WP Engine Opens an Office at Geekdom in San Antonio

By LAURA LOREK
Founder of Silicon Hills News

wp_engine_logo_bbWP Engine, founded in 2010 at Capital Factory, has 150 employees in Austin and it’s hiring.

The plucky startup also has another 10 employees in a satellite office in California.

And WP Engine has just opened a San Antonio office at Geekdom, a technology incubator and coworking space.

WP Engine doesn’t want to add people just for the sake of having additional headcount, said April Downing, the company’s Chief Financial Officer.

“That’s why we looked to San Antonio,” she said. “There’s a really good culture fit. “

WP Engine, a managed hosting platform for websites and apps built with WordPress, has more than 20,000 customers. It expects to have up to 20 employees in San Antonio by the end of the year, Downing said. Right now, the company has two offices on the seventh floor of Geekdom’s new headquarters in the historic Rand building, which can hold up to eight people. But as Geekdom builds out the sixth floor and additional floors for larger technology companies, WP Engine expects to expand its operations there.

WP Engine Chief Financial Officer April Downing

WP Engine Chief Financial Officer April Downing

Last summer, WP Engine moved out of Capital Factory and into 15,000 square feet at 504 Lavaca in downtown Austin. At the time, WP Engine had 50 employees; it has tripled in size since then and hired several key executives including Downing. WP Engine also hired Heather Brunner, who became CEO last October. Previously, Brunner served as COO of Bazaar Voice. Jason Cohen, who founded the company with Ben Metcalfe, now serves as Chief Technology Officer.

WP Engine also raised $15 million in venture funding in January, bringing its total investment to $16.2 million. That money has helped fuel the company’s expansion and fast growth.

Last week, WP Engine held a meet and greet recruiting event at the Peal Brewery and more than 50 people attended. The company got some great potential job candidates out of the event, but they also enjoyed meeting community members, Downing said.

“Our event last week was amazing,” Downing said. It proved the company’s decision to move to San Antonio was the right one, she said.

“It was a neat community embrace that we got,” Downing said.

WP Engine has had quite a few transplants from San Antonio who moved up to Austin to work at the company, she said. It also has a few who still commute daily, she said. The San Antonio office will allow those people to work closer to their home. A few people from the Austin office also want to move to San Antonio, she said.

San Antonio reminds Downing, who has lived in Austin for 15 years, of the early days of Austin’s high tech industry.

“There’s a lot of investment being made in San Antonio around technology,” Downing said. “Fifteen years ago that wasn’t the case.”

Rackspace has served as a major catalyst for San Antonio’s technology industry. And it’s producing a lot of technology talent.

WP Engine recently hired former Rackspace Senior Vice President of Marketing, Klee Kleber to serve as its Chief Marketing Officer. And it finds the talent coming out of the Open Cloud Academy and the Linux Ladies program, sponsored by Rackspace, attractive, Downing said.

The Central Texas area is becoming more of a tech region with Austin as the thriving technology hub and San Antonio as the emerging market, Downing said.

“It’s really exciting to see it happening in real time,” she said.

With the fast-paced growth, WP Engine works hard to preserve its company culture, Downing said.

Each week the company hosts a town hall conference call that everybody dials into. During the call, they share everything that has been happening in the company, Downing said.

WP Engine also hosts training sessions called “Full Frontal Nerdity” that are open to everyone and once every four months the company hosts a weeklong gathering, Downing said.

“We do a lot of team building exercises during that week,” she said. “It’s something you have to continue to cultivate.”

WP Engine is moving into Geekdom, where Pressable, formerly known as Zippy Kid, is housed. Vid Luther, Pressable’s CEO and founder, started the company around the same time as WP Engine.

But WP Engine doesn’t see Pressable as a direct competitor. WP Engine focuses more on enterprise businesses and medium sized businesses.

There’s still plenty of room for growth in the industry, Downing said. WordPress powers 22 percent of all Internet sites. If any company got one percent of that business, that would be a pretty big market, Downing said.

Silicon Hills News Contributor Tim Green did this profile of WP Engine last March.

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