I’m excited to announce that Simple Calendar has been acquired by SureSwift Capital. As a solo founder, why did I choose to make this transition? In a word: Focus.
For too long we’ve been trying to run two separate products: Simple Calendar (Google Calendar events for WordPress) and WP Simple Pay (Stripe payments for WordPress). In their current state, both products serve two very different sets of customers with very little overlap.
For about the last year, we’ve diverted most of our attention to WP Simple Pay. We’ve been able to keep up with support and minor features for Simple Calendar, but we’ve felt spread too thin. With our small team, we simply got to the point where we could not give either product the full attention they each deserve.
Around November 2016, I decided that we needed to choose one of our products to focus on and start looking for a new home for the other. At that time, WP Simple Pay was bringing in about 75% of our total revenue, while Simple Calendar made up the remaining 25%. In addition, as much as our team enjoyed working in the calendar and event space, we enjoyed working with Stripe and the payments space even more.
Finding the Right Buyer
We weren’t just going to hand over the reins to the highest bidder. I personally reached out to several companies that had very established calendar and event WordPress products. It took about 6 months before I found the right buyer, but I wasn’t rushing things and wanted to approach these folks privately before posting to the open market.
I also asked the potential acquirers to agree to a couple things. The free plugin on wordpress.org should be maintained and regularly updated. Premium add-on customers should be given ongoing support. These may sound like a given, but it’s not too uncommon to see products die a slow death after an acquisition.
I first met SureSwift Capital’s co-founder Kevin McArdle at MicroConf in Las Vegas last April. In fact, we first connected virtually in the conference’s private Slack group in the weeks leading up to the event. I was organizing a dinner meetup during the conference focused on WordPress products and he reached out.
Note to conference organizers: In my opinion, both an attendee directory and private chat room dedicated to the conference are invaluable for us attendees. It makes it so much easier for us to connect with the right folks and make the best use of our time. Besides the WordPress-focused dinner I organized at MicroConf, there were attendee-scheduled meetups for Shopify apps, info products, e-commerce businesses, and more.
As Kevin and I talked at MicroConf, one very appealing fact about SureSwift was their track record of buying and building up existing SaaS apps and WordPress plugins. This was by no means their first rodeo. They recently acquired Mailparser, an email parsing automation tool, as well as WPtouch, an over 9-year-old mobile theming plugin.
On top of that, SureSwift already had in place a very qualified development team. Later on, veteran WordPress developer and core contributor Zach Wills would assist me with all the technical aspects of the transfer, and he continues to lead the Simple Calendar project going forward. Existing users and customers are in extremely good hands!
After we decided it was a good fit, SureSwift had an FE International broker/M&A firm review the details of the business and help us come up with a fair sale price based on monthly revenue history, mailing list subscribers, core plugin active users, etc.
Here are some interviews to dive in more about the process of selling small product companies (updated May 30, 2018).
- WordPress Plugin Acquisitions – Live webinar including myself and founder Pippin Williamson.
- RS116: Cashing Out with Phil Derksen – Rogue Startups podcast episode discussing buying and selling online assets.
- I Want to Sell My WordPress Product Business – Now What? – Guest post by myself and other WordPress product founders.
- How Kevin McArdle Quit His Job and Bought 28 Businesses in Two Years – Podcast interview from the acquirer of Simple Calendar.
- The Do’s and Don’ts of Selling Your Company with Thomas Smale – Podcast interview from the broker/M&A firm that handles the acquisition.
It’s tough to hand over complete ownership of any product you and your team have put so much time into building, supporting, and selling. We spent almost 3 years on Simple Calendar and built up to over 1,000,000 downloads, 80,000 active installs, and 2,000 paying customers.
But it was definitely the right move to allow our team to focus 100% on WP Simple Pay. I have no doubt the users and customers of both Simple Calendar and WP Simple Pay will benefit from this separation of responsibilities.
As a bonus to the premium add-on customers of Simple Calendar, the team from wpSaaS (WordPress product support-as-a-service) will continue to provide tier one support for Simple Calendar.
In short, I couldn’t be happier with handing over the reins to the folks at SureSwift. With an experienced product team and support folks, the future of Simple Calendar looks pretty bright.