Business

WP Engine serves 20M visitors a day, hires new CEO to feed ‘hyper-growth’ (exclusive)

Image Credit: WP Engine Facebook
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WordPress made a splash earlier this year when founder Matt Mullenwag revealed that 19 percent of the Web runs on the platform.

But as with most tales of fame and achievement, there are subtler, unknown forces providing support from behind the scenes.

In this case, it’s WP Engine.

WP Engine unveiled some serious growth metrics today as well as a new CEO and a rebrand of the site.

“We are experiencing hyper growth, and it feels like we have reached a level of critical scale and performance as a business,” said Heather Brunner, WP Engine’s new CEO, in an interview with VentureBeat. “It is time to grow up a little bit as we keep on this journey. We are going to seize the market and opportunity as we move into the higher end of SMB and the enterprise.”

WordPress is the largest self hosted blogging platform in the world, with 60 million websites. WordPress.com also offers free hosting of WordPress sites and, through its WordPress VIP program, for-fee hosting (VentureBeat is a customer). But because it’s an open-source platform, other companies also offer WordPress hosting, and WP Engine is one of them.

The Austin, Texas-based WP Engine is positioned as the “Heroku for WordPress.” It is a managed-hosting platform for WordPress clients who require higher levels of performance, reliability, data transfer and storage, and security than regular WordPress affords.

Twenty million unique visitors now interact with WP Engine-hosted properties every day. The company has grown every quarter since it was founded in 2010 and serves 11,000 paying customers, ranging from small startups to huge brands like Google, Gap, Allstate, Williams Sonoma, and Foursquare.

heather brunnerBrunner has spent all of her 23-year career in technology. She recently served as chief operating officer of Bazaarvoice, which went public in 2012, and then joined WP Engine as COO in April.

“I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Internet bubble,” she said. “At first I thought WP Engine was just a hosting company, but once I got under the hood, I thought, ‘Wow.’ It is such an exciting time around whats happening with WordPress and the overall market is exploding around digital marketing and content.”

Brunner said that WordPress is perceived as a blogging platform, but it is really a content management system and solution. It is now easier than ever to cheaply, efficiently, and rapidly get your brand out there and run a business online. Tools, like WordPress, have democratized the process and the demand for content is soaring.

WP Engine helps businesses respond to that trend. As Brunner mentioned, it is also interested in working with larger clients, that have larger hosting needs.

The company is also building out its analytics offerings. Brunner said that as the hosted, WP Engine has access to data that other programs like Google Analytics don’t.

“Hosting is the moment of truth when visitors come to a clients’ site,” she said. “We are leaning into how we can drive more and more insight, and complement other analytic sources. We are seeing the early adoption curve of enterprise using WordPress as a solution, and we are beginning to think about helping educate and evangelize whats possible with WordPress in business. It’s a tipping point.”

It is also a tipping point for women in tech right now. Gender diversity has been at the forefront of discussion in the past couple years thanks to Marissa Mayer assuming leadership of Yahoo, Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In,” and national conversations about the importance of STEM education, particularly for girls.

Many of these conversations focus on the various forces at work to keep women down, and out of leadership positions. However Brunner had a refreshing, encouraging perspective on the topic.

“I’ve never been held back at any company — if I made something happen or drove results, than more opportunities came my way,” she said. “I waited to have kids until I was already an executive. The reality is that it’s hard to create a balance. But my daughters are proud and excited that I love what I do, and it makes me feel like what I am doing is inspiring to them.”


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