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10up founder Jake Goldman invests in seoslides WordPress plugin

Recently at WordCamp Boston 2013, a strange thing happened.

Two plugin announcements randomly collided.

I attended Steven Word’s talk called “Unconventional WordPress” and unconventional it was. At the end of the talk he unveiled the plugin that powered his presentation WP Present. Later in the day Jake Goldman presented his topic and also unveiled his company’s first dance with product – seoslides.

How about that? Two presentation slide plugins built for WordPress unbeknownst to one another in the same building.

So is this what 10up’s been doing with all that talent? If you’re like me, you might be wondering when their product might be launching to the world. Well not so fast. We learn here that this is an investment by 10up’s founder and we should expect to see original product incubated by the team early 2014.

Read on to discover more about seoslides and the future of 10up’s product line.

WordPress presentation slide plugins are all the rage

(My interview with Steven will follow this post with his answers to similar questions.)

You mentioned some ownership in the plugin/service. Could you expand on it a bit more? Is this a 10up investment, collaborative project or otherwise?

In short, 10up is heavily invested in seoslides, both through the real blood, sweat, and tears we’ve poured into the product and fiscally. We have real skin in that game.

SEOSlides-Logo

seoslides is owned by a company called Alorum, which was founded by two highly qualified entrepreneurs living in Florida, Daniel Scott and Chris Kluis. I clicked with them both in early conversations – they understand WordPress, respected our “open” (GPL) values, and had realistic expectations.

Daniel and Scott own a majority stake in the company; its first product is seoslides. I’m the largest share holder and investor behind those two. My investment is on behalf of 10up, which I wholly own, but due to boring tax and SEC regulations, I’m considered the investor (you can look up Alorum’s SEC filing if you want to know more).

All of the engineering and technical support – and most of the other digital agency services – are being executed by 10up as part of our agreement, albeit at an aggressive, startup pace and budget.

In short, 10up is heavily invested in seoslides, both through the real blood, sweat, and tears we’ve poured into the product and fiscally. We have real skin in that game.

Are you going to be involved with more product or investments in the WP ecosystem?

In short: yes.

seoslides continues to be a huge undertaking. We’ve built a drag-and-drop slide editor, SaaS infrastructure for importing and processing slides, performant SaaS authentication, and technology that makes embedding self hosted slides on an external site as easy as dropping in a YouTube clip. And that’s just what we’ve released. Having experienced partners and other investors was the right choice for our first product investment.

10up also has some really exciting products in our internal pipeline, which are wholly owned by us, the first of which will roll out no later than Q1 2014.

10up also has some really exciting products in our internal pipeline, which are wholly owned by us, the first of which will roll out no later than Q1 2014. Our team is chomping at the bit to share these with the world.

I won’t tell you what we’re building, but I will tell you that we’re interested in solving unaddressed problems. I have no doubt that our team could release the best solution to any website technology problem, but I’m not interested in releasing generic e-commerce, membership, or form plug-in #6.

When you put the best designers, the best JavaScript engineers, the best user interface engineers, and the best software engineers together, something special happens. You look at some of the creative flourishes in an upcoming product and you know this would never have been possible without very smart, but very different minds coming together.

Have you been successful with the freemium model? Feel free to expand.

It’s hard to define success when the product has barely been on the market 1 month, with the beta label on top of the premium services. Anyone that sets a goal for “success” in a market like this one and expects to be there in less than 1 year is, I think, either the inventor of the iPhone (actually, it wasn’t really a success until its second model either) or in for a rude awakening.

seoslides_freemiumI will tell you that we’ve seen a slow but healthy number of “free key” sign ups, and over 700 downloads in just over 1 month. I doubt we would have had more premium customers than we have today had we dropped the free version. And if our premium pricing wasn’t obvious enough, we’re heavily focused on growing the free signups during our early days.

seoslides’ long term strategy is built on a belief in the power of platforms, SaaS, and the local plug-in code itself being completely free and open.

Why this market? It seems that it could be super competitive with big players like a shared Google presentation, SlideShare.net etc

You’re asking that because we need to do a much better job of explaining what seoslides solves. Our goal is not to build the best slide maker – our team won’t compete with Apple’s web based Keynote or Google’s presentation maker.

Our goal is to democratize and free ownership of this content in the same sense that WordPress democratized ownership of website content. Fundamentally, WordPress’s value proposition is: do you want to own your content, or do you want a third service party to own it? And: do you want to be able to open up and extend what this kind of software can do for you?

When you post your deck on SlideShare, they own that content. The conversation about your content? Owned by SlideShare. Origin links when third parties embed your slideshow on their site? SlideShare. Analytic data about your slideshow’s performance? Well, you can buy it from SlideShare.

Our goal is to democratize and free ownership of this content in the same sense that WordPress democratized ownership of website content.

When you host your slideshow with seoslides, you own all of the content, on your server. When third parties embed your deck (super easy with seoslides), the back links go to your site. Both the deck and each slide have their own URLs, fully trackable with a standard analytic package. All of the content, from entered speaker notes to slide titles are indexable on your site, just like regular blog post content. seoslides the company goes away? We change our business model? You still have the plug-in and content, safe and secure on your own website.

Before WordPress, there were services that made it reasonably easy to host your website – on their platform and subject to their terms. Remember what happened to GeoCities?

The parallels are deeper than you think. In the days of GeoCities and expensively licensed commercial CMS platforms, professional web developers (if you can call late 90’s “webmasters” that) still had the skill to build and host their own solution. Today, you see plenty of web developers building slideshows that they host on their own site using fancy frameworks that mandate technical sophistication, even if it is just tagging.

I think the web is ready for something with the ease of SlideShare combined with the freedoms of WordPress.

Speaking of competition, what do you think of Seven Word’s plugin

Steven is a smart cookie, and a friend of mine. Hilariously, we had a conversation before WordCamp Boston about innovation within WordPress and awkwardly discovered we were both circling the presentations space. I’ve been excited and inspired to play with his plug-in – and motivated by it!

@stevenkword

@stevenkword

Steven is really addressing a different problem space. In fact, I can imagine his solution plugging into our solution, if he sticks with it. Steven is trying to solve slideshow creation in WordPress. As I suggested above, that’s not really our problem space. For us, our editor is like Mac OS X shipping with TextEdit or Windows shipping with WordPad – you have to have something “elegant enough” for those with basic needs.

We don’t think WordPress is likely to ever be a serious substitute for a tool like Keynote any time soon, or even alternative web-based tools that are focusing purely on creation. We’re focused on consumption and distribution.

Yes, WP-Present also hosts your content – but it requires you to create it (or recreate it) within WordPress. That’s the easy part of a project like this, because there are so many open source tools to start with, and WordPress’s content platform architecture is well situated for this. The hard part is infrastructure and partnerships that enable the masses creating slideshows in first class tools to host them on their own website while facilitating distribution to other sites. That’s the problem space we’re focusing on.

You see that in import tools, which you’ll se a lot more of. You see that in how ridiculously easy it is for third party sites to embed your slideshows. You see it in the super intuitive “embed slideshow” button right in the visual editor toolbar, enabling publishers to drop slideshows into any page or post. Steven’s plug-in has a different focus, so not surprisingly, it offers none of these, while successfully innovating in the creation space.

Steven’s choice to use reveal.js as the underlying engine also speaks to this plug-in being more of an experiment and curiosity, than a broadly supported solution. We evaluated reveal.js as the underlying delivery platform for seoslides, but rejected it partly because we found its bi-directional navigation confusing outside of the geek niche, and mostly because it lacks support for browsers like IE9 that still consume serious market share. We instead went with shower.js (http://shwr.me)  (Jake:We ended up using Deck.js as the underlying engine, and are in communication with their lead engineer) as our underlying presentation engine. We’re in communication with its lead developer, and plan to contribute back to Shower and integrate Shower improvements. This is what a long term product strategy looks like.

I hope Steven’s plug-in succeeds, too. I hope we can collaborate with him. We very much see the “slide making” layer within seoslides as pluggable, whether it be through integration with popular slideshow software, or alternative WordPress plug-ins. Perhaps its future is an alternative administrative layer for our distribution and import engine!

So let me reframe and simplify this: calling WP-Present a competitor is, in my mind, a bit like calling TinyMCE alternatives (TinyMCE powers WordPress’s visual editor) competitors to WordPress.

What’s your biggest challenge right now and how do you expect to overcome it?

seoslides-presentation-community-jpg

Like most software packages, our biggest challenges are marketing and technical.

I personally think the biggest challenges are technical, but maybe that’s my software engineering roots showing. Making seoslides a trusted, SEO optimized delivery and distribution platform for slideshows created in all sorts of places in all different formats (Keynote, PowerPoint, Google presentations, etc etc) is no small feat.

We also need to do a much better job of telling our product story, and marketing it. We wanted to get something out the door as soon as we thought we could, and always anticipated that marketing would follow that. And it will.

What potential do you see within the WordPress entrepreneurship ecosystem?

Good question.

Although I define 10up as an online publishing and content management agency first, and a “WordPress shop” second, it’s clear that our laser focus on the platform has paid immense dividends. Clearly, I think we’re evidence that opportunity within the agency space is extremely rich, and with some smarter thinking on the part of firms like ours, has a long way to grow (expect me to opine on this on my blog).

I’ll be honest: I’m less clear on the “WordPress product” space, although we’re clearly betting on it. Start by narrowing the global market to those that manage a website, than those that use WordPress, than those have chosen WordPress (a “free” platform) and are willing to pay for, let alone install at all, a plug-in. How big is that market, really? What percent, within that market, does your product appeal to?

Everyone points to Carl Hancock and Gravity Forms. Well, how many people work at Rocket Genius? Assuming Carl’s heavily reinvesting his revenue, we can probably make some educated guesses about their revenue. Is that the cap for a “WordPress product”? Pippin Williamson, also revered as model for commercializing plug-ins, told us what he made at Pressnomics. With all respect: eek.

So now that I’ve startled everyone, let me reframe this: I think there’s real opportunity to build healthy businesses with innovative solutions in the WordPress space, and we’re happy to be part of that. I would just caution anyone who thinks this space is any kind of gravy train.

Other notable WordPress names working with seoslides

(source: team page)

Luke Gedeon as Web Engineer

Andrew Norcross as Advisor

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3 comments on “10up founder Jake Goldman invests in seoslides WordPress plugin

  1. Matt, thanks for this very thorough profile on seoslides, and agree that there is no such thing as a quick win on WordPress. Actually, there are no quick wins anywhere. However, the community has been warm, gracious and generous with their time – a quick, non-financial win that you simply cannot expect anywhere else. In return, we are going to build the best solution possible, and will not stop until we knock everyone’s socks off.

    Jake and his team at 10up are the kind of partners you dream about. Jake is wickedly brilliant, quick witted, and consistently fair. His team is passionate, charming, and completely helpful. Cannot say enough about the culture that the company builds. They are leading by example for the rest of us.

    And to anyone building tools for the WordPress community, continue building. We love talking with other folks launching products, especially those with presentation solutions, as we can all help each other. This is more than just a community, it is a community I want to be a part of, a community that can grow even stronger.

    Thanks again and WordPress on… with seoslides!

    1. Thanks for swinging by Daniel, appreciate the comment.

      Glad to hear things are going well in your WordPress world and I’m excited to see this type of win — be it fiscally or via partnership — happen.

      Good luck with your product, I’ll be watching.

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