12 Jun 2019
Welcome back to our second ever WordPress Heroes story, featuring your friendly, neighbourhood WordPress community leaders. We created this series for those intrigued about the process of creating an SaaS company or a WordPress plugin, some of which we use daily.
So grab your coffee mug or wine glass and take a moment to hear from our next successful entrepreneur. Frank Goossens is the person responsible for growing and furthering Autoptimize, a clever tool that can increase your page speed loading time, and as a result increase your Google PageSpeed insight score. Without further ado, let’s hear from Frank!
1. Hello Frank! Please tell our readers about yourself.
My name is Frank Goossens, I’m 50 years old and I live in Belgium (Europe). I’m the developer of Autoptimize as well as other free and open source WordPress plugins. I also have a company called Optimizing Matters to take care of the commercial side of things.
I started experimenting with website-development way back in 1995 and soon after got offered a job in the emerging web-world. I have worked as product manager, project manager, technical consultant and web solution architect for more than 20 years now, both for web agencies and companies in the consumer brand business. I still ❤️the web and the incredible technology behind it.
2. How did you find your way into the WordPress industry, and tell us about your companies.
I tried different blogging platforms from 2003 onwards and eventually switched to WordPress in 2007. It was just blogging at first but I soon started doing small tweaks (I wanted a category cloud instead of a tag cloud for example) and I became more and more obsessed with my site’s performance. By 2010 I published my first plugin on the wordpress.org repository called WP YouTube LYTE, which allows you to embed YouTube videos without slowing your page load times.
In 2012, I started using Autoptimize and in 2013 I took over development from the original author who had lost interest in it. I have been improving and extending it ever since. Autoptimize can do JS, CSS & HTML minification (with or without concatenation), but can also optimize Google Fonts, Images and more. It is currently active on over 1 million WordPress sites and has an average growth rate of 0.8% per week.
In 2016, I decided to start a company for the commercial aspects around my plugins, allowing me to build partnerships with Shortpixel, Optimocha and Critical Css to name a few. It has also helped me to offer web performance optimization services while keeping the plugins themselves 100% free and open source.
3. What does your daily routine look like?
A very rough estimate would have 50% of my day doing free support (mostly on the wordpress.org forums), 30% on commercial activities (handling leads for our optimization services, invoicing, discussing and growing partnerships), and 20% on development.
50% support might seem like a lot, but I think it’s one of the reasons for Autoptimize’s and thus Optimizing Matters’ success; performance optimization is not always easy and helping people when they encounter problems makes for happy users who are often willing to share their positive experience in reviews or blog posts of their own or to take it a step further and hire us to optimize their sites even more. Moreover, the daily communication with users gives me great insight in what issues they encounter, which feeds back into the product roadmap.
4. What is one of the most surprising things about you?
I guess it would be that, next to my plugins and Optimizing Matters, the fact that I still have a full-time job might indeed come as a surprise. Indirectly, changes in my day-time employment (being outsourced in 2014 and the uncertainty of a long-term future at the company who took us in) lead to the start of Optimizing Matters. I wanted to make sure that when getting fired I would have a great place to work at: my own.
5. What advice can you provide those looking to start their own SaaS business?
I’m a firm believer in scratching one’s own itch: have fun, experiment, find a problem and try to solve that. When your solution works for you put it out there and see if it’s useful for others. If it is not you’ve at least solved your own problem and gained knowledge & experience. If it is, you just might have found a product for yourself to nurture, grow and conquer the world with (or at least a small part of it).
6. What were the 3 biggest decisions you had to make to advance your career or business?
The first was starting up a business; my intention had always been to just make great free open source software, as a hobby.
The second, (not) quitting my day-time job (yet). This is a decision I’m still deliberating on very regularly actually.
And finally, finding the right partners, which turns out to be a matter of building trust-based relationships first and foremost, which is way more important than the pure commercial aspects.
7. What are your favourite tools and apps you use on the daily?
For development I use Git, Travis CI (thanks to Tomas for teaching me), Notepad++ when I’m forced to work on Windows, Geany on my Ubuntu laptop, VI when on the server command line.
And I’m an avid Ubuntu Linux and Firefox user.
8. What are your next steps and goals for the short and long-term future?
Quit my day-time job one day, maybe. Growing the business, very likely. Continue supporting and improving my plugins, most certainly.
Thank you Frank for sharing your story with us! We hope you all enjoyed it, and if there’s anyone else you’d like us to interview next, let us know in the comments below. Stay tuned for the next edition of WordPress Heroes, and in the meantime, see more inspiring stories from our customers who took that leap to begin their business using WordPress.