means we have access to arguably the smartest WordPress security team around. Not even a single line of code goes unnoticed. Automattic have impressive security products and services, we hope to integrate with those.

Cloudways: WordPress is slowly evolving into a stand-alone application framework. What is your opinion on this statement? There are many other content management systems available and there exists a fierce competition within the industry. Will WordPress lose its supremacy to other content management systems such as Drupal, Magento etc. or will it continue to rule the CMS world?

Mark: It has got a pretty impressive 12 year track record. With all the discussions around a WordPress API and the opportunities it provides, as well as the active development projects underway in making WordPress more intuitive, faster and more mobile friendly I think the future’s very bright. WordPress has safety in numbers – both in terms of market-share and contributions. As long as the community keeps growing, maturing and innovating we’ve got one up on any of the competitors.

Cloudways: There are many influencers who help in the communities with their contributions. Name the five people who have inspired you the most in the WordPress community?

Mark: Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little. Without whom WordPress would not exist.

Mike Jolley and Jay Koster on the contribution that is WooCommerce to WordPress and the wealth of other themes and plugins they’ve created.

Ryan Boren and Nick Halsey on the WordPress user experience side.

Siobhan McKeown because it’s not only code contributions that make WordPress so special. For her work on the documentation and organising numerous WordCamps.

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Waseem Abbas

Waseem Abbas was WordPress Community Manager at Cloudways. He loves to help people with their WordPress worries. He is a self-proclaimed "food explorer".

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