Interview with Tenko Nikolov, CEO and Managing Partner at SiteGround
SiteGround is a successful hosting company with hundreds of employees. Located in Europe, its CEO, Tenko Nikolov, has been fixated on growing his brand by focused on success across the team and for their customers. It's evident that SiteGround knows what they're doing -- and the photos tell a great story about a great company culture.
Tenko has shared his experiences with us in the interview below. We highly recommend you read it to learn how this young CEO has made his company so incredibly successful.
Can you tell us about your role at SiteGround and how you came to be CEO? How did you go from tech support at SiteGround to CEO/managing partner? What are the values you stood for to become the ultimate leader of the company?
SiteGround has become such a successful company over the last 12 years mainly because of the three core values it has always followed: outstanding support, technological innovation and employees’ satisfaction.
When the company has started it has attracted and kept its first customers thanks to a small but incredibly devoted support team a part of which I was proud to be. Now, 12 years and hundreds of thousand customers later, we are still a company that achieves more than 95% customer support satisfaction rate year after year.
The second important value for us is the continuous technological innovation. We have a track of security and speed implementations over the years like Chroot isolation, automatic application updates, dynamic caching solutions, Linux Kernel improvements, etc. that have become a norm in the hosting industry long after we have used them for the first time.
And the third very important ingredient, without which we could have never achieved such good results in support and technological innovation is SiteGround employees. We have always been committed to make everyone that works at SiteGround feel good and be able to reach their full potential.
My role as a CEO is to make sure that SiteGround always follows these three core values. As for my path from a support team member to the position of a managing partner, I think it is not much different than the path of all other great people that have shown devotion, talent and ambition during the years and have become part of the company’s managing team.
Do you feel that your law school education--I understand you were working at SiteGround while you were also in law school--contributed to the knowledge you have today and the leadership you provide at the company?
As a CEO I am always involved in the negotiations with our big strategic partners and my law school background has definitely helped in this area.
Can you tell us more about SiteGround's offerings? How did that evolve over time?
SiteGround offerings have always evolved to respond to our customers’ needs. At the beginning we started with a single shared hosting plan. Then, as our customers’ websites started to grow we have added more options, including very powerful cloud and dedicated solutions. Additionally, we have always been very interested in the applications our customers use to built their websites and we have continuously added services that can help them build faster and safer sites. Example of such application-induced service evolution are the WordPress and Joomla autoupdates, our SuperCacher that is based on NGINX and makes WordPress, Joomla and Drupal sites super fast, WordPress one-click staging tools, and many more. Today we are proud to provide one of the most advanced WordPress hosting options and to be an official Joomla hosting partner.
Who are your clients? Small business? Personal? Enterprise? What regions represent your largest client segments?
Our clients range from beginners looking to start their first personal blog to professional developers, who take care of multiple and more complex sites.
We have created great solutions for the different types of clients. For example for beginners we have a huge tutorial base, a getting started wizard for an easy start, and most importantly 24/7 insanely fast support that offers assistance beyond hosting. For professional developers we provide tools like staging, git integration, ssh access and command line tools. For enterprise clients we build custom hosting solutions depending on their needs and provide VIP support.
Until last year our focus so has been on the the English speaking users, with nearly half of our customers being located in the USA, and UK and Australia taking the next positions.
However we have seen the need for a high quality host in multiple European countries and started to expand to the old continent. We’ve opened a new office in Spain last year, launched a website and trained Spanish speaking support team to offer our service on the local Spanish market.
Are you only based out of Bulgaria? If not, where are your other offices and how many employees are at each? How do you serve overseas clients?
Our headquarters are located in Sofia, Bulgaria. We also have offices in two other cities in the country. As I mentioned already we recently opened a new office in Madrid. The total number of our employees is nearly 300.
We serve all our clients via our 24/7 support on phone, chat and ticketing. All clients get the same level fast and expert support no matter where they are coming from.
Are there any strong values that you communicate both internally and externally? Can you share them with us?
I mentioned the core values of the company in the first question, but if I can summarize them again here: hot technologies and cool people. We are real modern craftsmen, who know their job and have fun doing it.
Can you tell us about Kyup and how that came to be? Is it a related project with SiteGround or will you be doing something with it in the future?
Kyup is a hosting project, created and launched by some of the people that work for SiteGround as well. Its target market are more hard core developers and devops than what we usually see at SiteGround. We created this project as we saw a big potential in this market segment too. I need to say that working on Kyup we have gained a lot of knowledge and experience and we have used it to built the brand new Linux Container based platform for SiteGround.
Can you tell us what your experience in hosting has taught you about maintaining a stable infrastructure?
It has taught me that nothing is impossible, especially when you work in the open source world. If there is anything that is not good enough in the software we use to built our platform, we do not have to wait for a new release to hopefully fix the issue. Instead we go there and built a better version of the software that works for us.
What are the steps you normally take to mitigate a DDOS?
We have enterprise grade DDoS mitigation appliances in all locations, that proactively takes measures if a DDoS attack is detected. The appliance constantly monitors and analyses all inbound traffic. Based on that it is able to recognise anomalies/malicious traffic from legitimate traffic. When that happens, the IP being targeted is automatically placed behind a “scrubbing” device, which then filters the malicious traffic and only lets legitimate traffic reach the server.
How is cloud hosting going to evolve in the future?
It will become cheaper, simpler and more widely used even for personal projects. Some of these processes have already started.
Market changes and industry dynamic:
Are you finding an increased dependence on cloud hosting services? Why or why not, and do you expect any changes on that front?
In the ideal hosting world there is no downtime and no information is ever lost. And the more we eliminate the possible single points of failures, which is what cloud infrastructures do, the closer we get to this ideal. So, yes, I believe the future of web hosting is cloudy in a good sense.
It seems that Joomla has peaked in 2009 but has not seen much momentum since. Do you find that your service offering has helped increased its momentum in the marketplace?
As a hosting company, our business depends on the website building solutions that require hosting like Joomla, WordPress, Drupal. If tomorrow, for example, these solutions disappear and all their users move to hosted solutions like Weebly or Squarespace, it will be the end of the massive shared hosting as we know it today. So the more good, non-hosted options are out there, the more business opportunities we have. That is why we have always been eager to contribute back to the communities that create and support such applications and help them grow with what we could. It would be flattering to think that our involvement helps, and it probably does to some extent. However, the truth is that the momentum and the popularity of these applications are in the hands of the communities behind them.
Do you feel that using SSDs are a must for webmasters? Why or why not?
SSDs are great as they give more speed without compromising other aspects of the service like security for example. So if you can afford them, go for them!