Vito Peleg - My experience at WordCamp Europe 2019

My WordCamp Europe 2019 Experience

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How to have a blast while launching a product at WordCamp

Ok, let’s start with WOW WOW WOW!!!

I had the privilege of attending the London event a couple of months prior to that, as well as some big tech conferences over the years. This was, however, my first big WordCamp – this was also my first WordCamp as an agency owner/product maker, literally, 3 weeks after launching WP Feedback.

This time, for the first time, I took a more strategic approach to attend the event as the idea was not so much about the talks, but more about meeting other product makers, learn from their experience and, hopefully, create some partnerships that will help accelerate the visibility of my product.

I’m writing this post to help others that want to get the most out of future WordCamps and as a way to thank the unbelievably talented and friendly people I talked to over the weekend. I am very grateful to have met you guys ❤️

And finally, as a written note for myself, so that I don’t forget how valuable this event was. I have a feeling that looking back at this in a couple of years will be a great reminder of where it all started for WP Feedback. 

Before the event

I started preparing for the event 6 weeks before it started.

The idea was to create an “attack plan” to get the most out of it and target specific people I was interested in meeting.

Luckily for me and one of the coolest things about WordCamps is that usually, the attendees-list is published on the site, but knowing that there will be more than 3,000 people I had to start early and figure out what I wanted to happen.

This approach was new to me and the idea actually came from attending Radost Dacheva’s talk at WordCamp London in April “MAKE The Force Be With You: Successful Establishing Of Partnerships”. 

Radost is the partnership manager for SiteGround and even though I didn’t really know what to expect going to that particular talk, it ended up being one of the more transformative talks I’ve ever been to. Especially because it broke down a lot of misconceptions I had about partnerships.

Coming from the music industry (Leading a rock band in my previous career), if you wanna support a bigger band, you have 3 options: 

  1. Either you make sure you’re at least 70% of their size so that you can help sell tickets 
  2. OR you’re sharing the same management or booking agency so that they promote the band to help raise its profile and get them on other opportunities relating to option 1 above.
  3. OR you pay for the slot (What we call a “buy-on”). With the idea of recouping at least some of the tour costs for the headliners.

It’s very rare that a partnership can be established between an artist that is playing bars and small venues and, let’s say, Guns N Roses.

The decision is usually done by the management or booking agency and doesn’t really have anything to do with the quality of music (or product).

So in my mind, any partnership that I can afford to think about is with other starting companies or smaller products.

Look for the “Stairway To Heaven”. A business has an audience and you have something valuble to market to that audience.
That, will provide added value to you, the business and mostly, the audience.

Radost Dacheva

But Radost expanded my approach to this, saying you need to look for “The Stairway To Heaven” (which I already loved due to the Led Zep reference). The one, or few partners that will not just take you one step forward, but will skyrocket you to a whole new realm of existence.

The motive is based on the fact that larger companies already have a client base and if you have something worthwhile that will provide value to their own audience, they might want to partner with you, even if you’re not as big as them. 

After meeting Amir (OnthegoSystems – WPML/Toolset), he invited me to appear on their new podcast and talk about my approach to WordCamp

Make a list of potential partners

She also suggested looking at the attendees-list to “hunt down” your potential partners. And that’s what I did!

Going through a list of 3,000+ random names and twitter handles takes time. A LOT of time!

But this gave me a very targeted list along with faces I need to look for when walking the halls of the event.

I also started following the #WCEU hashtag to see who’s posting about the event and start building these relationships before the event even started.

Go with friends (even new friends)

Being from London I made arrangements with the WP&UP team that were coming from the city as I was still a bit scared of going at it alone. During the local WordPress Meetup, I spoke to Paul that invited me to book the same flight. 

I also shared a hotel room with my buddy David from Page Builder Framework, which we met a couple of months prior to that at Lee Jackson’s agency event and stayed in touch since.

Sharing the room = Sharing the fun = Sharing the costs 😎

Having someone to go with gave me a lot more confidence before and during the event.
It also made the experience a lot more fun as we hung out regularly and became a pretty tight group there.

The party starts early (Wednesday)

Even though the event started on Friday, the WP&UP team and I landed in Berlin on Wednesday morning along with a few other friends, so that we can get the “lay of the land” and make the most out of this once-a-year opportunity. 

For me to expand my plugin’s outreach and for them to expand the charity’s outreach. If you haven’t heard of their amazing cause by now, they are tackling loneliness and mental health issues within the WordPress community. 

A well-needed cause considering a lot of us are either freelancers working from home or agency owners running our own businesses – Both are extremely lonely paths in a lot of cases. 

Here’s a quick link to support this amazing cause >> https://friends.wpandup.org/become-a-friend/

Coming in early allowed us to check out the venue, have a couple of drinks with other early comers in a more personal setting before all hell broke loose. 

On the WP&UP podcast with Nathan as the MC, Raj from Runcloud and Giles from WP&UP

Our London party was invited to have a drink with the guys from Beaver Builder that already found a hidden gem on the river in Berlin. 

This was really exciting for me, the place was awesome, but more than that I got to meet Justin and Robby and discovered we shared a similar journey with a passion for music and growing from freelancer to agency before transitioning to a product in the space. 

This is one of the hidden benefits of WordCamps, reassuring that I’m on the right path by others that already achieved what I set out to achieve for myself and my business. 

The party didn’t stop there and right before midnight, we continued to the next spot to enjoy an amazing rooftop party by WPMUDEV overseeing the entire city.

Meeting James, the man behind one of the biggest companies in the ecosystem was incredible!

We were all pretty drunk by then and secrets were shared (which I won’t repeat here 🤐😅) about some WPdrama in the WordPress community. 

Leo, David, Nathan and I partying at WPMUDEV’s soiree (David has a migraine 🍻😂)

Meeting inspirational figures in a genuine and free setting gave me even more confidence to approach the biggest names in the industry in the days to come. 

Contributor day (Thursday)

By the time I got my ticket to the event, Contributor Day tickets were sold out. However, this was yet another opportunity to hang out in the lobby and meet some interesting people.

After the WPMUDEV party the night before, we were already hungover and the event hadn’t even started yet!

So David and I slugged our way to the venue to get some morning coffee and met up with Andrew and Sean from Elegant Marketplace.

I already got to know Andrew when I met David at Lee’s event a couple of months prior, so it was great to catch up and further explore how we can collaborate.

Amazingly enough Robby from Beaver Builder walked by and joined us for a bit, enough to get to know each other a little better, listen to his story, exchange contact details and give him a quick demo of my new plugin. 

Slow morning with Robby (Beaver Builder), David (Page Builder Framework) and Saun and Andrew (Page Builder Cloud)
Slow morning with Robby (Beaver Builder), David (Page Builder Framework) and Sean and Andrew (Page Builder Cloud)

That was pretty much the same experience for the rest of the day as we were hanging out in the lobby and either we joined or were joined by some of the top people in the industry.

Again, the event hasn’t started yet and it was already dead clear that this event was going to be a pivotal experience for my new product and, well, for my life. 

When the evening came, I continued the pattern of 2 gatherings/meetups per night, which I wanted to attend. 

Starting with a delicious dinner that Andrew (Elegant Marketplace) and Tanya (Miss Divi) put together. This was different to the other events as this was in a small and closed setting with a couple of peeps from SiteGround, Raj (Runcloud) which became a really good friend during and after the event, and gave me some great advice for my launch, Piccia Neri that I already had the pleasure of meeting before Berlin and was great to hang out, as well as a few other friends that joined our little crew for the rest of the weekend. 

Andrew Palmer from Elegant Marketplace got us fed up 🤰 — with Bernhard Gronau, Sean Barton, Vito Peleg, Piccia Neri WP and Rajendra Zore.
Thanks for dinner Andrew ❤️

Straight from there, we went to Elementor’s meetup. 

I was excited to meet the guys behind this product from which I took a lot of inspiration for my own approach to WP Feedback. 

Other than the insane growth that they experienced in just a couple of years (reaching an astounding 2mil+ users), from the outside, it looked like they’re approaching their product like a proper startup or a SaaS business, rather than the more common approach to plugins in the ecosystem of “let’s put it out there and see what happens”. 

Day 1 – Let the mingling begin! (Friday)

Ok, so now the event actually started, I was already tired with 2 days of 20 hours on my feet. It really reminded me of my touring days, especially the summer tours, jumping from one festival to the other. 

It keeps surprising me how so many things I did as a musician touring with a band, were so similar to launching and running a product. Best school I could ask for!

During the beta for WP Feedback, we surveyed 587 freelancers and agencies from around the world to see how they run their own WordPress business. 

For me, this was mostly market research, to understand if the problem we wanted to solve with WP Feedback wasn’t just in my mind (luckily, or unfortunately, it’s a huuuuge problem). 

Ben and Matan from Elementor checking out their position on the “Which page builder do you use” survey question.

But the thing is that the results were really interesting so in the spirit of WordPress, I decided to print out 500 copies of a 25-page booklet wrapped as a “Benchmark Report for WP Pros” and hand it out during the event. Releasing the data back to the community (this will soon become a blog post here, so be sure to subscribe if you’re not on our list yet). 

Having this resource was an incredible conversation starter and allowed me to introduce myself to loads more people during the event. 

Most people do flyers, I wanted to provide value with some actionable advice and statistics that I wish I had myself a few years ago when I started building my agency. 

But of course, the last page was dedicated to introducing WP Feedback to the community. 

The entire day was dedicated to the “Hallway Track”, meeting Amir (WPML/Toolset), we bonded quickly being both from Israel and as an avid user of both of his products for years I had a bit of a “fanboy” moment there haha 😅

With Amir the founder of WPML and Toolset

Mark from WordFence was an awesome guy to meet, being a former musician himself (crazy how many successful product makers started in bands), he amazingly guessed the model of the first guitar I ever had AND invited me to appear on his podcast and tell my story. 

Hanging out with Mark on the Wordfence podcast

During the day, I handed out a little more than 300 of my little booklets so I won’t dig toooo deep about every interaction, it was just mind-blowing!

The evening came and… 2 meetups are coming up!

Mark, Raj, David, and Bernhard (Pods) started the evening at Oliver’s (WebARX) security meetup where I got to pick the brains of some of the leading security guys in the community with a few questions I had about my product. 

We then continued to GoDaddy’s event for the rest of the night. Along with Nathan (WPBuilds) and Dan, Nigel, and Paul (WP&UP). 

This gave me the opportunity to meet face to face with Adam (GoDaddy), after giving me some solid advice for his experience running Foo Plugins over a Skype call a few weeks before the event. 

This gave birth to becoming one of the very few plugins to be featured on GoDaddy’s blog (OMG!!!)

With Adam – Former Foo Plugins and current GoDaddy

I also got some invaluable advice about running a proper support team from the head of support for Yoast. With 9,000,000 users to support, I don’t know who in the world would have been better to talk about this. 

Amazing!

Day 2 – Can this get any better??? (Saturday)

The final day of the event was here and I still had 200 more booklets to hand out. 

I already met every person I wanted to meet, or so I thought!

The hard work from the first 3 days was starting to create a ripple effect as I was now being introduced to more and more influential members of the community. 

Meeting Steven and being invited as a guest on the WP Engine podcast, on Joe’s (WP Buffs) podcast, hang out with Sujay (Astra) that was happy to see they were kicking ass on our survey and had some time to sit down with Radost (SiteGround). 

You might remember that I mentioned in the beginning that her talk was hugely influential for me even being there in Berlin as a way to meet the community, make new friends and create partnerships

The first substantial partnership that grew from the event was also inspired on this day, meeting Raleigh (Codeable) was a real pleasure, Per, Codeable’s CEO introduced us and our vibes clicked instantly. 

Acting fast and as a pro, we are now an official partner of Codeable(!!!) and WP Feedback is recommended to all of their huge network of top-level WordPress professionals as the best way to talk to clients.

I really liked how they leveraged the event to get the team to fly from all over the world and meet in person. 

This is such a great idea that I noticed a few companies have done and having a mostly distributed team myself, this is something that I already started to save up for, hopefully flying the team to Thailand for WordCamp Asia in February 2020. 

Rocking in out with Chris at the 80’s themed after party

Before the day was over, I finished handing out 500 of the surveys I brought along and was ready to finally relax for the Afterparty!

By this point, I literally couldn’t feel my legs, very much sleep deprived with about 4 hours of sleep per night since Tuesday and probably lost a couple of pounds as lunch and dinner time were ideal for handing out booklets. 

I was physically and emotionally drained but couldn’t feel more empowered by the positive feedback and the possibilities for the future. 

Just when I thought it was all over, I saw Vova from Freemius.

When I was researching the plugin world, his blog was just incredible. If you’re thinking of launching a product, go read all of it!

So we’re geeking out about funnels and the plugin world as a few more product makers joined the discussion for a final wrap up of the weekend.

Xavier from Mailster, James from Iconic and Vova and Brandon from Freemius

While all of this is going on I spotted Matt (the man behind WordPress) at the party. 

Being in business is a hard game. And succeeding in business is even harder. 

It’s a constant uphill battle and it takes strength and passion to create something meaningful in this world. 

I’ve been using WordPress for more than 10 years. It allowed me to build a business as an immigrant that literally came to the country with nothing and grow to a team of 12, serving hundreds of clients through my agency and now through WP Feedback. 

As I was walking toward him and quickly reflecting on everything that has happened in the last few days and everything that is bound to happen in the upcoming year due to the relationships I started here, I felt so grateful that my eyes were literally tearing up. 

The only thing I could think of when I approached him was to simply say:

“Hey Matt, I’m Vito. 
I just wanted to shake your hand. 
Have a look around us” 
While thousands of people are tired and happy after a long yet fulfilling weekend.
“What you have built is incredible. 
I want to thank you for changing my life, thank you for changing ALL of our lives”. 

He looked me in the eyes and thanked me for saying that just before I snuck a quick picture to remember this moment. 

With Matt – The man behind WordPress 🤓

I am grateful to say that after this breathtaking experience the future looks very bright. 

For me, my team and for WP Feedback

In the upcoming weeks and months, you and I will witness the outcome as discussions turn to actions and reality. 

More than that, I’m very proud to say that we are now officially sponsoring WordCamp US in St. Louis this November as our first of many sponsorships, giving back to this one-of-a-kind community. 

AND, I was just notified that I was chosen to speak next month at WordCamp Brighton, sharing growth hacking tools that I learned while busking in the streets when I first moved to the UK and how I used these lessons to scale my WordPress business fast, in the hopes that this will help others accelerate their own growth ❤️

The talk is based on an article I wrote, which you can find here if you wanna dig in. 

Conclusion – Dos and don’t

  • Don’t bury your face in a screen (laptop or phone), that’s what the rest of the year is for.
  • Don’t buy your shoes 2 days before the event. I literally couldn’t stand for a few days after!
  • Don’t skim through this article. If you’re going to launch a product in the ecosystem or already have one, I’m positive that this is going to bring you a lot of value. 
  • Do smile and approach people to shake some hands – You are going to meet some amazing people.
  • Do bring some printed material but don’t be spammy, make sure that what you’re doing is going to provide genuine value to the community. 
  • Do clear out your schedule the day after as you’ll probably be sleeping for 24 hours straight. 
Doing some heavy lifting with the WPMUDEV mascot 💪

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