First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Mario Peshev: We’re doing better than what we can expect. Given the times, of course, we are all trying to be as cautious as possible. That requires a lot of extra attention and a lot of safety measures. From a mental standpoint, I know that a lot of people around me are really concerned, not just because of the lockdown, but everything else happening around. This became the new normal for all of us, but I believe that we will all be strong enough to get through this together.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded DevriX
Mario Peshev: I started DevriX back in 2010 as a dev shop, and a couple of years later, we went into specializing in WordPress driven solutions. Since then, we have positioned ourselves as a top 20 WordPress agency for the enterprise.
We’ve worked with telecoms, automotive companies, multiple banks, and more businesses over the years, along with high-traffic websites, generating hundreds of millions of page views per month.
My career started in IT back from an early age. I was lucky enough to have access to a computer back when I was six. I spent most of my conscious life tinkering with computers and trying to break stuff and begging people who understand better to help me out until I learned the ropes and managed to get stuff done by myself.
Over time, I worked as a developer in different organizations, primarily in the enterprise space, and I saw the need to build rapid prototypes and minimum viable products on top of a platform capable of accomplishing that.
At the same time, I saw a niche within the WordPress space for websites that are outgrowing their existing hosting and technical capabilities, but still want to retain WordPress as their main technical stack. So that’s essentially the story of how we started. Right now, we are a team of 50, the pioneers of WordPress retainer as a service, which is why 95% of our revenue is recurring.
We’re firm believers that this is the way that agencies should work across the world. Additionally, we have also launched a couple of new, exciting products, again, SaaS-based on WordPress as an application framework, and I couldn’t be more excited about the future of the product space over the coming year.
How does DevriX innovate?
Mario Peshev: First of all, we have fully aligned our business process to be retainer ready. The difference between what’s currently available on the market and ourselves does not necessarily limit the scope to WordPress agencies.
We offload entire teams throughout our retainer offerings. Most companies in the market do one of the following three things:
- One-off products – the traditional waterfall project, RFPs, and everything else happening on the market.
- Leasing staff members – you can hire a full time or half time member from an outsourcing company. Unfortunately, you get no supervision and additional help from other parties, no additional training from the company, or whatsoever.
- Purely support/on-call/ maintenance-driven services, which is most suitable for uptime monitoring and general enhancements and improvements across the platform.
All of those applications have pros and cons. What we have done instead is selling a ballpark of hours every month throughout recurring contracts. Whereas we assign the most applicable team roles available in-house, depending on the initiatives we need to cover throughout the month.
For example, a 100-hour per month retainer may require 60 hours of design work and 30 hours of front end work, and 10 hours of system administration for building and developing several new landing pages. However, the next month the 100-hour retainer may actually require two backend developers and one marketing expert capable of building the user experience and the backend in the most suitable manner so that these landing pages are actually made editable in the best possible manner.
So essentially, the root of everything here is being as flexible as possible, building technical partnerships with our clients, and ensuring that ROI is what we focus on the most. That way, they don’t have to hire an army of engineers, administrators, project managers, quality assurance specialists, and marketers to get every single job done.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects DevriX, and how are you coping?
Mario Peshev: We lost some of our recurring work, some of our contracts got shrunk by say 80% or so because our services are still needed no matter what. That definitely was a terrible consequence of the Coronavirus, but still a very understandable one.
We have clients with on-site offices within the entertainment industry, interacting with people on-site, live, so their businesses were pretty much put on lockdown for three months or so. We’re talking about large corporations – some of them have IPOs already.
Luckily, we are restoring some of that workload now, some of our clients slowly increase the contract back to where they were in the beginning. There’s still a long way to go, but it’s very important for us to provide the right type of recovery and contingency plans while they’re on hold and still be able to renew our services whenever their revenue starts to power back again.
That being said, the difference that COVID-19 brought is that there’s no visibility as to when to expect things to get back to normal, which is why a lot of businesses are really cautious and just trying to save some funds, all from a safety standpoint, in order to be able to get back to full force once we are back to normal and there are no lockdowns across the world.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Mario Peshev: My business as a solopreneur started right in the midst of the previous recession, so this was really valuable as a lesson to me, learning how quickly everything can turn into dust and how large corporations may file for bankruptcy and collapse. This is why over the past 10 years, I’ve spent a lot of time building contingency measures and proper financial planning, putting the right buffers in place, in order to be able to ensure that we have the safety net in place to survive the next recession.
Of course, nothing is fully predictable. Sometimes things may actually get worse, and we may have to make some tough decisions, but our agency was started as distributed first, meaning that switching to fully remote for a few months wasn’t a deal-breaker.
Additionally, the business model itself allows enough flexibility in terms of the types of work we can accomplish. Financial planning means we have a safe buffer in place to sustain the storm. Traditionally, we work on diversification, like offering different services in the meantime and focusing more on our product base to be able to weather the storm.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and DevriX in the future?
Mario Peshev: I’ve been through burnouts previously, so stress and anxiety are no stranger to me. The COVID crisis was definitely tough and has put all of us to the test, especially with schools being closed and not being able to go outside. This definitely falls into the definition of a stressful situation.
Essentially, what drives me further is mostly the belief in our mission of supporting small and medium enterprises, publishers, and growing startups, and making sure we are accomplishing something for them so that we can help them scale and be successful. So kind of trying to project that into what we accomplished is what matters instead of how we feel. We understand that how we feel right now is projected by something that isn’t unique to us but is global to the entire world.
In terms of the future, as I mentioned, we are working on two exciting products and just relaunched one of them, SaaS BPM, a business process management tool kit for startups and growing businesses. So we are definitely excited to push this venture further and accelerate that alongside our agency business over the remaining months of 2020 and across 2021.
Who are your competitors? And how do you play to stay in the game?
Mario Peshev: I don’t really believe in competition. It’s definitely a small world, and whenever we do serve a given purpose, our main goal is to support other businesses or individuals themselves. So that being said, if there is a better business that serves a fraction of the population, that’s great. Otherwise, it is what it is.
For instance, we did acquire the WP-CRM system, which is a popular plugin providing CRM services for WordPress customers, and in the same week, the news broke in with the acquisition of Jetpack, an Automattic brand for another CRM in the WordPress space. So obviously, we were kind of competing for the same thing, but at the same time, bringing the CRM market to the masses is what matters the most because more businesses implementing more CRM solutions mean more stable processes, predictability, many businesses saving themselves from the crisis.
In the end, it’s all for the greater good. It’s better to have this than trying to be a pioneer in the market or trying to create a completely new category and failing simply due to the lack of a sufficient budget and time.
Your final thoughts?
Mario Peshev: Stay strong as the COVID crisis is not over yet. However, we’re getting there, we learned a lot about coping with the new normal. Stay around, maybe in a few months from now, it’s all going to be past us. Focus on what matters the most, focus on the bigger picture, and your long-term plans. It’s just an intermediate obstacle, and we are certainly going to live through this. Fingers crossed for everyone, and let’s hope for the best during 2021.