You can find Mike on LinkedIn or Twitter. This is our recent interview with him, as part of our Kinsta Kingpin series.
Q1: What is your background, & how did you first get involved with WordPress?
This probably won’t be what you expect. I started out making a website as a side project and writing static HTML files. This was back in 2011. It got tedious adding new HTML to the top of each file when I wanted to change the menu, so I looked into content management systems. WordPress was the obvious choice. So I migrated the site to WordPress.
It was a side project that I did in my spare time because I was really really good with excel in my day job and I wanted to offer Excel consultancy services. It made no money. I got no clients. But it got me into using WordPress.
My day job at the time was a Pension Scheme Consultant, advising companies on how to reduce their balance sheet liabilities by offering their Pensioners a different type of pension. I was an Actuary. It’s not your usual route into the world of WordPress. So my background has been heavily rooted in maths and statistics, with some consulting thrown into the mix.
While doing this, I also wrote an eBook called ‘101 tips to get WORSE at Call of Duty’. I was always pretty bad and got killed a lot, so jokingly a friend said I should write a book on how to be bad. So I did.
When it came to releasing it, I put it up on amazon.com for $5.99. It sold $100 in the first week and I was chuffed.
But…. how did I know I wasn’t missing out on 1000s of sales from people who would pay $3.99 but not $5.99. If I dropped the price, the people who did buy it, probably would have also bought at $5.99.
Amazon was missing the ability to ‘Make Your Offer’ on an eBook. As an Author, I could set the reserve price (hidden) and users could offer anywhere between $0.01 and $5.98. If it beat my reserve price they got it, if not they were told their offer was too low.
All automated and the price learned from the previous offers and adjusted itself. So I built a website to do just that. I built it using WordPress and plenty of mathematical underlying algorithms to adaptively price the product.
Q2: What should readers know about all the stuff you’re doing in WordPress these days?
I’ve always been into developing innovative products for WordPress. By far the most popular product I created was Social Gallery Photo Viewer. This was on the back of a customer on one of my eBook websites (Make Your Offer) where they wanted to have the ability to have a gallery of eBook covers for the next book, and have the community like, share and comment on them (like on Facebook). So I built it.
Social Gallery WordPress plugin
I stuck it on CodeCanyon back in 2012 and it helped me reach Elite Author in June 2016. Far surpassing my expectations and helping me quit my 9-5 job back in May 2016 where I wrote a post celebrating that I Quit My Job.
Our latest offering, Zero BS CRM, builds on the past 7 years of me working with WordPress and developing WordPress Plugins sold via CodeCanyon and Direct as well as WordPress Themes.
Q3: What challenges did you face in getting to where you are now professionally?
My biggest challenge was converting what I did at University into the “stack” of a WordPress developer. Learning PHP, jQuery, and the WordPress Codex.
While at University (back in 2004) I worked with MATLAB and developed an adaptive meshing algorithm to learn where to refine a 3D mesh of data points and re-analyse. It was called Electrical Impedance Tomography. Machine Learning if you will. This work involved high-performance computer coding and splitting the work across a number of processors running in parallel – to get the output quicker.
So I’ve always had a computer coding background, but I didn’t study web technologies at University or “Computer Science” so I come at problems from a different angle and have self-taught myself everything so far.
My other challenge I would say is having the marketing side of things. As a developer, we build our products and we add features. Getting the word out and marketing them is another kettle of fish. Meetups, and networking events I get quite anxious at and I’m quite introverted until I get to know people, all challenges which are personally really hard for me to get through.
Q4: Has anything surprised you while coming up in the WordPress world?
My biggest surprise still is that I’m able to focus 100% of my time on working with WordPress. It’s been almost a year since I quit my job so I’m just getting started and hope to be able to really scale things up in the next few years. The other surprise is how nice everyone in the community is. From Ionut taking the time to chat to me via Skype about a year ago when I was just finding my feet, to Vova who is just a generally nice guy.
I’m about to attend my first WordCamp in Paris (unfortunately I’ll actually miss a big chunk of the talks due to a wedding), but I was surprised to get invited to a meet & greet without having to ask.
Q5: What does the future look like for you in the WordPress world?
I think I’ll always be on the cutting edge with what I develop. In Zero BS CRM we utilize the concepts behind the REST API to build API capabilities and easily connect the CRM to thousands of other applications through Zapier. Something not many other plugins out there are doing.
Zero BS CRM
My next big product in the works is what I’ve titled as ‘ThemePax’ and is what I think is missing from WordPress Themes. This came on the back of pivoting away from making 12 WordPress Themes in 12 Months.
The WordPress Theme market is alreadyjam-packedd with amazing themes. Another 12 wouldn’t rock the boat (although it might give me incremental revenue increases). This new concept will give a way for WordPress users to “expand” their theme, a bit like Call of Duty expansion packs (noticing a theme here? Pun not intended).
Development is going great. You can find out more about ThemePax here and be notified when it’s ready for release.
Q6: What do you look for in a WordPress host?
I’ve been with a few hosts in the past. WordPress hosting is a bit like trying to find the girl you’ll marry. Some come along and look promising, but they’re missing a few teeth. Then when you find the one, you just know. What do I look for in a girl host?
- They’ve gotta be FAST – seeing Amber on Google Page Speed Insights due to ‘slow server response time’ is never good
- They have to have good uptime. From a number of locations (no blocking Brazilian visitors)
- The customer support should be spot on if things go wrong, but…
- Things shouldn’t go wrong. I’ve opened way too many support tickets with a particular host that I should really migrate the sites away by now
- They should also be affordable. How does the average Joe know how much ‘bandwidth’ you really need. You may be stuck paying for 1TB but only every use 1GB.
Q7: What do you enjoy doing when you’re away from your laptop?
Travel. I’ve been all over the place in the past 12 months with my other half. We got married in May 2017 and are about to embark on a round the world honeymoon travel adventure. First stop Russia for the trans-siberian express.
Apart from travel, I like drinking beer with my friends and going to the gym to burn off some of the food + drink I’ve taken on board.
Q8: Whom should we interview next & why?
You’ve interviewed some great people so far. I would have to give a shout out to the guys at Freemius (Vova Feldman) they’re doing some nice innovative work with WordPress and I hope it long continues.