Well, 2017 is shaping up to be an exciting year here at Fly Plugins. After five years in business, Ben and I have been fortunate to hit many, many goals that we set out to accomplish and we're grateful for another year of progress.
Those achievements wouldn’t have been possible without some amazing people on our team over the last few years and most importantly, an absolutely incredible customer base that is active, vocal, and very willing to help us get a look into use cases for our plugins in order to ensure our development roadmaps are on the right track.
When we first set out on this path, as with most businesses and entrepreneurial ventures, we had a solid vision of what we wanted to offer to the WordPress world.
But...there was uncertainty about what “success” would look like.
At the time, there was no “learning management system” plugin or theme for the WordPress content management system. We’d been delivering our own online courses and had cobbled together some homegrown solutions that worked for us, allowing us to manage and deliver courses and include our Amazon S3 hosted videos securely within those courses. Again, in a twist of commonly and uniquely entrepreneurial fate, we realized something...
There was more value in our delivery platforms than the courses we were delivering them with and WP Courseware and S3 Media Maestro were born.
We were incredibly fortunate to find world-class development and support talent right out of the gate and the folks that joined us on our journey in the early days are the reason we are where we are today. They are the reason our highly energized and, more often than not, highly scattered rapid-fire ideas were turned into widely adopted WordPress solutions.
And we also received another huge break when several prominent people in the WordPress ecosystem who were a few years ahead of us realized what we had on our hands and took us under their wings. For example, our friend Chris Lema (who was already an authority in the space where WordPress and e-learning intersect) was excited enough about the launch of WP Courseware to give us incredible support and still continues to even today when he speaks at WordPress events. I hope we’ve done our part in letting Chris and others know how grateful we are for their selfless support, calmness during panicked phone calls, and just helping us get out there.
As with any new business venture, the competitive landscape changes as do the specific needs of each individual customer. That landscape requires innovation and evolution. It brings new challenges. But challenges and competition are not things that Ben or I have ever been good at backing down from, either professionally or personally.
The two of us have long looked up to successful entrepreneurs in the WordPress ecosystem that have built great companies with incredibly talented teams. People like our good friend Cory Miller over at iThemes have “gotten the right people on the bus” (in Good to Great terms), have been furiously obsessed with their customers, and as a result have created companies that keep employees and customers excited about what they’re doing.
So after five years in business, Ben and I made a decision...
We made the decision that Fly Plugins is going to become something more than the brand behind a couple of successful WordPress plugins. It’s going to become a company. A company that will grow to include all the resources it needs to help as many people do awesome things as we can possibly handle and the products those people need to succeed online. With that in mind, we set out to find the most talented person we could to become the third member of our management team.
And we found that person with the addition of Cory Crowley!
Cory comes to Fly Plugins with a decade of WordPress and PHP development experience under his belt. Over the last eight and a half years, he has helped the Skyhook Interactive agency in Phoenix, Arizona go from a four-person fledgling startup to a nationally-recognized provider of high-performing websites in nearly every vertical, with a client list filled with brands you’re familiar with such as Subway, ATT, LifeLock, and the Super Bowl.
Needless to say, we were humbled that Cory was willing to change gears and join us here at Fly Plugins!
He will be overseeing the development trajectories of our existing products, ensuring that our in-house support capabilities are unrestricted in addressing issues of any complexity, and kickstarting a long laundry list of new and exciting initiatives that we’ve been chomping at the bit to get started on.
Cory lives in Phoenix (right down the road from Ben) with his wife and three absolutely adorable kiddos. Aside from being afflicted with COD (code obsessive disorder), he’s also a footy fanatic (that would be the non-American version of football), and can throw around some pretty solid español so we’ll be sure to put him to the test in support for those customers out there in the Spanish-speaking world! He has also spent a significant amount of time in South America as have I, so the two of us agree that it's pretty much one of the best places on earth if you’re into food, soccer, horses, cars, beaches, mountains, well, just about anything really.
So what does this mean for you as a Fly Plugins customer?
Ben and I are well aware that we’ve kept our feature roadmaps for our products pretty closely guarded and typically only share details with our customers when they ask about specific functionality. This is largely because of what I shared above. When we launched WP Courseware, there were no other LMS solutions and as we’ve picked up competition we feel that new features should be developed and invested in for the benefit of our users and not others. We were burned pretty early on after the initial release of WP Courseware when an eerily similar plugin launched three months later, so we tend to be a little cautious.
And I know that this lack of communication regarding planned releases does cause some frustration for our users. Just know that we have every intention of ensuring that the licenses you’ve invested in are going to deliver you the best course delivery solutions available for WordPress.
Yeah, yeah…enough of the chit-chat, Nate! What can we expect?
While I won’t disclose the exact features and functionality Cory will be marking as immediate priorities, I will say a few things…
1. WP Courseware customers can expect some major changes soon which will bring nearly unlimited extendability to the plugin when integrating with other platforms and services. This will reduce limitations and, in one way or another, address around 75% of the things you asked for the plugin to do that it won’t currently.
2. WP Courseware will be receiving much more frequent feature additions. We have logged every single feature request you’ve sent us over the last five years and while we’re pretty good about getting those out as quickly as possible, we’re going to be stepping up the pace of development significantly.
3. Related to the last bullet point, WP Courseware users will be receiving an invitation to participate in our 2017 user survey within the next two weeks. We conduct these surveys annually and we use them to ensure that the current prioritization of our feature road map is accurate before we move into our next development cycle.
4. S3 Media Maestro will also see an injection of new features which will bring a lot more capabilities to the plugin in the way you are using it to deliver protected media to your customers. It will also include some new synergies with WP Courseware that we think will be really helpful to those of you delivering the bulk of your training through video.
5. Within the next two weeks, Fly Plugins will also be launching a new product which will allow our customers who charge for their courses to put more money in their pockets. It’s a very useful solution and one that we’ve already implemented on our own site (there seems to be a theme there!) and it can provide you with a nice bump in your monthly income from course sales.
Again, I’m aware that these aren’t concrete notifications, but just know that the plugins you’re currently using are going to become a lot more, well, useful over the coming weeks and months. We’ll keep you posted through our blog and email newsletters as features are released, so be sure to check in there to see what’s new.
And as always...thanks for your support!
If you’ve purchased a license from us over the past five years, please know that we are incredibly grateful. Cory, Ben, and I will continue to keep doing everything we can to deliver an awesome WordPress experience to you!