When you are in the early days of starting a new company, everything is up in the air. The product, your vision for it, the people and financial needs to accomplish your goals, all of it.
As time goes on however, your thinking evolves from, “How are we not going to die?” to “How are we going to thrive?” It's the latter question I'd like to explore with you today as we look back on 2016 (and look forward to what is to come).
A Quick Intro
My name is Kyle Wakefield, and I'm one of the co-founders at Themeco. My responsibilities are running day to day operations and implementing our strategy for the future. I am supported by my good friend and fellow co-founder Scott Marlow who handles hiring and HR.
While this company is a team effort in every way imaginable, I find there are certain elements of Themeco that are distinctly personal to me. I value the opportunity to lead this team and share both our gratitude for your business and vision for the future.
2016 By The Numbers
By all accounts, we grew in 2016. More people, more unit sales, more products.
We have added several new members to the team. We have more clearly defined roles and responsibilities around each product, and we have more customers doing more repeat business with us! This is a big deal and primary objective for us.
All of this is very exciting, and it speaks to both the execution of our team as well as the faith you continue to place in us as a company. For all that and more, a very humble thank-you!
Looking forward, here are some of the highlights.
Massive Redesign Is Underway
We are in the process of creating an entire new website and experience for our customers. There are a lot of systems that are being re-built from the ground up, and we are systematically working through a redesign of everything we've wanted to do for a couple of years now to bring you something fresh and new.
We are also working on a special about page so you can learn more about the people behind Themeco and our story in addition to an exciting new community initiative. Stay tuned for this in 2017.
Next Summit In The Works
We have begun initial planning for our second Themeco Summit. We are planning for New York with dates to be announced in the 1st quarter. Our first Summit was a wonderful time and something we look very forward to doing again.
Let's Talk About X
As we reflect on 2016, I'd like to carve out X specifically and share a few thoughts with you there.
A few months ago I talked about our roadmap for the future. If you haven't had a chance to check it out yet, I'd encourage you to do so.
Related to this, you may have noticed that our flagship product has been fairly quiet on the development front this past year. This was by design as we have been investing heavily in underlying infrastructure.
I can honestly say we didn't see the depth of these ambitions when we started down the path, but the end product is coming together better then we had envisioned (and when you're in the weeds looking at it day in and day out and still feeling that way, generally that is a good sign). The team heading up this update led by Kory Wakefield and Alexander Rohmann have created something truly remarkable—a free update for all existing X customers.
Our process: When it comes to development decisions, we take a very long term approach. It is our position that to truly help you create stunning websites, the decisions we make for future development must be purposeful in both form and function. They can't be knee-jerk reactions and they can't be without clear purpose and intentionality. We are also mindful of creating a predictable and stable environment to the degree we can control it.
As we set out to create our roadmap for the future of X earlier this year, we looked over the next several years including market dynamics, challenges currently faced when building sites, customer feedback, and how we can create the environment you'll want to use both now and in the future. We are very close to some big announcements (and releases) related to this, and I can not wait for you to get a chance to experience what we have been building for you.
A tale of two customers: As we reviewed the responses to a couple of polls we ran this year we learned we have two very distinct customers. About 60% of our customers are what I would call creative professionals—people who build sites for others or for a living with the other 40% being business owners or DIYers who want to take care of their own site.
While both groups need a website, their needs within the web building process are very unique. We put pen to paper and had many a discussion about the best path forward and discovered several opportunities to serve our diverse customer base while moving the X ecosystem forward. You will hear more specifically about this with our release.
Update report: We are going to be releasing a limited beta for our new update soon. We have plenty of testers so cannot accept anymore currently, but once the beta has been tested and any outstanding issues addressed, we'll be announcing the release. This will be a different release than any we've done in the past, and there will be detailed notes on what you will need to know at that time. As always, we care about a smooth update to the degree it is within our power to control.
It is common for people to ask, “Will this break my site,” and the answer is always, it depends. For our part, we view backwards compatibility as a very high priority and do not see anything at this time that should present an issue. Having said that, we have customers of all different skills and backgrounds who update their site in every imaginable way. IF there is anything specific you'll need to address with regards to the update, we'll make that known at the time of release via our Changelog. You should always have a backup of your site prior to an update, and it is never wise to test an update on a live, production site.
The New Phase
In many ways we are entering what I would call a new phase for Themeco. The early years are behind us, and we have to think with a fresh perspective about how we better serve you and your own changing needs as we move forward. Having said that, there are many important qualities that were responsible for us getting to this point. As a company we have to identify (and continue) those while being sensitive to the changes that need to be made to continue to grow.
With that in mind, I wanted to share a couple very specific takeaways from our vision related to this and what it means for you.
- People First – Our primary goal is to serve you with excellence each and every day through our product, support, and communication. I believe this trumps any product feature and that when it is done authentically and genuinely we orientate our thinking to your needs rather then our wants. I am also personally very motivated by the actions of Jesus of Nazareth and his charge to serve others in all times and in all ways.
- Slow But Steady – Instead of just cranking out smaller updates more frequently, we are going to focus on bigger updates more judiciously. By a wide margin customers preferred this option in our poll, and we couldn't agree more. Thankfully, our product is developed in such a way where we can continue to release certain features (say Extensions) without having to update the theme directly for the best of both worlds! You'll continue to see the return on that investment as we go into 2017 as we have several new Extensions on the near term horizon.
- Application Focused – We are working on creating an environment, not just a theme. We will be respectful of the realities in using WordPress while still being innovative in what that experience looks like. I cannot underscore enough how transformative these changes will be to your total web building process—starting with headers and footers then quickly growing to other areas.
- Lego Brick Pieces – The underlying architecture of everything we do is being modularized in such a way as to be able to be re-used in other aspects of our products and offering. For example, the advanced controls you'll see in our header and footer builder will be the basis for advanced controls for all of our Elements. We have systematically broken down the pieces of our product in a way that will allow for rapid prototyping of future development both for us in the product we present to you and for you in the theme itself and how you build sites.
As we enter a new year, our entire team remains committed to the mission and vision of this company. Your continued business is what allows us to do a work that we love, and earning your friendship along the way is a special added bonus.
There is MUCH more to share after the first of the year so stay tuned. Thank-you to the many people who work so tirelessly to make this community the special place that it is! Your contributions are noticed, and they make a difference.
Wishing You a Very Happy New Year,