The roll of a market place in a web hosting company

Interview with Brady Nord, Co-Founder of Mojo Marketplace, where he surprised me by inviting any web hosting company to collaborate with him.

Talk with Brady for 5 minutes, and you will find yourself moving your site to Bluehost hosting and buying a few plugins on the way. Brady is the kind of person that really believes in what he is doing. He doesn’t care that you may call it upsell or cross sell; he is here to add value to the website owner, and this is what he is focused on and talks about. Brady doesn’t look aside at ThemeForest or Wix, and is not worried about Google entering the hosting market. The only thing that bothers him, is whether he can keep the startup spirit in a growing business unit that thrives within the world’s biggest web hosting group.

Brady Nord - Mojo MarketPlace

HostAdvice: Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your role at Mojo and how did Mojo come into place?

On November 2009, I moved back from Utah where I graduated in Arabic language studies and political science and my friend brought up the idea to “build something around WordPress”. We started working on it and by April 2010, we built Mojo Themes. The idea behind it was to create a different method for WP developers to sell their themes. There was only “ThemeForest” and developers selling their own products back at the time. We spend 2.5 years on Mojo Themes, differentiating ourselves by constantly giving a more personal experience. We used social media or communication channels like Skype to give our partners the feeling that we are there for them and we don’t just sell a product but supply them all the services they need.

We sold Mojo to EIG in 2012.  EIG had their own solutions like “QuickInstaller” and for WordPress there is WP-CLI, which is a good tool that helps with WP installation- However, most web hosting doesn’t have an installer and there is no good solution for all platforms and so we brought this to EIG. The idea behind the acquisition was to take the theme and bundle it with their service, so we can setup a WP site, add plugins, and expand the offer of the installation to the end-user.

We have a product that every hosting company needs. It is a challenging business to offer an installer service for free that does a good job. Running an installer is a lot of work, so if any host out there is interested in integrating it with his service, we would love to help. The fact that we are owned by EIG doesn’t mean we are not open to collaborate with other hosting companies.

Mojothenandnow
Mojo Themes homepage then and now

HostAdvice: Why should users turn to Mojo and not alternative market places?

If you are a developer, you don’t have to choose one or another – you can work with all. The main advantage we bring to that table is our knowledge of the users.

We have many people that come to install Joomla, WP etc., and we learn a lot about user needs and preferences from running the installer. No other company has that angle. We know if someone comes over and has nine Joomla sites to manage, and we can help them by giving them relevant quality products. Other stores don’t know the user as we do.

End users also have it really easy with installing the WP site and can get a great package of solutions and plugins.
MojoMarketplace
Mojo Marketplace homepage – offering free installers

HostAdvice: What can you tell us about your affiliate program?

We have a great affiliate program where we offer a 30% lifetime commission on the purchases of a referred user, but we don’t promote it that much. While we promote the Mojo-Themes affiliate program, the Mojo Marketplace is not getting a lot of our attention. The reason we are not focusing on it is that we don’t have a traffic problem. Since we were acquired by EIG we have been focused on giving the best service to the users that EIG already has and less on user acquisition.

HostAdvice: What are the three things a small business should pay attention to when selecting a good theme?

1. Make sure you don’t get drawn in by the images. Many people buy a theme that is dressed nicely but does not work as well. Sometimes the demo looks better than the real deal. When you buy a theme think about how to make it your own.

2. Seller response– check if you can contact them and get help if you require it.

3. Don’t judge by sales volume. I have seen great themes that didn’t sell much and vice versa.

HostAdvice: EIG has so many hosting brands that I can ask you for tips on selecting a hosting company. What advice would you give to someone that is looking for web hosting?

Many people say hosting is a commodity and people should just look at the price. I don’t think that is true. As a client, I want to get good service. My advice is find a company that offers assistance on top of hosting.

If I had to choose a company, my pick would be Bluehost because they have lined up a set of products in addition to hosting. I’m not talking just about Mojo Marketplace, but also about Gmail integration for domain names, for example. I think for a user that is familiar with Gmail, there is real value in the fact that he already knows how to operate his mailing system. Bluehost also have good “on boarding” experience and great support.

HostAdvice: To whom would you recommend using Website builder and to whom would you recommend using WordPress or other open platform?

Based on what I have seen, if this is your first website and you only want a quick solution, go for the website builder, but only if you don’t plan on having it for more than a year.
If you are thinking about a more serious website, WordPress is your answer. You can scale it and make it better all the time, and you are not limited to the builder.
So if you have a corporate event, go for a website builder, but if this will be your site moving forward, use WordPress.

HostAdvice: How did Mojo change since you joined the Endurance team? Is being part of a big company helping reach new places or making things slower?

We changed a lot. We grew up as a company. Mojo improved a lot by understanding what users need and want. Prior to joining EIG, our goal was to sell a lot of templates. Now it is more about the best experience for the user: what products we can give small businesses to thrive.

The acquisition gave us a lot of focus. We can still act as a small creative innovative unit, yet we have huge support and share of knowledge. Like any acquisition I think, it has challenges, but the pros are much greater than the cons.

MOJO Kickball teamMOJO Kickball team – Still act as a small creative innovative unit

HostAdvice: Looking at “WordPress themes” search trends, I see a big decline in the past 2 years. “Website templates” is actually crushing. I’m looking at Mojo Marketplace and traffic has dropped50% in 12 months. How does this ecosystem influence you and what do you do to overcome the challenges?

Looking at traffic is not really relevant for us anymore. You can’t really see all our traffic because users in HostGator are not being directed to the Mojo Marketplace site. They are getting the installer and marketplace within HostGator cPanel. The installer is called QuickInstall and it is implemented in a few EIG brands.

We are no longer in the same game as ThemeForest and others. They think about SEO, PPC, affiliate program etc. while we luckily worry less about that, since we have great brands behind us, such as Bluehost, HostGator, etc., that take care of traffic.

So while we focus less on traffic and search trends, we worry about “once someone signed for hosting, what we can do to add value for him”.

WordPress themes website templates google trendsGoogle trends – We are no longer in the same game as ThemeForest

HostAdvice: What about the shift of users to website builders, or the threat that Google will enter the industry with a web hosting consumer solution?

We pay attention to the rise of website builder but aren’t worried by it. If a sister brand is not doing well, it affects us so we try to help the brand look better and create more value to the user. We are aware of competition, but it just makes us do better and stay hungry to show we can give a great service. I’m not worried about Google at all.

HostAdvice: In July, you depreciated Mojo-code. What led you to that?

It was very hard to close this project. We launched Mojo-Code 3 months before we got sold to EIG and it was part of a bigger vision we had for Mojo. After the acquisition, we didn’t give it enough attention. This is part of the things that fall between the cracks. We have a handful of products that we are working on, but at the end of the day, you need to look at what is driving the revenue, and we did that. We had to say, “We can’t support it. Revenue is not high enough”. We put the love aside. We are entrepreneurs in order to build a business, not just for the passion the product creates in us.

mojocodeMojo Code – The code marketplace that was closed down

HostAdvice: What challenges await your company in the next 2 years?

Our focus now is about growing. During the past few years, we tried out a lot of ideas we had and we feel we know what we need to do in order for us to grow. We have made 30-40 new hires, which is a lot for us. The challenge is about how to keep our unique start-up culture while growing. Keeping our identity and hunger.

Things that are on the roadmap include services, which are a big driver for us, sales channel like a call center where we do outbound and inbound calls. We see growth in other products and services on top of “plugin and themes”.

Co founders Brady Nord and JR Farr

Mojo Co founders Brady Nord and JR Farr

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