Interview Transcript: SkyVerge with Beka Rice

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Jai: Hi everyone. My name is Jai Sangha. Welcome to the first in the series of Sell with WP Interviews. is a blog about everything related to eCommerce on WordPress, this includes marketing tips, shop tips, plugins, theme reviews, case studies and much much more. Just want to say that Sell with WP is supported by Skyverge, the largest 3rd-party extension developer for WooCommerce. And speaking of SkyVerge, today we have Beka Rice, the face of SkyVerge. She leads the WooCommerce team at the company and she also manages all the content on SkyVerge’s digital properties including blogs, social media and documentation. So, Beka – welcome.

Beka: Thank you.

Jai: I know I’m missing quite a lot of what you do. So what else do you do?

Beka: Yeah, I have some varied roles. As you mentioned – managing our WooCommerce team. We’ve built over 60 official extensions for WooCommerce along with several free extensions as well. That obviously takes up a lot of time to manage. So I am kind of a product manager on that front, working to make sure that we have development roadmaps on schedule – that we’re scheduling in future releases, spacing those releases out, managing new development, just kind of keeping the train moving. Also, as you mentioned managing all of our websites and online properties, and being involved with support, sales copy, documentation. Just start to finish – making sure that everything operates smoothly. Aside from that, obviously contributing very heavily to Sell with WP alongside of Jai. So, lots of writing and lots of WooCommercing!

Jai: Yes, so you do all of that. Who else is part the core team at SkyVerge?

Beka: We have several people on our team. It’s grown over the past few years, namely – Justin Stern and Max Rice, our co-founders. They are, kind of, our CEO and CTO. Managing the overall direction of our products, in terms of technology and where we’re going with these products. On our WooCommerce team, aside from myself and Max and Justin obviously being involved there, we have Tamara Zuk. She is our support lead and also manages the future releases and fix releases. Then Chase Wiseman, Fulvio Notarstefano, also developers for our team. And part-time, working with us – Illimar Tambek. We have several developers – all involved in maintaining our WooCommerce portfolio, and keeping those plugins up to date, adding future releases, which is a full-time job for everybody that I just mentioned.

Jai: So that’s a team of 7, 8?

Beka: Yep, so 7 of us that work on WooCommerce and then, we also have at Skyverge, some team members that also work on other products such as Shopify apps and Jilt (our abandoned cart app) – which currently supports Shopify merchants. But this week or next week is starting beta testing with a group of WooCommerce merchants. We’re very excited.

Jai: Cool. Congratulations on that.

Beka: Thank you.

Jai: So, let’s go back to the beginnings of SkyVerge. I was looking at the internet archives. So 2013 is when SkyVerge officially launched. Is that correct?

Beka: Yeah, so Justin and Max had been working together since mid-2012. Max had been working on an ecommerce site for a pharmaceutical company, where he was in charge of all direct consumer sales online. So he was the site manager and developer and filling a lot of different roles there. Which is great experience, because he had a ton of experience doing order fulfillment, managing orders, customer service, the stuff that helps us to build the products that we do today. And Justin was working on custom software for their site. So they obviously worked very well together, and did a lot of freelance projects together, outside of that relationship as well. And then — they had very aligned visions about what they wanted to do in terms of business goals and they decided to start SkyVerge, which was incorporated early in 2013. And if you look back at the internet archives – it’s funny, because it used the superstore theme, I think from WooThemes, which was one of the early WooCommerce themes. So, it’s a vastly different look and actually the site is in progress on an update now again as well. It’s funny, I’ve gone back and looked through that myself and it’s always amusing to see older versions of your site.

Jai: Yeah. And where did the name “SkyVerge” come from?

Beka: It was a silly thing really. When they were looking to name the company, that was in 2013, was right after movie Skyfall. So first of all, they both liked that song and listened to that song on repeat. They were trying to get a name that kind of embodied what they do which connecting different software together, connecting WooCommerce to other integrations, to payment processors, or to your goals. Maybe you want a membership type site or just a simple plugin to display notices to your customers, right? So, the “verge” idea kind of came from that. And also I think, a little bit tongue in cheek, the fact that a lot of people said that it sounded like Skynet from terminator, which I think was just maybe the cherry on top. So it was just one of those things where it’s like – this “sky” theme sounds really awesome in every genre you put it in and “verge” is kind of like a bridge, connecting stuff. This sounds like it’s a good idea. So this was actually something that Max and Justin came up with together. They were like, “You know what? This really sounds good, let’s just go with it”. We can buy the dotcom.

Jai: How much was [he domain name]? Was it a simple dotcom purchase?

Beka: It was a private sale. I think it was a few hundred bucks, the person was willing to sell it.

Jai: Yeah, because looking back – I think it was some marketing agency in India that was called SkyVerge before this.

Beka: Yeah, I think that was also one of the things, before they actually incorporated, they checked on as well. Since a dotcom is always a very important part of people’s business. I think I remember reading one time that that’s why Linkin Park spelled their band name the way they did, is so that they could have the dotcom for their band name.

Jai: So SkyVerge started in 2012. Max and Justin were talking about this. What was their first plugin officially as SkyVerge? Or did they bring in plugins that they developed themselves?

Beka: Yeah, so they had a few plugins that they had worked on independently. One of which we still have open source today, which was the Sage Connector. It connected WooCommerce to Sage ERP systems. So that was one of the first ones that they had built. But Justin had a small portfolio of his plugins and Max had a small portfolio of his plugins that they had built separately, which were combined into SkyVerge when they created the company and I think the first plugin they did together might have been Local Pickup Plus, but I’m not a 100% sure on that. But there was definitely a lot of early ones like KISSmetrics and Tab Manager, Sequential Order Numbers Pro, those are all – really some of the earliest plugins. I think that might’ve been one of the first one’s they built together as a team though.

Jai: Ok. So the plugins that they had before, were they premium plugins? Were they part of the WooCommerce marketplace as well?

Beka: So, Justin started out with a couple of free plugins, as he was trying to kind of learn the WooCommerce ecosystem. He was coming from, both developing a lot of front-end stuff, specializing in JavaScript – still a soft spot for him. And he’d built a couple of free plugins to kind of learn the ropes of WooCommerce, he’d developed some for Magento before as well to kind learn the eco-system. And Max had a couple – I think his KISSmetrics plugin was very very basic to start and that was free. So, the both of them either had made some premium versions or in Max’s case, he’d added a lot of stuff – the plugin, and move that into the market place, which at that point was actively trying to recruit 3rd party developers to join the ecosystem and build all these great ideas that the merchants were asking for and obviously it was really hard for WooThemes to meet that demand when they’re also trying to build their own themes and their own products and their own – not to mention WooCommerce Core. So at that point, they’d each started out with a couple of free things and then moved into the premium space pretty quickly, once they felt like they had a good handle on what merchants were looking for.

Jai: Right. And so, how did they get a handle on what merchants were looking for. Was it just through WooCommerce Support?

Beka: That’s definitely where you learn a lot, for sure. I think one of the major things was – a. Max had learned a lot from managing his own eCommerce store, which was very successful – selling pharmaceutical products for a local Pennsylvania-based company. They had a very good volume that kind of taught him the ropes there. And also, picking up a lot of freelance jobs and trying to help users in forums, WooCommerce forums. I think had a jobs page at that point and they would pick up – “Hey what are you having problems with here? You posted this job posting, how can we solve this problem for you?” and in doing that, a lot of the times you learn about how people run their business, what their pain points are, and you can build solutions that are targeted to trying to help them.

Jai: So they went into developing plugins, sort of having done their market research. Was it just a matter of putting it on the WooCommerce marketplace? Or did they try to actively promote their plugins? And then when was the first sale? How quickly did you go from the initial plugin put on the marketplace to the first sale?

Beka: So, the market research definitely helped them know they were in a good position for what they were building. WooThemes, at that point, would actively blog about their new plugins and promote them to their customers. So they had a good outreach there and already kind of piggy-backing with an existing brand that had a lot of consumer trust. So they did have a leg up on the marketing side of things and Justin was also very actively blogging and constantly taking merchant questions on the blog, writing about how they could solve these issues or putting together little code snippets that he would put out there publicly. So Justin had built up a pretty good audience to begin with his own blog that he kind of re-ported into the SkyVerge blog. So, they had a very good start on it because number 1 – they already had an existing audience that they were helping and trying to solve their problems and then these people say, “Hey, we need this.” And they’d say, “Ok, well we’ll build that plugin and then we’ll tell you when it’s done.” And then also having WooThemes helping them as well was a huge win. And I think some of the first sales may have been KISSmetrics and Tab Manager, I know on Justin’s side had sales before they merged into SkyVerge. But, I remember KISSmetrics making 80 dollars in the first month and being like, “This is awesome! People are paying!” So that was definitely one of the early ones. I think one of the first sales for when SkyVerge first emerged.

Jai: And then, when did it come a point where you guys said that, “Ok, this could be a business, let’s go” – were you guys full force into it in the beginning? Or what was the tipping point?

Beka: So, I wasn’t involved in those first days. But for Max and Justin, I know they were both working on it at least half-time. And then Justin, kind of tapered off what he was doing, in terms of freelance development to try and focus on building more products. And Max, I think, went part-time at his job, then was able to hire out someone to do his job while working that out with his bosses. Saying, “Ok, this is how we’re going to work this when I’m going out to do my own thing, but I want to make sure that we hire someone to fill my shoes here.” And so I think that, that was a very great opportunity and a very helpful thing because then he could spend 20 hours there and 40 hours on your own thing and still not make a full jump. Then, I think within 6 months, they were both completely full-time on SkyVerge development. So for both of them, I think it was just – working a lot more to transition themselves into that where they could do it full-time.

Jai: Ok. And that’s only a matter of – at this stage – about 3 years? A little over 3 years I think?

Beka: From when WooCommerce was started or?

Jai: SkyVerge

Beka: Yeah. That was a little over 3 years old. That was in March, 2013.

Jai: So, 3 years later. Starting with, up to 10ish plugins to now over 60 plugins. Starting with just Max and Justin and now more than 12 employees? 12 full-time employees for the entire SkyVerge?

Beka: Right now, not quite 12. We have 12 people total between full-time and part-time.

Jai: Ok. Gotcha. So that’s over 2 years, is that – a decent amount of growth? For me, it seems like it’s a fair amount of growth.

Beka:  Oh yes, for sure it is. I think when we started, I was the first person to join the team after the 2 of them. They were very cautious with hiring people, because when you’re starting out – a lot of companies may say, “Ok we have some revenue, let’s try and hire as many people as we can. Let’s try and make this thing grow and blow up.” And, in our case, Max and Justin wanted to primarily focus on having a viable business and making sure that it wasn’t going to be something that’s going to flame out in a couple of years and if you have a downturn – now you’re out of money. And make sure that you’re building a business that can sustain itself. It’s true, we bootstrapped. So, I think that – as a result of that, we hired slower than some other companies may have in our position. But I think it’s turned out really well, because we’ve hired some really excellent high-performers and people that do a great job of building our software products. So, it’s definitely excellent growth over the past 2 years really, in hiring employees. Since it was almost a year, before we hired the next person after me. Great growth. Probably could’ve been faster. But in our case, it was a conscious decision not to.

Jai: So the, “conscious decision not to” was it just keeping the costs low? Is that sort of the reason why you couldn’t have this amount of growth? Correct me if I’m wrong but there were a lot of acquisitions along the way. Did that help with the growth? If there was one thing, one big thing, that you would attribute growth to, what would it be?

Beka: Yeah. So, there were a few things that I think we did differently than what some companies did. Number 1, as you said acquisitions was a big thing. So, part of the reason we didn’t go on a hiring spree was that wanting to make sure that revenue was justifying those additional costs. So it wasn’t necessarily, consciously trying to keep costs as low as possible. Just making sure that you could afford them, and that you could afford them in the long term. You know, just because you may’ve had one good month, and the business is growing over one month, doesn’t mean that you necessarily want to bring somebody in and take on that additional overhead until you make sure that you can support them. And then, when we started, we would also try to contract out people first to kind of see if they were a good fit and see if that money was going to be well invested and it’s going to help us continue to grow revenue. So we were always trying to make sure that we were always in the black. You know, that you’re not spending more money than you can bring in with your revenue. And then second thing was making acquisitions. So, at that point when WooCommerce was very early on – a lot of developers would build products and then you put a ton of initial time investment into building something. And then over time you have to sell that to recoup the time investment that this – sweat investment that you’ve made and what Max and Justin did a little differently was to say, “Hey, you’ve put all this sweat equity into something and it’s worth money. Now, we’ll pay you in advance for this and you can be out and we’ll take this over. And we’ll support it and we’ll maintain it and we’ll take on now, the risk of this growing and this investment paying off over time.” And so, there was a fair number of developers who’d built WooCommerce plugins and they’d be trying to support one and they’d realize, “Wow, now that I have to support this and since people have given me money – I can’t say that it isn’t my problem.” Sometimes people realize that that’s not what they want to do. So I think that making those acquisitions helped grow revenue in a quick but still organic way so that you could expand your team while still making sure that you’re bootstrapped and you’re not having to take on investments in order to afford your payroll.

Jai: So, what was the process of scoping out these plugins or these developers? Was it just by revenue? Or was it needs based? What was the process like, to go down the acquisition route?

Beka: Yeah, there were a few different kinds of acquisitions. So, first of all there was, I think, an open call on the WooCommerce Trello board at that point, “Hey if you want to sell something, we’re probably interested.” So that certainly didn’t hurt, to self-select the people that would be like, “Oh, maybe I don’t want to keep supporting this plugin – I can just cash out now.” So that definitely brought some people along. Sometimes it was looking existing new ideas or what merchants were asking for. And maybe there’s a plugin that they want, that someone else is building and you can, kind of, acquire the idea and any progress they’ve made on it. All because of the way that WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads works this way as well actually, is to have a Trello board of every plugin idea. And then you can pitch your idea and if you’re accepted, that’s your plugin in the market place. To make it easier for merchants to make decisions, they don’t have to weigh competing offerings that do the exact same thing. They can say, “Ok, if I want cart notices – this is the plugin to give me cart notices.” So it keeps a lot of simplicity by WooThemes limiting what kinds of plugins are there. So having that idea was valuable. So the other thing they did besides acquiring plugins was also acquiring ideas. So, let’s say you’re a developer and you have the Trello card to build authorized .Net CIM. But maybe you don’t have enough time to build as you thought you would. They also acquired the card from other people and say, “Hey, we’ll acquire this. You give us any code you’ve built so far and we’ll kind of take this project over.” And so, doing that I think helped a lot with growth too because of the two of them not having as much support when WooCommerce was very small – they were doing a lot of building. And so having those ideas that you’ve kind of seen merchants asking for and you already have some validation around, it was really great to acquire those ideas because you knew that as soon you got the plugin out – you’d immediately start recouping that investment.

Jai: So, speaking of growth – let’s switch gear to challenges. What were some of the challenges along the way? Were there acquisition that, you thought you were acquiring something but the code just wasn’t good enough? Or the revenue just wasn’t there? Or other challenges that you’ve had with SkyVerge so far.

Beka: Yeah, definitely when you’re acquiring things – the homework part of it is challenging to do. And sometimes you might acquire something that you the intention of re-factoring or re-writing parts of (knowing that going in). It’s just a question of – is this going to be too onerous to support in the meantime, until we can make some updates to this. And for the most part, a lot of the stuff we acquired was stuff that we knew we could improve over-time. You don’t have to necessarily improve it right away. But it can start to make some money back while you start to invest your time into it. So, evaluating those decisions was a great skill to learn. It was tough to do at first, for sure. But learning to evaluate those decisions, not only on the purchase price, but on the time that you’re going to have to put into it to make your investment successful, in the time-span that you want it to be successful in, was definitely a challenging thing. I think, that and hiring early were some of the biggest challenges. Because when you’re a small company, everybody has so many different roles – so you have to hire people that are willing to have some ambiguity in their roles and take on responsibilities that may not fit into a nice neat box. Sometimes it’s, “Well I’m a developer, so I shouldn’t answer support questions.” Or “I’m a developer, I don’t answer blog comments.” Or I don’t answer emails. And not that most developers are like that, it’s just an example. I’m not trying to offend – or, you know, the same thing, “Well I’m the content creator, I’m not going to answer support emails.” And you can’t do that when you’re a small company, everybody just rolls up their sleeves and does what needs to be done. And I think that making sure you’re hiring those kind of people that are willing to say, “Yeah, this needs to be done – let’s do it.” is a hard skill to learn as well and I think, since we were very intentional about hiring those people – we did a pretty good job with it when we started out. But it’s challenging when you have a lot of work, knowing that you need more people but also wanting to make sure that you’re still maintaining that ethos, that work ethic.

Jai: And so, you mentioned ethos. What is SkyVerge’s ethos? If you had to, sort of, briefly describe it?

Beka: We want build software that businesses can depend on. So, when you’re building your ecommerce business, number 1 – you need things to work. You can’t be messing around with that and so quality is obviously going to be an important thing for you. But that you also need to be able to depend on the business being around, long-term. You can’t invest a store’s foundation on a software or a platform that’s going to be at the end of its life in 2 years. Right? You can’t think 2 years is acceptable as an entrepreneur. And so, we know that our business’ sustainability directly relates to the sustainability of the people that’re building on top of our software products. So we want to make sure that we are always a partner that ecommerce businesses can depend on.

Jai: Fair enough. So, recently – speaking of WooCommerce and the community – we were recently at WooConf in Austin. What was your biggest take-away? WooConf is the annual conference for anything WooCommerce related. What was your takeaway from the conference?

Beka: I was at the first one in 2014 as well. I think with this WooConf – which is a fabulous event, it was a total blast – I think, seeing how many people are now interested in the WooCommerce eco-system and in 2014 it was just starting to get bigger. I think at that point, with the first WooConf, it might’ve been 500,000 stores – which was a lot at that point – but people didn’t really look at that and say, “Oh yeah, WooCommerce is on the up and up.” But, between that first WooConf and this WooConf, I think that larger businesses like fulfillment businesses and inventory management companies and all sorts of different companies are looking at this and saying, “Everybody is trying to move to WooCommerce. How do we get into the system? How do we build integrations for this? How do we get our customers using this?” And likewise, from the merchant side of things – it’s like, “Oh ok, WooCommerce is going to be around to be dependable.” There’s a saying that nobody ever got fired for choosing Magento, right? Because, Magento is not going away, right? It’s still around. And I think that now people see that WooCommerce is a long term solution. WooConf and seeing that environment reinforced that. That a lot of people are really interested in getting into the eco-system and growing with it.

Jai: Ok. And you had a talk at WooConf. Can you describe briefly, what your talk was about?

Beka: Sure. My talk was about value-metrics that small and new businesses should be using and optimizing. A lot of the time, I think 97% of businesses in the United States are less than 10 people. So, the majority of businesses are small businesses and ecommerce businesses definitely. Especially in the WooCommerce sphere where you can get started with very little investment. Validate your idea. So, a lot of people read about, ‘How can I improve my store?’, ‘How can I be successful?’, ‘How do I make sure that my ecommerce business is going to be viable?’ and hear a lot of things about, ‘Well, you can optimize your conversion rate.’ ‘You can do this, you can do that.’ And, a lot of stores just don’t have the data, they don’t have the data points to accurately measure or optimize those metrics. So there’re other metrics that you should be focusing on when you start out, that’re more valuable to your store until you can measure other things in a statistically significant way. So, my talk focused on metrics like average order value – that doesn’t necessarily depend this heavily on getting a certain volume of orders to be able to measure accurately. I did write a post on this recently in Sell with WP, called ‘What WooCommerce can Learn from Baseball’ – which kind of summarizes the talk a bit. So if you’re interested, we’ll put that in the ‘Notes’ for this interview. So you can read that.

Jai: For sure. So, speaking of metrics. For SkyVerge, can you discuss some of the metrics for SkyVerge – just to give an idea of the scale? You know, how many customers do you support per month, per week? And number of customers using SkyVerge plugins at this stage. I don’t know if you have that number or not.

Beka: Yeah, for us it’s a little bit difficult because, since we’re selling in the WooThemes market place – we don’t quite have all the data that we’d like to have. With us, since we’re doing tier 2 support – what happens when you have a plugin that’s sitting in the WooThemes market place is that WooThemes is kind of the 1st level of defence, where people with questions like ‘how do I install this plugin?’ or ‘Where do I get my API credentials?’. With these kind of questions, that don’t necessarily need technical knowledge of the plugins – up to questions that do require some technical knowledge of WooCommerce and the plugin itself, their support is just great and they have a lot of knowledge about a lot of different plugins. Those are handled by the WooCommerce Core team. So, what’s great about this arrangement is that while we then have a revenue share that obviously compensates them for the time investment of their team, we can focus on doing the more high-level, technical troubleshooting and problem solving. So as a result of that, we actually don’t have as many tickets submitted per week as you might expect a company with as many plugins and as many users as we have. We basically have one and a half developers at any given time focused full-time on support. So, one person full-time in support and then someone else usually helping out as needed. In terms of people using the plugins, so our team first of all is the leading 3rd party contributor to the WooCommerce Core as well. So our code is running on every WooCommerce site. Our team has made huge contributions to the core plugin. But then, in our extension specifically we have – if I had to guess – I would probably say hundreds of thousands of users overtime, depending on if people are keeping them updated or not. That’s a different question. But yeah, we’ve been with WooCommerce since it was less than a year old, so people have been using our plugins for a very long time.

Jai: And speaking of development, you know, it’s for plugins as well as the core – what’s your advice to developers starting off or in WooCommerce development or in any sort of ecommerce development? Based on your experience, you know, good contractors and bad contractors – all of that.

Beka: Yeah, so first of all it depends on what kind of development you want to do. A lot of people talk about product work being very attractive, “Well, I can make a product and then I can make money off of it forever and ever and ever.” Except that that’s not the case, your product is going to require constant maintenance and support. And you’re going to have WooCommerce Core updates and you have to be compatible with those updates and ideally – what we do – in advance of WooCommerce updating itself. Alright? So there’s a constant level of work and a sort of grind can evolve from that if you don’t constantly try to seek out new things that you could be adding or refining or what not. So if you want to be into product development, you need to be prepared for that. You need to also make sure that you’re building something people want. So, having worked on Sell with WP for 2 and a half years or so now, probably about that, there is a lot of people that are pitching a lot of different plugins. And sometimes people say, “Hey, I’d love it if you could review this plugin. I want it to rank for ‘Best WooCommerce Extension’” or something and it’s a very niche plugin that not even 1 in 10 merchants are going to need or use in their store. If you’re building something like that, you have to understand that it’s not going to be a mass market plugin. It’s not going to be something that most WooCommerce merchants are looking for. I think, in this case it had something to do with modifying the catalogue for print. Which is not something that most merchants are going to do. So, if you’re going to build a product – make sure to validate the idea. Make sure that you’re checking out sites that cover WooCommerce, WooCommerce tutorials. See what kind of questions people are having. Check out Woo ideas, see what ideas people are looking for. Check out WooThemes marketplace for what ideas are already out there and validated or Code Can for what ideas are validated and see what you can do better. If you want to go the custom services route, just be sure that you’re answering people on time and keeping people apprised of the progress of your projects. A lot of the times or countless times where people will come to us asking for custom development services saying that, “My developer never got back to me.” Or that we had this project started and we got it done but when we came back and wanted more work – they didn’t answer us. And, people might hear that and say – “Well, it means that they probably weren’t a very good client, so the developer ignored them.” But that’s not always the case, these are people that I know are not ‘bad clients’ or troublesome clients. So you have to be very communicative to be a good freelance developer. Because you have to be a project manager and not just a developer. And sometimes people aren’t prepared for ensuring that they keep that feedback loop going with whoever the client is.

Jai: Fair Enough. And how about the – at the end of the day the software is being developed for store owners and your talk focused on key metrics for store owners. What advice would you give store owners? Based on your experience, what are some of the pitfalls – starting in eCommerce or during ecommerce, their journey?

Beka: One of the biggest things for people is that, they see something like WordPress or WooCommerce and they think it’s free. And that means do-it-yourself. While, more power to you if that’s what you want to do and that’s what you want to learn – it’s not something that you can necessarily plug and play, that you can manage all of this by yourself. You need to understand web hosting and domain name registration and purchasing and installing SSL certificates and sometimes your host may help with that and sometimes they may not. You need to be familiar with using WordPress, installing software, updating software, doing basic troubleshooting, understanding what a plugin and what a theme is. You need to have a fairly high technical competency to be able to use any WordPress plugin, not just WooCommerce. And so, for a lot of merchants – it’s just understanding what you need and what you’re willing to learn. Because you need to learn that to be effective at managing your store or you may need to outsource that and have someone setup your store for you or help you manage your store. And there’s a ton of different solutions available all for different things. WooCommerce offers, probably unparalleled flexibility in terms of what you could do with it between extensions and custom development that other platforms may not offer. There’s also going to be either a learning curve, or someone that you’re going to need to pay who has already done the learning curve. So, it’s really important to know while you’re getting in there and doing your research. Because if you’re also going to be your site developer, you’re not going to be as effective as an entrepreneur or CEO. So, it’s kind of knowing where you want to focus your time first and if you decide – investing in your site is important and you want to develop your site and do these things, that’s totally fine. But don’t forget that that’s going to take time away from — that you could be spending on growing your business as well.

Jai: And broadly speaking, in ecommerce – where do you see the future of ecommerce going and either ecommerce in general or WooCommerce specific or WordPress specific ecommerce?

Beka: For eCommerce in general – there is a lot of really exciting stuff happening. I think, platforms like Pinterest and Twitter developing APIs for you to sell on these platforms, taking advantage of social selling and not just, “Hey, you can share your products on Twitter.” But people can actually purchase them on twitter, with one click. I think these different kind of sales channels and social selling, so to speak, will become very interesting. And I’m curious to see when these platforms open up their APIs to people to develop on them. Because, right now they’re closed and only certain platforms can use them. Like, Shopify can use the Pinterest and Twitter APIs to allow merchants to sell through these channels. So, I would love to see that and I think that’s going to open up and people are going to be selling to their customers where their customers are and not necessarily requiring them to come to your website to purchase.

Jai: Right. And then, why do you think that is? That, let’s say Shopify — that the platform is open to Shopify but not WooCommerce. Is it that Shopify is somewhat of a closed eco-system? Like, why do you think that is a distinction?

Beka: Yes. So, definitely that is a factor. Shopify is a closed, self-contained system and so – as a result, they can also guarantee a consistent experience and a consistent way of interacting between those 2 platforms. So that may have worked in their favor. They also have a very aggressive scene, in going after that kind of development improvements and opportunities. They’ve done a very great job of creating those opportunities for themselves. But I think they can definitely guarantee that consistent experience because their platform is closed and only available to them to develop on.

Jai: Gotcha. And then, speaking of the future – SkyVerge. What’s next for SkyVerge? You mentioned Jilt is coming out over the next few weeks, so that’s going to be in beta testing. But any other long versus short-term goals for SkyVerge?

Beka: Well, immediate-term goal is WooCommerce 2.6 out of the way. So our team has just started with. WooCommerce 2.6 is in beta testing right now as well. So we’ll be making sure that our plugins are all updated in advance of that, so that merchants can upgrade immediately when they’d like to. So, we’re in progress with that. We’re then aggressively rolling out some really great new features for a lot of our plugins – memberships being a very big one. We have tons and tons of ideas in development for memberships. A couple of things that’re about to come out right now – CSV Import/Export of members. Maybe WP-CLI support for developers. That one’s in the air, it has to be tested. We have Order Customer CSV import plugin got a complete refresh.

Jai: Alright, so there would’ve been a cut over there because we lost connection. So we’re back. So let’s quickly wrap this up. You were mentioning the membership plugin, getting the CSV Import/Export and then WP-CLI.

Beka: Yeah, maybe.

Jai: Maybe. Right. And we were discussing immediate, short-term and then long-term goals for SkyVerge.

Beka: Right. So, in the immediate-term, while we’re doing compatibility, we have some great feature releases in development already. Memberships being one, which is wrapping up in testing now. So will make the final cut for features very quickly. CSV order and customer import has a huge refresh that lets you import more stuff, pick your columns – very advanced as compared to what it used to be. So we have a lot of great features in development and coming up in the more medium-term goals, we have some new integration plugins that are scheduled for development along with other great feature releases and refreshes to a lot of different plugins. So it’s new development, some great features and then we also have Jilt – which is our abandoned cart app. Jilt has already recovered over 14 million dollars for Shopify merchants, over the course of its lifetime – which is huge. It’s a great app for Shopify merchants. We’ve completely refreshed that app. So, WooCommerce merchants will actually get the new and improved version first – as we finish porting those changes over to the Shopify version. So, that launching for WooCommerce merchants is going to be great. It gives you a way to recover abandoned carts. So, when a customer adds something to their cart and leaves your site – you can send recovery emails to that merchant to try and win back their purchases. Since 7 out of every 10 purchases are abandoned on your site, when somebody has already added something into the cart – it’s a great tool for helping you recover revenue that you may not have otherwise had. So we’re very excited to get Jilt ready for WooCommerce merchants. We’ve been working on that for quite some time as kind of like a labs, black-ops project. So that is going to be great, to get that shipped. And then more long-term, we have more apps like Jilt that we’re looking to build and to make more cross-platform compatible – along with lots of WooCommerce specific integrations or plugins as well.

Jai: So, we’ll wrap it up there. Anything else that we didn’t cover? I mean, this went fairly over what we initially expected so I think that that’s good. But anything else you wanted to say?

Beka: Looking forward to continuing this series with merchants and developers.

Jai: For sure. So, Beka – thank you so much for being our first guest on this series. The website is and you can look forward to more of this series on So, thanks everyone for listening.

Beka: Thanks

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