Hello! What's your background, and what are you working on?
My name is Baptiste. I hail from France, and currently live in a lovely town in the North of France. I have been involved in Web Development and Online Business for more than 3 years, and I’m the co-founder of Alkalab, which is the company behind Woffice.
Although I have a tech background, I’m now focusing on the marketing side of things, with the mission of bringing our ventures to the next level. My other co-founder and university friend François Forest is heading the tech side.
Woffice is a WordPress-based Intranet/Extranet solution build for all sizes of companies, all over the world.
François got started in 2015, and I joined him later. We’re selling Woffice as a one-off lifetime license fee of $75 on ThemeForest, which is a leading marketplace for WordPress-related products.
…And we have sold more than 8,000 licenses as of today! 🚀
What motivated you to get started with Woffice?
At the time, the WordPress themes market wasn’t that competitive, it was still a good time to get in. I would not say the same now. And it was particularly true for the BuddyPress-related themes. It was a very decent niche market to get in. BuddyPress is the plugin for creating and managing an online community on your WordPress website.
François initially got the idea of building either a kind of Intranet/Extranet theme, or a community solution. With the contribution of the ThemeForest team, he finally undertook the former, and started sketching, drawing things up, and building the first HTML mockup.
He recalls that one of his trips in Europe at the time sparked his creativity, and led him to the final Version 1 of the product.
He already had good knowledge of the WordPress market with a few themes he had designed before (5 themes released before that and 10 premium HTML templates designed), but Woffice was the most challenging one. The thorough release and code-review process undertaken by ThemeForest was quite long at the time, ~ 2 months, but it finally led to the release of the product in June 2015.
The product/market fit was swiftly validated: during the first two days, the servers went down several times and the ThemeForest page was visited more than 5,000 times. It was crazy. 🙀
I would not recommend building a product without validating the market first today. It was quite a bold move at the time, but turned out to be a good one! 😄
It’s worth pointing out that we were still studying for our master’s degrees at the time, which meant that making money was not the top first priority.
What went into building the initial product?
It took around 4 months to get to Version 1, or Minimum Viable Product, plus the additional review time from ThemeForest.
That said, Woffice has been updated 105 times since 2015, with more than 1,000 features added or fixed. You can find the full changelog here.
WordPress is also very powerful thanks to its 55K+ free plugins available on WordPress.org, as well as all the premium ones you can find on (Envato)[https://elements.envato.com/wordpress/plugins] and dedicated websites. What that means is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel when there is an existing good plugin, which was, and still is, the case for a few of the features Woffice offers, such as the build-in calendar management, or Gantt chart feature.
We had to make some choices along the way though, when we ran into some troubles or conflicts with a plugin author.
It’s a completely bootstrapped product and company, with no outside funding whatsoever. It was really a one-man hustle, mainly at night after college.
Final point, for the more tech-savvy people, our code stack is very simple, namely: SASS, Gulp, WordPress framework with the Unyson code base, modern Object Oriented Object PHP, jQuery, and we later added Vue.js to make things more powerful.
How have you attracted users and grown Woffice?
First of all, the WordPress community is very big, and that is particularly true on ThemeForest.
Given that Woffice was a very niche product at the time, it was fairly easy for us to attract new people at the start, thanks to the power of the ThemeForest community. All it took was a good design, a good working product and a good selling page.
But, when it comes to actually going from 0 to 100, that’s where the rubber hit the road!
Besides this, we also got big into making sure Woffice is mentioned in every single product comparison article out there, as well as articles about WordPress community websites.
We also tried some advertising, and AdWords, but that didn’t work out very well, mainly because it’s tough to get a good ROI when you’re selling a one-time license for $79 in a very competitive place.
Finally, we are now focusing more on partnerships and building up content.
So, in a nutshell, we are trying to get bigger into content outside of our marketplace, but most of our traffic (~80%) is still from them.
To conclude, our advice would be to double down on your niche market, and focus on educating them. Get bigger into content from day one. It will pay off in the long run.
What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?
Our business model is quite simple. We sell the license through ThemeForest, and we get the full price, minus a commission.
Besides this, we also get money from referral to hosting partners and custom development partners.
We decided to increase the price of our license a little over 2 years ago, because we wanted to position ourselves as more of a premimum solution. What’s more, we also noticed that providing quality, rather than quantity, was best. For example, instead of selling 100 licenses at $50, we’d rather sell 20 licenses, at $75. It substantially reduces the support time, and allow us to focus on product improvement.
This also helped us increase our yearly revenue by more than $10K.
Our expenses are very restricted, since we share our dedicated server with the other projects, and all the payment and transaction emails are handled by ThemeForest. We use the free version of Mailchimp for our newsletter.
What are your goals for the future?
Our goal is to get bigger into partnerships and keep a consistent flow of customers. As revenues come in, we are able to update the product and fine-tune the different features.
For instance, our current focus is on getting our project manager to the next level by bringing in graphs and better searches. But we are also doubling down on the Human Resources side with our recent partnership with WPERP. We will then add more features on top of that. Finally, we also want to focus on integrations and notifications.
What are the biggest challenges you've faced and obstacles you've overcome? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
Then, our second mistake was to not welcome competitors, even being obsessed about them. You’re better off building a better product rather than comparing figures with competitors.
Another obstacle was the flow of feedback and comments received at the start. We made the mistake of accepting everything and trying to make everyone happy, instead of letting the outrageous people go.
You can’t please everyone. Don’t build features that will be used by only 0.5% of your user base. Think about the real impact of what you’re building instead of just making people happy.
Finally, the last two pieces of advice are about project management and hiring.
Employ a good project manager tool from day one. We are now using JIRA and we are very delighted with it. Spend more time on the hiring process. Do tests and trial periods. François had to fire our first support guy because the hiring process was done very poorly.
What's your advice for indie hackers who are just starting out?
I’d start by saying that you need to find your niche market. Don’t build things for the masses.
But that’s not all, be your own guide and your own judge. You own your destiny. In other words, don’t care much about your competitors. Offer something unique and better.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you should not listen to your close network, but you still eventually do the job, so take the leap and move forward! 😄
Finally — and we learned this with our new software Feedier — I’d point out that people don’t use your product because of feature A or B, but because they want to build a better version of themselves, their company.
People don’t buy Woffice because it offers a Project Management feature, but because it helps them collaborate better, without any hassle internally and with external stakeholders, as well.
I’d recommend Alan Klement’s resources on the Jobs to be Done website, as well as Intercom on Starting Up.
The “classic” books are always a good read as well, such as Zero To One by Peter Thiel, or The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.
Where can we go to learn more?
We also have other products, all of which can be found on our website alka-web.com. I also encourage everyone to check out our new venture Feedier, which is an app helping companies collect better feedback through a gamification process, a focus on the user engagement, and user experience.
If you’ve got any questions about creating or selling a WordPress theme, ask below! We will strive to give you our best answer.
—, Founder of Woffice
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