10 Years of WordPress

wordpress-10When I heard that WordPress had recently turned 10 years old it got me to reminisce about the early days of using their blogging software. Back in 2004 I was looking for a blogging software and came across an open-source software called b2. A couple guys named Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little took the open-source code from b2 and created what is now known as WordPress. According to them WordPress now powers over 18% of ALL websites on the internet.

What makes WordPress so unique is the way the company is structured around a public-private partnership with it’s users and developers. On the public side is the open-source project that is WordPress.org which is where the global community of developers gather to make WordPress faster, better, easier and safer to use.

And on the private side is Automattic which is the private company that includes properties such as WordPress.com. WordPress.com is where you go to create a personal blog. However, more and more corporates such as CNN, TurboTax and TechCrunch are starting to use their VIP services which is really the money maker for Automattic. In a nutshell, WordPress.org has an army of free developers who make the software better which is then used on the WordPress.com site.

The model has been so successful that many companies are trying to emulate the structure but honestly no one has reached the size and scale of WordPress. That might be in part to Matt Mullenweg’s focus on the open-source developer community and making WordPress into something bigger then him or Automattic. 10 years is a long time in the technology space and I can only see WordPress growing even bigger from here.

What do I hope to see from WordPress in the future? The past 10 years has been about providing a platform to allow people/companies express their thoughts. For the next 10 years, I hope the WordPress team takes a look at forums and bulletin boards which have essentially been the same for the past 15-20 years. That space really could use a public-private partnership and further the socialness (yeah, that’s not a real word) of the internet.

Startup Engineering Cookbook

Recently, I’ve come across a number of founders and startups that have zero knowledge when it comes to technology and their startup. More concerning is many don’t seem to care, their attitude is “we’ll just outsource that stuff.” That just does not fly. Imagine you are opening a restaurant and you have the chef and menu all in place. For the venue/location you don’t really care, because that is not your domain since the food is the star attraction of the new restaurant. If the infrastructure of the restaurant is crap most people will not care how awesome the food tastes. There is the random “hole in the wall” that can get away with it but that’s the exception and not the rule.

I’m not expecting founders to start coding in Python overnight, but you need at least some basic understanding if you want to even approach an outsourced vendor. Hence, the above slide deck.

It provides non-technical founders an idea of what technology is available and some of the lingo that goes with it. Without some basic knowledge you are going to be taken for a ride and your precious angel investors will not be happy.

A New Breed of "Banks"

bank-logos2Money – it’s been around for 1000’s of years and drives most people to do things, good or bad. When you have money, you also need banks to provide a safe place for people to deposit their money. These banks then turn around and lend this money to others. This simple business model is how banks have operated for 1000’s of years and thrived on the difference of what interest they gave to depositors and what interest they received on outstanding loans. Over time, banks started to offer more and more products to generate more and more revenues. Many of these products were not that simple and in the process were given a fancy name – structured products, which just means they are customized for each customer based on their specific needs. Then BOOM, the financial markets collapsed and many of the banks faced near bankruptcy because of their loosing lending practices and their structured products which started to come undone. In the aftermath of this financial carnage a new group of “banks” are emerging in the US to get back to basics in banking.

The four that have emerged include – Bluebird, GoBank, Moven and Simple. All are pretty similar in that they have low fees, no physical locations, heavy use of technology but a couple are not actual banks. To be called a bank you need to be a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) which means the deposits are insured by the US Government for up to USD 250,000.

Bluebird – Bluebird is a partnership between American Express & Walmart, the distribution strength of Walmart and the credit card experience of American Express (AmEx) is what makes this offering interesting. The product is a no-fee checking account that has a debit card. The target audience is low-income shoppers who have a tough time getting a regular credit card. Bluebird is a bank since at the height of the financial crisis AmEx was turned into a bank holding company so it could accept money from the Federal Reserve.

GoBank – Green Dot first made it big with it’s prepaid cards it offered to low-income consumers, then it forayed into other parts of the banking sector. Green Dot acquired Bonneville Bank, an FDIC member bank, and renamed it to Green Dot Bank. GoBank is brand of the Green Dot Bank. The offering is similar to Bluebird in that it offers an online checking account, debit card and access to most ATM’s in the US.

Moven – Moven started out as Movenbank then changed its name because it’s not a bank. It has partnered with an unnamed FDIC member bank. Moven offers the usual banking products but really shines around the money management tools it offers. MoneyPulse is one of their tools which tells you where you are spending your money. Moven was started by Brett King who has authored several books on the future of banking, his latest book is called Bank 3.0.

Simple – Simple also started out with a different name, it was first known as BankSimple. But it also is not a bank and has partnered with The Bancorp Bank, a member FDIC bank. Early on Simple attracted a lot of attention as one of it’s early founders Alex Payne was an early employee at Twitter. Alex left Twitter to startup Simple which was seen as a stamp of approval for Simple in that it solves a real world problem. Alex has since left the company. I signed up for the service but I really don’t use it much since I don’t live in the US and most of my transactions are Rupee denominated, however the overall interface has definitely got some great eye candy.

Bottom line – Most of these new age banks are offering a convenient mobile platform via iOS and Android devices to allow consumers to interact with their bank information. In addition, most of them have spent a large amount of time and resources on the UI of their website and mobile apps. However, I still believe it’s early days with these banks and feel they need to also address the investment portfolio part as well. By adding the investment piece, it creates an end to end solution which many consumers are still looking for.