For the last several years, San Antonio has been steadily growing its tech community with the goal of both creating and attracting new tech companies to boost the local economy and create high-paying jobs. Attracting those companies means creating a place where startups want to work and an ecosystem that supports them.
It seems to be working.
Austin-based hosting startup WP Engine is now in the final steps of opening a San Antonio office in the new Geekdom in San Antonio’s Rand Building. Once the work-site is up and running in August, the startup will have around eight employees stationed in San Antonio with the goal of increasing that number to 20 by the end of 2014. WP Engine is a WordPress hosting and management startup originally founded by Jason Cohen and incubated in Austin’s Capital Factory.
Due to its growth, however, “startup” may no longer be an accurate term. The company has grown from 40 to 150 employees in the last year and is now looking to San Antonio to expand its customer support and research and development operations. Senior Director of Customer Care Nick Daines is already setting up the new workspace at Geekdom for the seed team, though he is confident they will soon outgrow it.
“I want to have a full support team here,” Daines said. “It is very realistic to say that we would like to get to 20 people by the end of the year.”
While the first eight or so employees will start out in a smaller cubicle-like area on the seventh floor, Daines is already in talks with Geekdom about filling out a much larger part of the sixth floor, which is currently under renovation. More importantly, WP Engine plans to continue to expand its operation throughout 2015 and wants to find most of its workers in San Antonio. At the current growth rate, the company estimates it could create 50-70 jobs in San Antonio by the end of 2015. According to Daines, the decision to expand here was in large part because of the city's growing tech community.
“San Antonio has so much talent,” Daines said. “They have so many like-minded companies from a cultural and technology perspective. Geekdom is here, and is attracting technical companies and technical talent. So it was kind of a no-brainer for us.”
Only four years old, WP Engine has been experiencing what CEO Heather Brunner calls “a hyper-growth rate.” It currently has 140 employees at its Austin headquarters and 10 in its San Francisco office. Brunner says they are looking to expand to 220 employees by the end of this year.
WP Engine considered several cities while looking over its expansion options and chose San Antonio over Houston, Dallas, and Phoenix. Brunner says they made the choice in part due to San Antonio’s established reputation for economic success and growth.
“I think if you look at the cities that are really successful today in terms of creating jobs and attracting businesses to them, San Antonio, like Austin, is winning,” Brunner said. “We know there are several community and business leaders who are committed to creating a technology incubation and innovation center in San Antonio downtown … and we would like to tap into that and be a part of that.”
WP Engine has already posted job openings in San Antonio and is looking to hire several Level 1 and Level 2 customer experience techs. To meet local tech talent personally, WP Engine will be hosting a happy hour meet-and-greet event this Tuesday, June 24, at the Blue Box Bar in the Pearl Brewery complex. The event is scheduled from 5-7 p.m.
WP Engine competes in the same spaces as Rackspace, HostGator, Peer 1, and Flywheel – with the exception that they focus exclusively on hosting WordPress sites. According to Brunner, the technology layer provided by WP Engine makes WordPress sites load faster, installs new updates automatically, creates backups of the site with a click of the mouse, and can provide a test version of the site to try out new content before it goes live. WP Engine also uses cloud technology to quickly scale resources up and down for sites so they don’t go offline due to traffic spikes.
Some of WP Engine’s services rely on special proprietary technology like EverCache, which quickly sends all of a site’s static cache data from the closest server so the page will load. The technology also accepts user changes faster. Other services are more of the peace-of-mind variety. WP Engine manages all of a site’s “core version” updates, security updates, and plug-in updates; and maintains a list of generally good and bad plug-ins. That might sound boring, but having a plug-in malfunction due to compatibility problems can completely wreck a user’s site – resulting in downtime and troubleshooting.
WP Engine handles clients of all sizes, ranging from individual users to large enterprise customers such as AMD, Allstate, Discovery Channel, Wells Fargo, and many more. According to Brunner, the company has a total of 20,000 customers across 120 countries – all based on WordPress.
(The Rivard Report is a WordPress site previously hosted by Pressable, formerly ZippyKid, and is now hosted by Rackspace.)
“WordPress has emerged from what was perceived as a blogging platform to now a very robust content management platform and technology stack. Today 22 percent of the world’s highest traffic sites are built on WordPress,” Brunner said.
*Featured/top image: WP Engine's Nick Danes preparing a Geekdom office for the seed team. Photo by Andrew Moore.