Envira Gallery has gained a reputation over the years as being one of the most reliable, fast and easy to use plugins available for building photo and video galleries. The plugin has basic features fit for almost everyone and then extra, powerful additions to give advanced users even more control over their photo and video content.
Nathan Singh, the owner of Envira Gallery, was kind enough to tell us about his really interesting career path that led him to owning one of the more popular WordPress plugins around. Plugin acquisition is a pretty hot topic around here at The Plugin Economy so it’s very useful to get another inside perspective on the process.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself, your business background and what made you purchase a WordPress plugin?
Sure, I’d be happy to. I started off of my career as an engineer, working first for the Department of Defense doing mostly Aerospace air to ground communication and then later working on the International Space Station with Boeing Space Operations.
Somewhere in the middle of my Aerospace career, I really had an itch to own my own business. I just wasn’t sure what type of business. After a bit of searching and sifting through the various business options, I found an opportunity to purchase a rudimentary screenwriting iOS app. This was in 2010 and the iPad had recently come out.
I discovered a lot of potential for this little app and also found users who were really frustrated with the bugs and a lack of features they needed for their workflow. I bought the app business and put together a small team to redesign the application and essentially rewrite it from the ground up to better fit the needs for not only hobbyist screenwriters but also professional Hollywood screenwriters.
Once the redesign was complete we had something closer to a full featured screenwriting app then before. You could write your entire screenplay on and it would do all of the industry standard pagination and formatting needed for professional screenwriters and studios.
Within the next several years the app really started growing and gained solid traction. I was getting TV scripts sent to our support for popular television shows before they would even come out. I was also getting great feedback from a lot of writers from different studios like MGM, DreamWorks, and even an Oscar winning writer about their workflow and what else they could really benefit from in the app.
Scripts Pro became one of the most popular screenwriting apps in the App Store. It was awarded “Best New App” and featured several times in the Apple App Store. After several years, I felt that it was time to move on and soon started getting acquisition offers for it. Scripts Pro was acquired in 2014.
After that I started looking for other opportunities for an online business and found it in OrdersIn. Orders licensed e-commerce platforms for restaurants and retailers. We had everyone using our platform from local entrepreneurs to delivery companies globally. I grew that company out and it was acquired in 2017.
Once again, I started to look for businesses that had not only a lot of potential for growth, but also that were firmly established in the market and found an opportunity in the WordPress ecosystem with Envira Gallery and Soliloquy.
What can you tell me about the creation of Envira Gallery and Soliloquy before you took over?
I acquired Envira Gallery and Soliloquy from Thomas Griffin and Syed Balkhi. The original author of the plugins was Thomas Griffin who saw a need in the WordPress plugin market for an easy-to-use responsive slider. The solution became Soliloquy.
He noticed many of his Soliloquy customers were now asking for an easy to use responsive gallery plugin. There weren’t any on the market that were very good at the time (most were clunky and slowed down sites significantly). Being a developer he did what developers do and started coding the solution which became Envira Gallery.
He joined forces with WPBeginner’s founder Syed Balkhi to push marketing efforts and the rest is history. They went on to create OptinMonster which has done very well.
What have been the most challenging aspects of owning the plugins?
We’re a small team of five, so in addition to our primary roles, we have to wear multiple hats. As an owner, I’m no exception, so handling the various aspects of operations, finance, business development and marketing can be overwhelming at times.
Luckily, I have an exceptional team who have been working full time on the plugins for several years and do a tremendous job with our development and support.
I can’t think of many plugin categories more competitive than photo galleries. How do you effectively market Envira Gallery in order to get recognized amongst the competition?
It certainly is a competitive market and we don’t anticipate that’s going to get any easier. In order for us to remain as a top gallery plugin for WordPress it’s important for us to not only innovate, but improve on the things that were already winning at.
Our continued success has been a healthy mix of Facebook retargeting, laser focused content marketing, industry affiliate relationships, and listening to our customers by delivering updates that matter to them. If you haven’t yet, send surveys to understand what they want.
It also doesn’t hurt to have a technical support team that goes above and beyond to help customers. Our reviews are a testament to this. We have a 4.8 out of 5 stars on WordPress.org.
Our customer retention rate has also been a proof that things are working. Our customers truly love the product and depend on it for their livelihoods in many cases.
On the flip side of that, what are some marketing things you’ve done that just haven’t worked out for you and why do you think that was so?
PPC – we’re still in a niche market where you need to be a WordPress user and have a need to display your pictures or videos in a customizable but efficient manner. As most plugin owners who have tried know, getting cold traffic to covert from paid advertising is not easy.
You use typical tiered pricing for Envira Gallery. Has that always been the case and what about your current pricing setup do you think makes it right for you and your customers?
The tiered pricing structure has been in place for several years. I still think it’s the right solution since some customers, like bloggers, want simple gallery displays with easy to use basic features while others, like photographers, rely on customized galleries for their businesses which can handle deep linking, water marking, pagination, e-commerce, proofing and Lightroom features.
We generally see a high volume of upgrades from folks who have the basic and realize they want to do more with their galleries.
We’ve also have an Agency feature that allows for multi-site support, client management and unlimited sites.
Is there something you wish a person had told you before acquiring Envira Gallery and Soliloquy that you would like to pass on to anyone thinking about buying a premium WordPress plugin business?
I don’t think there were any real gotchas, but its important to understand the WordPress community aspect for folks coming in fresh. Its not like any other business that you can run in a silo without much input from other groups. There are set standards, rules and practices that tech owners may not be accustomed to following.
The sense of community is deep. There is a lot of selfless work that goes into the ecosystem. Everyone from the WordCamp organizers like David Bisset (our senior developer), to the code contributors, volunteers like Mika Epstein who maintain the WordPress.org repository. Your not going to find that in too many other ecosystems of this size.
What can we look forward to in future releases of Envira Gallery that you’re willing to share?
This year we’ve already introduced a new Lightroom feature and expanded our video gallery options to include Instagram, Facebook, Twitch and more. Online video consumption continues to grow year over year and there are no signs of this trend slowing down. To my knowledge we have the most options for this type of gallery and will continue to do what we can to stay at the forefront.
Our focus is to continue to make Envira Gallery easier to use and faster. As Gutenberg progresses in making WordPress more accessible for newbies, the WordPress ecosystem will continue to grow. We want to continue on our end to make our plugins intuitive and simple to use out of the box.
In our 2.0 version, we’ll be adding features which will make the process of creating a complex gallery quicker from start to finish.