Pippin Williamson, Founder and Managing Director of Sandhills Development, announced today that Awesome Motive has acquired his company — their whole team and plugin portfolio: Easy Digital Downloads, AffiliateWP, Sugar Calendar, WP Simple Pay, and the Payouts Service. Syed Balkhi, Founder and CEO of Awesome Motive, outlines the commercial plugins and notes the deal includes several free plugins as well. From Sandhills, Chris Klosowski, Andrew Munro, and Phil Derksen will be joining Awesome Motive as partners, and Chris will continue to lead Easy Digital Downloads.
POST STATUS ANALYSIS
Pippin’s post about the sale of Sandhills is also a farewell letter. He says he intends to retire from WordPress after the transition — and close his laptop for a long time. There are a lot of reasons why a founder might make their exit, but there are only three ways it can happen, as Pippin notes. His choice is to pass the great products and team he built to a friend — and a customer.
As Syed stresses, he built his own business with Easy Digital Downloads and is intimately familiar with it and the other plugins he’s acquiring. According to Pippin, Awesome Motive has already “built a lot of really cool internal tools and extensions” that he is sure “will benefit the community at large.”
Passions, people, and companies come and go, so it’s good to see continuity amid the change. Syed’s vision and energy bode well for the future of the products Pippin and company pioneered and sustained for so long.
Congrats to Pippin, Sandhills, Syed, and the growing team at Awesome Motive. 👏 — Dan Knauss
LearnDash will join Liquid Web‘s StellarWP brand, and Chris Lema, Vice President of Products at Liquid Web, will step in as the General Manager of LearnDash.
🎙️ Get an inside look at the latest big deal in WordPress acquisitions with Chris and host Cory Miller on Post Status Draft.
POST STATUS ANALYSIS
Redefining Online Learning
It’s been a boom time in recent years for edutech companies, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. LearnDash, which debuted almost a decade ago, was well-positioned to ride that wave. LearnDash co-founder and CEO Justin Ferriman wrote a fascinating account of the year-long sale process of his company — it’s a detailed and thoughtful retrospective on how challenging success can be. It’s worth a careful read if you think an acquisition may be in your future.
As a leader (and arguably the leader) in the WordPress space for online learning, LearnDash makes WordPress an effective Learning Management System (LMS). Their plugin comes with a whole ecosystem of addons and integrations, so it’s no surprise LearnDash would be attractive as a platform for a hosting company to acquire.
Now under Chris Lema‘s leadership at Liquid Web, LearnDash will join the teams and products already acquired for StellarWP‘s portfolio: Restrict Content Pro, The Events Calendar, Kadence WP, GiveWP, and IconicWP. It’s easy to see how this all should add up to a well-integrated platform product and a dominant player in the LMS space, as Chris envisions. But Chris is thinking bigger than LMS — beyond “online learning” toward the complementary features in a seamless system that carries along whole cohorts of people through their day as they play a variety of roles and switch between different tasks and goals.
How this acquisition will shake up other third-party integrations and partnerships with LearnDash — BuddyPress comes to mind — remains to be seen. Chris sees StellarWP as “early” to the online learning space, at least as it exists today in the WordPress market. Will other hosting companies and deep pockets enter it as well or make similar plays to corner a specific niche with an integrated solution?
🗄️ Post Status Archive: Chris Lema has a long history with edutech, and he recounts some of that history in the latest episode of Post Status Draft. We also ran across this 2014 post by Post Status founder Brian Krogsgard, about Chris’s entry into full-time work with WordPress. —Dan Knauss
James Baldacchino shares his observations about WordPress-related search trends — along with survey information and other data — in an effort to determine how the market is trending relative to the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic. 😷 His research says WordPress searches are down by -6.4% overall, WooCommerce searches are down by -8.8%, and “theme searches” are down by -16.7%. 📉
POST STATUS ANALYSIS
I tend to feel like theme searches being down “feels” right, and I suspect Elementor — and other page builders to a lesser degree — might be playing a role there. As far as non-WordPress competition goes, James makes a good point:
“With Squarespace and Wix there’s only one way ‘in’ …. [T]his implies that getting the awareness part of the marketing funnel is important to being able to lead customers… and why their brand match terms volumes are so high, and why their investment in awareness makes sense for their solutions.”
Compare that with WordPress where “there’s a multitude of ways which enable discovery and purchase.”
— Pippin Williamson talks with Cory about the latest WordPress acquisition: Sandhills is joining Awesome Motive.
— Has your WordPress company been acquired? You're not alone.
— I think there’s also an opportunity for developers to start small again – I don’t think these “big” acquisitions necessarily close out a space. Small players can come in and move faster to niche markets than larger companies can. We’ve seen it before. Mark mentions it too: “You could build something completely new or just take a new approach to an existing problem. Differentiating yourself from the existing, larger solutions out there will be key if you choose to do this, but again, it can pay off nicely.”
— WP Landing Kit Is Joining the Themeisle Family of Products!
— Keanan Koppenhaver announced that he has acquired Branch and WPPusher. Keane posted similar announcements both to Branch’s homepage and the WPPusher site, relating to his newly acquired audience of developers: “As a fellow developer, I’m overjoyed at the idea of helping WordPress developers deploy their code more easily, no matter where they’re hosted and without having to resort to FTP.”
— The StellarWP Team has put together a list of six factors to consider before selling your WordPress business. While booking sure your books are clean and understanding the acquiring companies goals, it’s important to consider the impact on yourself and your employees. Also important: ask about experiences with other founders who have sold their companies. Many founders in the WordPress community is usually open about this.
— The release schedule for WordPress 5.8.2 has been set for Tuesday, October 5th for the release candidate and October 12 for final release. Currently there are 19 open tickets are currently in the 5.8.2 milestone for consideration.
— GiveWP has taken the packaging off its new Peer-to-Peer Fundraising add-on. You can host your peer-to-peer fundraisers directly on your site, and your branding will carry through on your peer-to-peer donation forms. It includes fundraiser profiles, leaderboards, sponsorship options, team and individual fundraising pages, and more.
— Stumbled on this new WordPress theme from Anders Norén called Tove built entirely around the Full Site Editing features coming in WordPress 5.9.
— SomewhereWarm — the ten-year-old company behind WooCommerce plugins Product Bundles, Composite Products, and Gift Cards — has joined WooCommerce. There are no plans to retire any SomewhereWarm extensions “in the foreseeable future,” according to WooCommerce CEO Paul Maiorana.
— Mike Schroder shares some tidbits from the latest release of the Gutenberg plugin, including Block Gap support. This allows users to choose the distance between items within a block, and it is now an opt-in feature. Flex Layouts are supported within the Social Links and Group Blocks, Global Styles are available to themes by default, and the Heading Levels menu has been redesigned.
— Brian Gardner announced on Twitter he’s starting full-time at WP Engine on Monday as their Principal Developer Advocate.
Brian says he will continue to work on Frost, a block-based theme, where Nick Diego “will be taking on a more prominent role.” ❄️