Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. My website is, it’s a WordPress website. And whenever there’s a new functionality that I want to add to it, I just go and find a plugin and then I go to our developer and I say, “Can you make sure that this actually makes sense and I can install it?” And at some point, we get it. It’s up on the site.
This idea of plugins for WordPress as being a business, it’s been around for a while now. Joining me is an entrepreneur who’s been in this space. He’s got plugins that had been downloaded millions of times, that has generated solid revenue. And then he said, “You know what? I like adding functionality. I like that I can add a plugin that anybody, including Andrew, who wants to add photos to their website can just go on and install my Photo Gallery plugin and then, boom, with a few clicks have photos looking nice on their site. If Andrew wants or anyone with a WordPress site wants a form on their site, I got a form plugin. They could add it to their site and they could pay me for it. They could use it. They could get support from us, etc.”
But he said, “You know, the future is not just letting people have all the ingredients in building a website,” which is, basically, let’s face it, what a plugin is, right? You install WordPress then you got a bunch of plugins, and all these ingredients put together create a nice web experience. He says, “No. I want to give everyone the whole package. I will host a website for them. I will make sure that WordPress works well for them. And I will give them the plugins that they need. And since WordPress can be a little bit tough for some people to use, I’m just going to create a nice drag-and-drop builder that actually competes with some of the more modern drag-and-drop experiences that have come after WordPress for publishing websites.”
That is the business model that he created. I invited him here to talk about how he did it. And the first thing he told me when we got started is, one of the first things is he is in Armenia right now, where it is 1:18 a.m. He’s smiling as I say this. He doesn’t look exhausted. He’s here and ready to work and tell you about how he built up his business. His name is Armen Saghatelian. And, Armen, how do you pronounce it in Armenian, your last name?
Armen: Armen Saghatelian.
Andrew: Saghatelian. I got a little bit closer. The company that he has created is 10Web . . . I actually think you should be introducing it as 10Web.io. Make sure that you get the full URL when you’re explaining it to people. They do plugins, website builder, hosting. Basically, it’s everything you need in order to build a website on the WordPress platform. We’re going to found out how he built his business thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first, if you’re looking to have somebody create a plugin for you, maybe one that you use just for yourself or one that you use and then sell to other people, anything that you need built, you got to go talk to my friends over at Toptal. They got great developers.
And the second, I am so proud to talk about these guys, just started advertising with me. They have created the landing pages that help me convert. I’ll talk to you later about why I love ClickFunnels. But, first, Armen, good to have you here.
Armen: Thank you for having me, Andrew. It’s very good to see you.
Andrew: It’s good to see you here, too. Well, tell me about your revenue. Before I make you feel comfortable, I want to make you feel super uncomfortable. What’s the revenue of 10Web?
Armen: It is in seven digits, let’s say.
Andrew: So all you’re willing to say is, “Andrew, it’s over a million dollars. It’s under 10 million. I’m not willing to tell you any more.”
Andrew: And the majority of it comes from what? Plugin or people who are paying you hosting?
Armen: More than half comes from the plugins right now because . . .
Andrew: What’s your top plugin?
Armen: Our top plugin is Photo Gallery. The other top plugin is Form Maker. They have several million downloads and hundreds of thousands active websites now using it.
Andrew: And people pay you for it on a subscription or a one-time basis?
Armen: It’s a subscription for support and updates, but the plugins can be used forever because they are under GPL License. So once they download it, they can use it forever.
Andrew: You know, you don’t have to do it that way. I wonder why you’ve done it that way. But first, let me ask you this. How do you feel about your accent? Does it feel a little bit . . . like, did you come into this feeling a little insecure that you’ve got an accent, will people understand or not?
Armen: Of course, I have an accent. I’m a foreigner. I have to have an accent. But I think people will understand me.
Andrew: But you didn’t walk into it feeling any insecurity or question about it, did you?
Armen: No. I know my accent. I talk English and . . .
Andrew: I did. I have to be honest with you. I said, “Will people understand?” But I’m super proud that you have an accent, and I’ll tell you why. I feel that we are missing out on interesting stories, on helpful understanding of how the world works because we’re limiting our scope. We’re limiting our view to a handful of companies. And because of that, we are missing huge opportunities for ourselves.
Armen: Yeah, maybe. English is an international language so every entrepreneur needs to know English. But accents are okay, I think. I have to have an accent. I cannot imitate . . . I don’t want to imitate an American . . .
Andrew: You don’t?
Armen: . . . American accent or British accent.
Andrew: I grew up in New York and still, I have to tell you, after I watched the movie “Bugsy” with Warren Beatty, where he was practicing to articulate just like a regular American, not like a mafia, in the car he was practicing saying something like, I don’t remember, “Brown leather, yellow leather. Brown . . . ” Like he was trying to better himself. I literally, driving over to Brooklyn Tech in New York, would practice my elocution so that I could pronounce things well. And I wonder if it was a big waste of time because people can’t understand me not because I’m not pronounciating. It’s because I zip through words way too freaking fast. If anything, I should have learned to meditate and pause a little bit. You’re nodding, right?
Armen: Yeah. Recently, I read about . . . I was reading about Richard Feynman, the famous physicist, and his whole life he had very bad New York accent. He was talking like a mafia gang member, but he was a Nobel Laureate and a great physicist. So it’s okay [to have 00:06:44] . . .
Andrew: So maybe it doesn’t matter.
Armen: . . . an accent. Yeah, it doesn’t matter.
Andrew: Let’s come back to what does matter then. I use a form builder from Gravity Forms. Every year I get an email from them that sounds a little bit threatening but I understand that it’s not. They’re basically saying, “Hey, look, Andrew. Cough up, I think it’s like 200 bucks, or else your forms are not going to work anymore.” And I send the money. I see your eyebrows do something as I say that. How does that sit with you? What do you think when I tell you that?
Armen: I think software, the code, must be free, free of limitations, because WordPress philosophy is freedom, all about freedom. So I think it’s not okay to limit the code, but it’s okay to charge recurring payments for support, for updates.
Andrew: Support fee.
Armen: Of course . . .
Andrew: I get you. Basically, the reason is that . . . I had Matt Mullenweg come on here and confront a developer. It was one of the few times that I had two different people on here, where the developer was selling his code and you had to pay him. And Matt said, “No. If you’re building on WordPress, you have to make your stuff freely available. Just like WordPress is freely available, your stuff has to be freely available. And if Andrew buys it and then gives it to Armen, it’s fine. That’s the way life is.”
But what I found was there are people who found ways around that, and one way was to have software that calls back home to a server, right? That’s what some of the other form builders do. You could have done that. You could have said, “This is free. But if you need it to work, it’s got to use my server. If you want to use my server, you got to pay.” You decided not to do that.
Armen: First of all, all our software, all our plugins are GPL licensed. And GPL doesn’t allow to close anything. There is a legal . . . how to say it . . . derivative . . .
Armen: There is a definition of derivative work, and in GPL, if your work is derivative of a GPL licensed software, say WordPress, you have to make your software GPL licensed. And by GPL, I mean that if someone has the code, they are free to copy, to give it to friends and etc. And I don’t know about Gravity Forms, are they GPL licensed or . . .
Andrew: A lot of people do it.
Armen: Yeah, a lot of people . . .
Andrew: I got ClickFunnels. They’ve got a WordPress plugin that makes it easy for me to use my landing pages from ClickFunnels on my site. If I don’t pay ClickFunnels to create their landing pages or to maintain it and to do all the stuff in the backend, I don’t think the plugin is useful for me. All it does is it just presents their landing pages nicely on my site. Basically, what I’m saying is there’s a way that you could have found around it, but you decided not to because you like the spirit of it.
Armen: Yeah, we like the spirit. We wanted to be in the community, and WordPress community loves freedom.
Andrew: Yes, it does. It absolutely does, and it hates people who are trying to profit off of it just without contributing much back, right?
Armen: But I want to emphasize that it’s okay to charge for any plugin, whether it’s a company or a freelance developer. It’s okay to charge for support and for updates because to keep the software up to date, to keep the software compatible with new versions of WordPress, new versions of other plugins, new versions of PHP and hostings, you need to keep working on the plugin. And no one wants to do it for free, of course.
Andrew: Got it. Okay, yeah, you’re not coming in here like a hippie who says, “I don’t think anyone should charge for anything.” You’re saying, “Yeah, absolutely, you need to charge. But there’s some cultural norms within the WordPress community and some legalities, and you’re going to stick to all of them. You’re not looking for loopholes.” Let me understand how you got started with this business. So you’re a guy who started physics. You got your PhD. You had a couple of classmates who were doing WordPress something on the side. What were they doing?
Armen: So, our classmates, we started building websites as a side project. We started it..
Andrew: You and your classmates were building websites and getting paid for it?
Armen: Yeah, yeah. Me and two of my classmates, Arto and Sergey, who are also my co-founders at 10Web, started to build websites. That was about 10 years ago while studying at the University. And then we started, in 2012, we started creating plugins and publishing them on wordpress.org.
Andrew: Were you charging for those plugins?
Armen: Yeah, they were free plugins and they had premium versions on our website.
Andrew: What was your website back then?
Armen: It was Web-Dorado.
Andrew: Oh, okay. I saw that in your LinkedIn profile. Web-Dorado, with a dash between the two words. And it’s .com.
Armen: Yeah. And then in second half of 2012, we created Form Maker and became profitable from almost day one after publishing Form Maker because it became popular, rather popular, and . . .
Andrew: What is it about forms? I have to tell you I’ve interviewed multiple entrepreneurs who’ve created form-based businesses. Why is there so much room for so many people to create form-based businesses?
Armen: By the way, before answering your question, I remember when we are building in 2012, when we are building Form Maker, we watched our interviews with Wufoo co-founder . . . I forgot his name.
Armen: Yeah, okay. Sorry. We watched that interview and it was an inspiration for us to build that plugin back then. So thank you.
Andrew: Because you saw that they . . . because the WooCommerce people, the Woo people . . .
Armen: Not WooCommerce, not WooThemes. Wufoo.
Andrew: Oh, Wufoo. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Kevin Hale.
Armen: Do you remember him?
Andrew: Yeah, yeah. I’ve gone to know them a little bit over the years, yes. Yeah, I remember, actually, I introduced him to the Zapier guys because they were getting started and they said, “We don’t know anything about this. What do we do?” I said, “Hey, listen. Kevin’s going to really dig your style.” And then I think it was Kevin or one of his co-founders who ended up investing in Zapier, and I thought, “Man, I shouldn’t have just made the introduction. I should have just stuck with that.”
So I’m glad that you got a lot of inspiration from them. Why weren’t you more scared back then? Why didn’t you say, “Hey, you know what? Look, these guys got funding from Y Combinator. How are we going to compete with them?”
Armen: I don’t know.
Andrew: You just said, “I think we could do this?”
Armen: Back then, we didn’t know anything about business, so we weren’t . . .
Andrew: Okay. So then coming back to why do you think there’s room for so many people?
Armen: Okay. The community and the WordPress building world is too big. It’s very big. And Wufoo is not a WordPress plugin. It’s a platform for . . .
Andrew: But there are WordPress plugins, there’s a few of them. Why is there room for so many companies to do well with WordPress plugins?
Armen: If you look . . .
Andrew: I mean, typically with form plugins for WordPress.
Armen: Not only forms. At any category of plugins, you always find one or two with huge popularity and some others with little less popularity but they are also getting lots of downloads and purchases. So the market is so big that there is always room for new plugins. One more thing, back then the search mechanism of wordpress.org was very, very simple. So if we created the right text, the descriptions and the tags, I think when someone searched form, or form maker, or build a form, they get both new plugins and old plugins and hugely popular plugins and newly created plugins on the same list. So if the a newly created plugin gets lots of good reviews and ratings, back then it had a big chance of getting popular and winning the game.
Andrew: Got it. That was the big way that you . . .
Armen: I say back then because they constantly changed the search mechanism, and now it is very complicated. It’s still open. It’s not like Google’s algorithm that are closed. It’s still open. It’s still written somewhere in blog posts, but it’s rather complicated and it’s hard for new plugins to get to top positions now. Back then it was much easier.
Andrew: You know what? I always forget how big WordPress is. I’m now looking at Automaticc’s job ad on Techmeme. It says, “Thirty-four percent down, 66% to go.” They mean that 34% of websites are now built on WordPress and their goal is to get 100% of the internet built on WordPress. And so that shows their ambition but also shows how big they are. And you’re saying, “Look, when it’s that big, you can find your niche. And if you’re good at finding some marketing technique, that’ll help you even more. So where did you come up with the idea for forms? How did you decide, “We’re going to create a form builder?”
Armen: We researched . . . it was combination of our abilities, our ambitions and some research of existing forms. Back then there were not many. There were some popular form makers but there were not so many. Back then, I think a number of old plugins were 5 or even 10 times less than there are now. So in 2012, again, sorry for repeating, it was much easier.
Andrew: Was there a place where you got the idea for it? Or did you see someone else’s form and say, “That’s not very good. I think we can beat it?” Did somebody come to you as a client and asked you for a form? It seems like a lot of agencies had clients who were asking for forms, they got frustrated creating it a million times. Is that your story, too?
Armen: Almost all websites need forms, and not only simple contact forms. They need registration forms for events, invitation forms, etc. And we saw an opportunity to create . . . if we create a good plugin, an easy to use, good plugin, it will gain popularity. And it wasn’t the first plugin, as I already said, but it was the first that got popular and started to give us money.
Andrew: Did you guys also build on Joomla?
Armen: Yeah. Back then, we built on Joomla but, in short . . .
Andrew: Joomla got crushed.
Armen: Yeah. Short after we started our plugins and Joomla extensions, we understood that WordPress is gaining popularity much, much faster than any other platform. And we were not wrong, and now WordPress is more than 10 times popular than Joomla. So it was a no-brainer.
Andrew: And it was Joomla, Drupal and WordPress. And now you hardly ever see anyone on those other two platforms. It’s mostly WordPress.
Armen: But still they’re rather popular because they’re about 2% or 3% of Joomla. It’s not a small number. Twelve times less than WordPress but it’s still more than Shopify or Wix.
Andrew: So I’m looking at Web-Dorado. That’s like El Dorado but the web, right, where it comes from?
Andrew: And I see that you just had a bunch of different plugins. You tried something called Folder Menu.
Armen: Yeah, it’s a Flash product. Back then, Flash was popular.
Andrew: I like, as I’m going back in your history, I can see that you also linked out to your Myspace page where people can see that. So here, “Possibility to customize.” The language also has gotten better. Here are the features as you listed it on Folder Menu. “Possibility to maximize the product using various parameters. All colors of all three Flash menus are customizable.” You’re shaking your head. You don’t love that I’m reading it that way?
Armen: There is a huge difference between Web-Dorado of 2012 and 10Web of 2019. Web-Dorado back then was a project of some students who didn’t know anything about business and community and WordPress world and etc. And now 10Web is very ambitious and rather big company.
Andrew: Yes. The goal that you guys have, the people you’re going up against in this space is pretty impressive. Very ambitious. Let me take a moment to talk about my first sponsor and then we’ll continue on with the story. There’s a reason, by the way, why I like to go and see what the website look like, what products you had before. Even, like I like seeing people’s old spelling mistakes. I just want to see the evolution. And what I see here as I go back to the Web-Dorado days of 2011, 2012, is a few people were just putting stuff out there. Constantly putting stuff out there.
There’s like a link, like I said, to Myspace, but there’s also, “Hey, what happens if we make this page like one click away from being in French, too? Does that help us with our growth? What happens if we just create this other idea for another plugin? What are people into?” And you’re just testing the market with lots of little experiments. Am I right in my analysis?
Armen: Yeah, of course.
Andrew: Okay. Let me take a moment here to talk about my first sponsor. It’s a company called ClickFunnels. I am so . . . let me show you this. Tell me if you know what this is. Everything I have, I throw right out. Do you know what this is? Can you even see that? There’s a lot of reflection on there.
Armen: [Inaudible 00:22:44].
Andrew: I’ll tell you what it is. Here’s what it is.
Armen: No, sorry. I don’t know this . . .
Andrew: I wanted to start collecting email addresses. I was doing live webinars and I said, “You know what? I want people to join my email list. I want them to join my chatbot list. I want to be able to reach them again.” And so I’m really good at WordPress. I could create a landing page in WordPress in no time at all, and I like the idea that if I do it in WordPress, I get to be flexible about it.
I work with this guy Caleb Hodges and he said, “Look, you hired me, right?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “You want me to build your whole onboarding process?” I said, “Yeah.” He goes, “I’m going to do it in ClickFunnels.” I said, “I don’t need ClickFunnels. I’m fine. I got a WordPress site. We can do it in these other tools.” He says, “I think ClickFunnels are going to be better.” I said, “All right, go for it. Let’s see what you do.”
Freaking guy goes and creates a ClickFunnels account for me, which is fine. Goes and creates a landing page for me. Again, fine. I thought nothing special about it, started collecting email addresses, registrations for my live events, collecting chat subscriptions, doing it so well and so fast that I said, “All right, let’s keep it around for a bit.” Then he moved on to work on his own company, his freelance time with us was over.
Other people started taking it over. Like anyone at the company started taking this stuff over for getting subscriptions, creating landing pages, to the point where there’s now one person who started out doing like basically very little marketing work, who’s now taking over our whole ClickFunnels page. She is booting out the pages that we custom-coded on our site to get new customers. Not just leads, but now customer sales pages, and she’s doing it all in ClickFunnels because it’s super easy.
Well, the reason that I’ve got this framed gold record next to me is because that page that Caleb created, we just stuck with. It’s more than just a single page. It’s a set of pages that creates a funnel. It’s gone on to do over a million dollars in sales for us. I didn’t even think about this. The founder, I think it was, yeah, it was the founder of ClickFunnels who came on here. He was talking about the “2 Comma Club.” I never even thought about maybe we’re in it.
Then I went back and I said, “Hey, Rebecca, can you see if we’ve made over a million dollars from any of our funnels?” She said, “You know, we did.” I said, “Fill out the application that we have. Let’s confirm that we did it and we can get one of these gold record things that show that we’re in the “2 Comma Club.” Two commas are the number of commas in a million dollars. We did it without even realizing it. That’s how freaking effective ClickFunnels is.
Now I’ve talked about ClickFunnels before. I’ve interviewed people who have used it before. I felt great. The founder has emailed me, he says, “I like this interview. I think you did great asking that kind of questions.” It felt great. Suddenly, out of nowhere, they say, “Hey, Andrew. How about if we sponsor you?” I go, “Do you know I’m talking about you anyway.” They go, “Yeah, but we’ll sponsor you.”
So now they sponsored me. Let me put this away for a second. And so I get to tell everyone out there, if you’re like me and don’t think that you need ClickFunnels . . . Armen, if you’re like me, you think you don’t need ClickFunnels, I’m telling you, go over to clickfunnels.com/mixergy, you will get the funnel that I used. Just copy it. I started with a template, might as well start with mine. Adjust it, use it for yourself, or go and create other funnels from scratch. It will help you with any business that you have, help you tell strangers what your site does, create webpages that help you sell, do things like bump . . . I think it’s called bump sales. I’m not even in this market. I don’t even know what it is.
But I know I’ve used it. Somebody puts in a credit card, with like that, one little widget that I had on my page, I can say, “Hey, if you check this box, for $5 more you get one other thing.” And they work so well. I’m literally jumping out of my seat here.
So here’s what I’m going to say. If you want my funnel, you can go to clickfunnels.com/mixergy and get it. If you want to try this for free, go to clickfunnels.com/mixergy. If you want to see why I’m bouncing out of my chair, go to clickfunnels.com/mixergy. The only person who should not go to it is Armen right now because, Armen, this page is not built yet. They have signed on as the sponsor. They have paid us. We’re still talking to them about this whole thing. And I said, “Guys, I’m shot out of a cannon. I’ve got to start talking about you. I’m going to start talking about you, somebody figured out the whole landing page and what we’re going to be offering beyond this stuff.”
So I haven’t even seen the page. Armen cannot see the page. But I promise you the service is great. All you have to do is do what we can’t do right now because it’ll work by the time this interview is up. Go to clickfunnels.com/mixergy. I could talk about them forever. What do you think, Armen?
Armen: I’ll definitely try. I heard of them much but I’ve never used them actually. But I will try for sure.
Andrew: I’ll tell you a problem that we had. I was emailing people, every time we have a new course at Mixergy, and telling them go over and check out the course. They would go over and check out the course and, if they weren’t members, they’d be taken over to a sales page that was a long-form sales page explaining what this whole thing was. And most people, if they saw one of our course pages, want to sign up for it, they don’t need a long form.
So I went to Michael and I said, “Michael, can we solve this?” Actually, it wasn’t me. It was one of my listeners, emailed me and said, “Andrew, this makes no freaking sense. Can you fix it?” I went to Michael and he said, “You know, I can. It’s going to take us a little while because we hard-coded this stuff in. We’ve got Stripe coded it in this way.” I said, “That’s a lot of time.” He goes, “Or you can just use ClickFunnels. Just tell Rebecca to do it.”
I go, “What?” So I went to Rebecca. She is not a designer. One of my big pet peeves with Rebecca is if I ask her to create something in Keynote, she is such a non-designer that things will be a little off-center. Even like a few pixels, then it frustrates me because I could tell. I think because I’ve got a bigger monitor and more sensitivity to it. She’s a non-designer. The page she creates looks beautiful and it’s all because she cheated. She uses the freaking ClickFunnels template.
All right. I’ve got to shut up about them. They didn’t pay for a rant. They paid for like a 60-second ad. Okay. This is the problem I had dating, too. I would scare away the girls that I was really into because I would be too excited and the girls who I wasn’t into, I’d be very like James Dean nonchalant, maybe a little bit depressed that we’re out together. And they go, “Oh, this guy Andrew, I got to win him over.” And they would get less of me. So I should shut up and pretend I don’t care about ClickFunnels. Or maybe Sachit should sell ads for stuff I don’t give a rat’s ass about.
Armen: I think that’s a problem of honest people.
Andrew: I think so, too.
Armen: Don’t try to hide your emotions.
Andrew: Emotional people. I’m very, very like . . . I’m not even emotional on the negative stuff, like stuff will not work out. My wife will say, “Andrew, aren’t you upset? You hurt your neck diving into the water. What if you don’t make it to the marathon? You’re not worried about it?” I go, “Eh, I think I’ll be okay.” I don’t get strung out on the negative stuff. On the positive, I’m shot out of a cannon. When you and I talked, I won’t say what we talked about before we got started. We were talking about different companies and their stock prices. You saw I got freaking shot out of a cannon.
I’m got excited about it. All right, I’m just going to end it by doing this. Like, the message to the listeners is this, it’s this thing that I remember. When I was growing up, I took these recordings of Napoleon Hill. And one of the things that I would play over and over to go to sleep to was, “Enthusiasm is something you get and that it gets you.” It was this one little clip. I put it on the mp3 and I just cycled it while I slept.
And I still believe that to this day because it’s impregnated in my head. That at first, you have to work to be excited about something or pay enough attention to it. You don’t just wait for that. And then it gets you, it overtakes you. So if there’s something that I’m a little bit shaky about, like I’m a little shaky about going to Antarctica, I let myself . . . I teach myself to get excited about going to Antarctica to run a marathon.
And then once I do, I’m so hopped up that it starts to take me. Enthusiasm is something you have to pursue and then it just keeps pursuing you. The first way I said it was actually more like what I heard Napoleon Hill say.
Armen: How many marathons have you run?
Andrew: This year I have done four. By the time I publish this, I will have hit five. I’m going to Estonia in a few days.
Andrew: The Estonian marathon will be my European marathon. Thanks for asking. All right, let’s come back to this. Things were starting to work. At what point did you say, “This is going to be my full-time job. My life is now going to be living in WordPress, living in plugins?”
Armen: At some point, I was doing my PhD in Physics in [Theoretical 00:30:56], has nothing to do with tech, and WordPress especially. And at some point, I understood that it’s not a side project. It’s a company that has employees, that I have responsibility for them, and I have a responsibility for our users. And at some point, I understood that I will be doing this for life. But I still decided to finish my PhD so I did two things. Working for 12 hours a day, then I finished my PhD. And after that, I left physics and started doing only the business.
Andrew: So you decided, “I’m going to pursue my PhD even though it’s going to be extra hours on top of already a full workload starting a new company,” because what? Because you couldn’t stand to leave it half finished?
Armen: I was afraid that . . . I would think that it was a wrong decision. And another thing was that I loved the scientific environment and I loved talking about science and everything about science. And I loved it. By the way, it helps me a lot coming from a scientific environment and thinking and questioning everything and trying to do everything scientifically, prove everything.
Andrew: Give an example of something that you do differently now because you think scientifically about it.
Armen: Yes. Everything we do in our company, we try to prove that it’s right. We are testing . . . we are constantly testing and we are constantly questioning everything. Even if a channel or anything is working well, we are still trying to question everything about it and trying to prove it constantly. And that is something . . .
Andrew: Is there something that . . . I’ll give you an example that we . . . culturally, we’re not about questioning everything. We’re about reducing. And so when we are going through our company culture, one of the things that we said was, “This month, find something to reduce.” And Arie, who publishes the interviews, said, “You know, not enough people are watching the videos.” I said, “But I love the videos. That’s what we’re known for.” And she said, “Not really. People aren’t watching it. I don’t think we should do it. And if we get rid of the videos, maybe more people will recognize that it’s an audio-based podcast and switch over to that instead of being turned off to video and never signing up for either one.” We got rid of it. Do you have anything that’s that core to who you are that you questioned and changed?
Armen: You got rid of videos?
Andrew: Yeah, I don’t publish videos anymore. So you’re asking, “Why are you on video right now?”
Andrew: Two reasons. Number one, I want to get a sense of the look on your face when I’m asking questions. It tells me where I could push a little bit and where there’s an issue. And then the second reason is I do believe that clipping the videos is useful for promoting the interview, and we do that. But at some point, I do think we’ll publish the videos again. I think it helps to have it and then go back into the archive. We’ve done that before for other things.
I hired a course producer. He went back into the archive, found older courses on Mixergy, revamped them and then published them in a way that looks better. So I like having that option for the future. What about you? What’s something core to your business that, because you questioned, you got rid of?
Armen: If you mean a big thing, I think the biggest thing that was, because of questioning, was coming to WordPress, in the first place.
Andrew: Because? What were you before?
Armen: We started with Joomla, as I already mentioned. We started with Joomla, and as we are only five or six people, we didn’t have the resources to do other businesses or other platforms. In the first several months, we were focused on Joomla, and there was an idea to try with WordPress. WordPress wasn’t that popular at that point. And we talked to our friends who were doing WordPress and they said that, “Don’t lose it. Joomla is better. In Joomla, there is more money. There are more paying customers. Stick with Joomla.”
And we decided to try it just with one or two plugins, and we understood that WordPress is the future. And then in a couple of months we switched everything to WordPress.
Andrew: I see. That makes a lot of sense and that is a really big thing because, like I said, I looked at the early version of your website. Joomla was all over it. Even when you switched to WordPress, there were still references to Joomla, still little images that are Joomla images on your site. Okay, I got it. I’m with you on this. Let’s continue then. It seems to me, as I look at SimilarWeb to get a sense of where you get your traffic, it’s wordpress.org, that’s your number one referral, right?
Andrew: And so it was, how do we dominate that search term for ourselves? Is that what it was?
Armen: Yeah. Our main channel is still wordpress.org, but we are constantly working on new channels. We have a blog where we publish great articles about WordPress and it is getting popularity. And we also have a Facebook Community. It is rather new.
Andrew: I saw that. You promote that really heavily now. There’s a bar at the top of your site that says, “Join our WordPress Community.”
Armen: It’s new. We started doing it rather recently. And also, for other channels, we are trying . . . with services, with WordPress services, there are obviously no free plugins in wordpress.org. But we have free services, image optimization, free backup service and security . . .
Andrew: That’s the plugin or a service?
Armen: No, no. They’re services.
Andrew: A paid service?
Andrew: It’s part of this new thing that we’ll talk about in a moment where you said, “Hey, look. There’s a need. We’re in the plugin business but, you know what? We should be in the hosting business.” You know what? Maybe now is a good time for us to talk about that. When did you decide, “We’re not just going to create plugins that people could use on HostGator-hosted WordPress sites, or whatever hosted . . . GoDaddy or anything else. We’re going to actually become a hosting company. We’re going to create a drag-and-drop site builder that’s like Squarespace or Wix.” When did you say, “This is our new direction?”
Armen: When talking to our customers, there were many customers that were asking, “What hosting should we use? Or what hosting do you prefer? And etc.” And we had no partnerships with hosting companies. And the idea came from our customers who were constantly asking about hostings. And their idea was formed finally during WordCamp in the Netherlands. And when we saw several . . . we met several hosting companies that were . . . some of them were big hosting companies and some of them were smaller, newly started European hosting companies, and we saw that there is a huge opportunity in hosting . . .
Andrew: Because you saw that they were doing well.
Armen: Yeah. Part of that was that we saw that the new companies, the modern companies are doing well and the old companies that use older technologies are going to lose in long-term. And we saw several companies that became hugely popular and big in several years.
Andrew: Let’s give an example. Who’s someone that you saw?
Andrew: WPEngine. But WPEngine is basically WordPress hosting as is, no site builder, right?
Armen: Yeah, of course.
Andrew: All they do is they manage WordPress for you. They tell you which plugins you shouldn’t use. They update your plugins. They update WordPress. Am I right or am I missing something?
Armen: Yeah, they are not an all-in-one platform. They’re hosting with some services. They’re premium hosting with some services. But they’re very popular because of the modern technologies they use and because of the quality they provide.
Andrew: What’s the modern technology that they bring in?
Armen: Linux Containers. Before that, hostings were shared or dedicated or virtual servers, VPS.
Andrew: Let me see if I understand it. So shared is there’s a computer somewhere sitting in a cold room. If I pay for it, I don’t get to use the whole thing. I get to have access to it, put my WordPress site on there. But if my brother wants to host his website and my sister wants to host her website, they can go pay the hosting company, too, and their website will be on the same server. If I happened to be a data hog, meaning a lot of people come to my site because I’m more popular than they are, they suffer for it because their site loses bandwidth because mine is sucking up so much, right?
Armen: Yeah, that’s right. And there are thousands of websites on a single . . .
Andrew: On a single server.
Armen: Yeah, on a single server.
Andrew: And that actually was a step up in the evolution of hosting, right? And then dedicated is an actual dedicated computer that only I get to be on, nobody else pays for it, right?
Armen: Yeah. And VPS is a virtual computer that only you use. But managing a dedicated server or a virtual computer is very hard. You need IT guy. You need DevOps. And for shared hosting, you already said the disadvantages.
Andrew: It’s good for getting up and running fast, but as things start to . . . as you start to get bigger, you want to move away from it. So the other thing that you were saying was, what was it called? The WPEngine brought in?
Armen: Linux Containers. I’m not sure they use exactly the same as we use, but I can say what we use.
Andrew: Yeah. What do you use?
Armen: We use Linux Containers.
Andrew: Hosted on Google’s cloud.
Armen: Yeah, on Google’s cloud. That’s Linux . . .
Andrew: So there’s no more hardware that’s bought and shared or dedicated or any of it. It’s just you paying Google for whatever you use and I just get hosted through that.
Armen: We pay Google for cloud computer. It’s cloud computer. We put Linux on it and there is a software that shares the hardware and the resources so that every container is isolated like in VPS, but the resources are much more efficient. So if someone . . . there is no security issue because they’re completely isolated, but the resources are used much more efficient than in VPS.
Andrew: Okay. So you saw that and you said, “Look, this is actually going to make it a lot harder for the older companies that still have hardware to compete, number one.” But then that makes sense. The other opportunity you saw though was in the easier to create a website design in the . . . Am I right about that?
Armen: Yeah. Before that, the second part was the dashboards that hostings use. Most of them use cPanel still. They’re outdated too so we tried to create a very user-friendly and modern dashboard for managing website and everything about hosting. And the other thing was the all-in-one part. So there is no solution for creating WordPress using only one company product.
So we saw an opportunity for creating an all-in-one solution for WordPress. So we created the hosting. Of course, the infrastructure, the software to manage it, the dashboard to manage everything. We created the services, the image optimization service that almost everybody needs for their website’s speed. We created backup service, a security service that scans your website and finds security issues. And also, there is a huge problem for WordPress website creators. The problem is the customer care.
If you create a website, you have to deal with up to 10 or 20 different vendors, some of them provide you hosting. Some of them provide you some plugins, different plugins. Some of them provide you services, say backup service, and you need to contact them all. And if there is a problem with your website, sometimes you don’t know who do you need to contact. So there was a pain point that we tried to solve with creating an all-in-one platform. And now . . .
Andrew: And I imagine you knew that that was a problem because your customers of the plugins would say, “I think there’s a problem,” and you realize, “Well, it’s not us. It’s not the plugin. It’s other things, this other plugin that’s causing conflict or the hosting company that you need to talk to and so on.”
Armen: That was happening every day.
Andrew: Okay. All right, I want to find out about how you got your first customers. Because getting into the hosting space is pretty brutal. There’s a lot of competition in there. I’ve interviewed a lot of people whose companies failed in the hosting space. Let’s take a moment to talk about a company called Toptal. Do you know about Toptal?
Andrew: You do? Have you used them at all? No?
Armen: No. But I know about them.
Andrew: You haven’t used them, why? Because . . . Where do you hire? How do you hire developers?
Armen: Most of our developers are in Armenia so we . . . somehow, I don’t know why, we don’t have much remote employees. Maybe we should have.
Andrew: I don’t know. I feel like it’s a culture. Sometimes there are people who just need to be together, that’s the way they work. And other times, there are companies that just can’t be in the same room. I know I can’t be in the same room with anyone. I love people. I love talking to you. If I didn’t have something happening later today, if I didn’t have to pick up my kids, I could talk to you for five hours. I can’t have you in my office though. Constantly having someone here doesn’t work for me.
Anyway, the thing about Toptal is, yes, they are a fully remote organization. But there are people who work all together in the same office who have hiring problems and are finally saying, “You know what? I need a developer.” I think we need it so badly right now that we’re willing to entertain having somebody not sit in our office space. But what we can’t have is that person excluded from our Slack messages. What we can’t have is that person working in whatever task management software they want. They have to be in our task management software. They have to be in our process.
They have to actually be talking to our customers, whatever it is that they need. All you do is you go to Toptal, you ask for it and they will find somebody who’s done this before, the work that you need and the culture that you have. I’ll tell you, for me, if I now had an idea for a plugin, if I couldn’t find someone who had it, I would just go to Toptal. I would say, “Look, here’s what my plugin needs to do. And my plugin needs to have one button and a person dials me,” or whatever the random thing is.
Toptal will find someone who’s done it before, created WordPress plugins, created software that does what mine does, maybe didn’t do the same together but did both pieces. I will then get to talk to that person. And then, you know what I would do? Hang on a second. Here’s my idea. I’m noticing that in every platform, there needs to be a form. So imagine this. A form for websites that were self-hosted. I’m looking at Wufoo. Then you guys created a form, the Form Builder, that happens on WordPress.
I think the new way to communicate now is chat. I could go to Toptal and say, “Look, I just need a form builder in chat. Here’s what I need it to look like. Here’s the platform it needs to work on. It has to work on Facebook Messenger. It has to work on . . . whatever.” They will find someone who’s built forms before, built on Facebook Messenger before, and maybe even done both together. They’ll put them in front of me, I’ll get to talk to them. And if I like them, I could hire them and get started fast. If I want to continue to work with them, I could work with them forever.
If I decided, “Hey, you know what? Now my team can take over,” they will make sure that my team gets . . . that software gets transitioned to my team. That’s how they work. Armen, at one point you’re going to want the best of the best developers. You’re going to thank me for telling you about toptal.com/mixergy. Because even you, someone who’s doing well, I’m sure likes to get a good deal. And when you go to toptal.com/mixergy, they will give you 80 hours of these phenomenal developers’ time when you pay for your first 80 hours in addition to a no-risk trial period.
If you’re not happy, they won’t take money from you but they will still pay the developers. Here’s the URL, top as in top of your head, tal as in talent, T-O-P-T-A-L.com/mixergy. All right, really good. Not the cheapest, not super expensive either, just the best. The best. And the reason that they’re a good price is because, Armen, they’re all over the world. They’re living in cheapo places. Every time I travel outside the U.S. into random places, there’s a Toptal developer, it feels like. I wonder if there’s some dude . . . no, probably not Antarctica because there’s no internet there.
Armen: Yeah, it’s cold.
Andrew: Not to get diverted too much but . . . It’s super cold. I’m recognizing . . . my wife said to me, “Don’t you want to phone on Antarctica?” I go, “Okay. She usually doesn’t say that.” I say, “All right.” I went out and I looked for a satellite phone. I said, “I’ll pay for the best of the best. Give me phone. Give me text. Give me Internet. I paid for the whole thing. Actually, I didn’t pay. I just understood it because I didn’t yet have permission to go to Antarctica. I said, “Okay, great. So I’ll be able to stream? Or what can I do?” They go, “Nothing.” “Wait. But I’m paying for internet.” They go, “Nothing.” “Can I use any internet?” They said, “You can use a basic version of the internet that doesn’t include any images, that includes a little bit of text, but don’t count on it.” I go, “Oh, no.” So, no . . .
Armen: Did you go to Antarctica?
Andrew: Not yet. I think it’s going to happen November. It’s going to cost me $27,000 just for the chartered flight and the space there. And then I also have to fly down to Chile to get this chartered flight. So this is going to be like an arm and a leg type of experience, but it’s worth it because I will get to accomplish my big goal for the year. Seven marathons on seven continents, and as I travel the world I’ll be doing interviews everywhere. All right, this is too much about me in this interview. You see, I’m clearly enjoying myself.
Armen: That’s great. That’s perfect.
Andrew: Are you a goal-setter, too? Are you someone who sets big goals for yourself?
Armen: Yeah. Maybe not as much as you but . . .
Andrew: What’s one that you set for yourself this year?
Armen: This year?
Andrew: I feel like you’re wondering, “Should I tell him or not?” What is it?
Armen: Getting more than 10,000 hosting clients.
Andrew: Within a year?
Andrew: That’s a big number. How many are you up to now?
Armen: About 5,000.
Andrew: Wow-wee. All right, you launched this spring. That’s like a few months ago, less than half a year, all right?
Andrew: Okay. You told me where the idea came from. Putting this whole thing together took you guys how long?
Armen: We started creating a platform about two years ago. Actually, in November 2017 so it’s less than two years.
Andrew: Okay. It’s coming up on two years now.
Armen: One and a half year for building the . . .
Andrew: It’s how long it took you to build it. And along the way . . .
Armen: The hosting and the platform and the dashboard.
Andrew: Did you talk to the customers along the way? Did you show them first versions of it as you were building it?
Armen: Yeah. Actually, we released a version without hosting, all the services and the platform and plugin management and scene management, etc., but without hosting. Users started using it and giving feedback. Then we added hosting, and then finally we added the ready-made websites and the builder.
Andrew: So if I came to you about a year ago, I could have gotten your whole package and hosted it on GoDaddy, on HostGator, etc.?
Armen: Yeah. By the way, you can still can. If you have a website and you don’t want to . . . or not ready yet to move to 10Web hosting, you can still connect your website to our dashboard and use our backup, image optimization, all our 50 plus plugins, and all the services without moving your hosting.
Andrew: I didn’t realize that.
Armen: And then when you decide to move . . . even before you decide to move, you can, with one click, you can create a copy of your website on our platform without touching, without changing the live website. You can create a copy with 10Web subdomain and compare the speed, test the services and etc. And then when you decide to move, you just need to point the domain.
Andrew: Okay, let me ask you this then. Imagine, if I sign up for 10Web, I like it. Things are good. Your hosting, it’s great. But then I decide, “You know what? I can get a better priced hosting somewhere else. I want to move my site.” Can I take my whole WordPress site with me to go somewhere else?
Armen: Yeah, sure.
Andrew: Do I still have to pay you a monthly fee?
Armen: If you want to have updates for plugins and if you want to still use our backup storage, you will have to pay the monthly fee.
Andrew: Let’s say no backup but I do want to still pay for . . . I do still want the latest version of the plugins. I have to pay for a monthly fee or some kind of fee in order to keep using the plugins and get the latest versions, right?
Armen: Yeah, there is a subscription for plugin bundle. But there is no downgrade option but we do it sometimes manually.
Andrew: What do you mean no downgrade option?
Armen: So if you are a platform user, so you use all the components of our platform, and then you want to use only plugins and get updates, it’s another subscription, another . . .
Andrew: For the plugins, got it. The thing that I was trying to figure out is if you guys are not around, or if I’m not happy with you, the benefit of using WordPress usually is that I could take my site and go somewhere else. You’re saying, “Andrew, you still get that. But if you’re using any of our plugins after you leave, you do still need to pay for the plugins,” which makes sense.
Armen: Yeah, it makes sense, especially when you think of it this way. If you get all these plugins and you use these plugins, if you get these plugins from all the vendors like . . . say, you need 10 or 20 plugins and you buy them from different vendors, you will pay them more than our platform costs monthly.
Andrew: I get it.
Armen: So even if you don’t host your website on 10Web, it’s still makes sense to pay us monthly fee to use the services and plugins.
Andrew: Okay. When you were showing it to people, what’s some of the feedback that you got that helped shaped the product?
Armen: When we were making our product, we were not sure whether we want to go with opening up everything and giving lots of options for the developers, or creating good dashboard that is very, very easy to use so that even non-developers can use it. So it was a conflict in all our meetings, all our discussions, and we were trying to do best of both worlds for ordinary people, not developers, and for developers, for both of them to use. But in some point, when real customers came, we understood that our platform, all our services, are better for developers. So at one point, we focused on developers and agencies only.
Andrew: And how did that go for you?
Armen: It’s good. It’s better because . . . There is a study that even if website builders, Wix or Squarespace or Webflow, are very easy to use, they are obviously much easier than WordPress, the designers love that platforms. And even though they are very easy to use, they’re not for developers and not for professional website creators and agencies. And most of the businesses still want . . . don’t want to dig into website creation themselves. The website owners don’t want to create the website themselves. They want to hire a freelance developer or an agency to create a website for them.
And for the agencies and freelance developers who do it professionally, who create hundreds of websites a year, WordPress is much better because it gives customization options, hundred times more than . . .
Andrew: Let me see if I understand you right. You’re saying, “Look, these companies . . . ” We’ve been talking a lot about Wix probably because Wix is, of all these companies, it’s the only one that’s public, right? All these easy-to-use, fully flexible platforms. It’s the only one that’s, as far as I know, that’s public, right? Squarespace isn’t public, is it?
Armen: Squarespace? I’m confused.
Andrew: Isn’t Squarespace another website builder?
Armen: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Of course.
Andrew: So, basically, we’re talking about . . . what you’re saying is, “Look, all these companies are going after small . . . ” Let me see. Squarespace, public? I don’t think they are. All these companies are going after people who don’t know how to build websites. But, in reality, you’re saying, “It’s the design companies, it’s the freelancers who are building the websites even on these simple platforms, because even though it’s simple, people still don’t want to do it themselves.” Am I right? They’re not public.
Armen: Yeah, it’s . . . even . . . Yeah.
Andrew: And so what you’re saying is, “Look, even on these other platforms like Wix and Squarespace, it’s still designers and freelancers who are doing it. Then why are we trying to cater to individuals? Individuals are never going to come to our platform, so let’s cater to designers and we have an advantage when we go after designers because we’re giving them WordPress, which is the most flexible they have and the most flexible platform they could have. Great. We’ll just build on things that’s better for them because they’re coming anyway.” That’s the thinking you had. Am I right?
Armen: Yeah. Yeah. I’m not saying that the market for do-it-yourself website builders is small. It’s a huge market. But still, most businesses don’t build their website themselves. So designers don’t . . . most of the designers don’t build websites. They do designs and they hire a developer who does . . . who creates the website.
Andrew: That makes sense.
Armen: Even if no coding is required, WordPress is much harder but it gives lot more customization. It is open source. You can host it anywhere. You can customize anything and there is a huge community. And if you have a problem with your website, most probably other people have that problem, too. So if you search for the problem, you’ll find the solution for WordPress. There are thousands, literally thousands of blogs dedicated to WordPress development. And so you can find everything, and there are more than 50,000 free plugins on wordpress.org. To compare with this, there are about 200 or 300 apps for Wix. That’s why developers love it, love WordPress.
Andrew: Let’s talk about how you get customers. The first batch of customers are people who bought your plugins, who you went back to and said, “Hey, guess what? You like our plugins, we’ll make it easy for you to host the whole thing. We’ll back up,” right?
Armen: Yeah. That’s funny, we thought that if people love our plugins, there are millions of people, millions of websites using our plugins, and we thought that if someone builds a website and uses our Form Maker, and if we give them all other services and the best hosting, obviously they will come to us. But it wasn’t that obvious. It was much harder, so we tried several things before the customers started to come.
Andrew: What else worked for you then?
Armen: We emailed them saying, “Come and try our hosting.” And that didn’t work so well. Then we tried I think [else 01:04:35] we tried to think, “Let’s come and try our free services. Like, now you can back up absolutely free, back up your website on our platform.”
Andrew: Offering free services is a way of luring them in to your site.
Armen: Yeah. They can back up their website, then after some days we say, “Come and create a copy of your website just to compare the speed and see how our dashboard works and the hosting works.” And some of them come and copy their websites, compare the speed, and scan for security, optimize their images absolutely for free. Then we offer to move to our host.
Andrew: And did that work?
Armen: Yes. Not as good as we expected, but we are still improving and still working on it. And it works. And the other way is we’re creating webinars about creating WordPress websites. And in that webinars, we obviously use our products and we are sending the webinars to our plugin users, free and premium, and try to convince them to try our hosting.
Andrew: I saw you also did an AppSumo deal that sent you a bunch of traffic. What were you offering there? Plugins or hosting?
Armen: No. Platform, everything.
Andrew: Just everything together? How did that work? Did people stick around?
Armen: Yeah. It works. It worked really well because we gave it with huge discount. Basically, we gave our modern and free and fast hosting on Google cloud plus all the plugins, all the services, and 24/7 customer support. And we gave it with price of a shared hosting or even less. So it worked.
Andrew: Yeah, you really were deep discounting. And it did work. It brought people in, but you’re saying that those people also stuck around?
Armen: Yeah. We did it about a month ago so it’s early to . . .
Andrew: Let me see what the price is. I could, for one-time purchase of $69, I can get all the features, 30 connected sites, hosted . . . ” Oh, got it. “Hosted without you, one you’ve managed WordPress hosting, for 70 bucks?
Andrew: And then let me see what else you got. Up to 25,000 monthly visitors, 5 gigabytes of storage, 20 gigabytes of backup, which is plenty for anyone who’s got a real website. And it got all the templates. This is super low, and we won’t know whether it pays off until year 2. Will those people stick around? My guess is if they’ve actually built a website on, they’re sticking around. That’s the nice thing about hosting. People stick around.
Armen: We hope, yeah.
Andrew: I did look at . . . I was also trying to figure out, how are you getting your traffic? I went to Ahrefs. Ahrefs is now like a research partner of ours. I think they even offered to research all my guests. I got to see what we’re doing with that because they said they could tell me more about my guests than I could find out myself. I’m looking through here to get a sense of where you’re getting your traffic. It feels like it’s the freaking photo gallery. That’s what everyone is searching for. Photo gallery paid on your site is top. Photo galleries keyword is top.
Armen: It’s very popular.
Andrew: And then those people actually convert, do you know?
Armen: Some of them. Not as much as we want, but some of them do . . .
Andrew: But some of them do convert.
Armen: Yeah. We are constantly improving the funnels and some of them . . .
Andrew: Look at this. You have 1.7 million links to your site, right? Because of all these plugins that are out there in the wild. Am I wrong about that?
Armen: No, we don’t have . . . we don’t put our links in the plugins.
Andrew: In the plugins?
Armen: Only in backend, not on frontend. So these websites are actually, most of them are some blogs or some people talking about us starting from Web-Dorado times.
Andrew: Yeah, I see that, too. And a bunch of Web-Dorado linking over to 10Web. All right, for anyone who wants to go, check it out. The website is 10, the number 10, 1-0, web.io. 10web.io. I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen and forced Armen to get up and be up at 1:00 a.m. and not go to sleep until after 2:30, right? That’s what time it is right now, 2:30 a.m.?
Armen: Yeah. That’s okay.
Andrew: Are you drinking something with caffeine?
Armen: Actually, I don’t drink coffee at all.
Andrew: Wow. So the two sponsors who made this happen is, number one, if you’re looking for developers, for WordPress, for any freaking thing, really, honestly, challenge them. Go see the level of develop . . . you don’t have to commit to anything until after they put you in front of people. And even then, there is no risk. Best of the best developers on the planet. Go to toptal.com/mixergy.
And if you’re needing a landing page to help you convert and get more sales, go check out clickfunnels.com/mixergy, my brand-new sponsor, the one where without me even paying attention we did over a million dollars in sales with the. Go figure. Never thought of myself as one of those people who’d have a sales page at ClickFunnels, like funnel that suddenly did a million dollars.
All right, I’m grateful to them. I’m grateful to you. Thanks, Armen.