As you may have heard earlier this week, WP Engine have purchased their primary competitor, FlyWheel. Both were WordPress managed hosting specialists aiming at the corporate end of the market, competing against the likes of Adobe (AEM), Kentico and EPiServer. According to Datanyze, WP Engine host 74,000 websites, while FlyWheel host 43,000.
This acquisition does not come as much surprise due to FlyWheel’s far more superior user experience. Although FlyWheel were only 10-15% of the size of WP Engine, in terms of revenue, I imagine their user experience was quite a threat to WP Engine’s frankly poor hosting interface. Looking at FlyWheel’s growth of over 50% in the last year, this proves their superior interface was paying them dividends.
At Nimbus Hosting we have been closely monitoring FlyWheel and even put together an internal competitor comparison very recently. I have personally held FlyWheel in high esteem as they demonstrated an excellent culture, fantastic marketing, as well as an amazing product all lead through innovation. Based on some of their feature releases over the past year, I think they’ve been monitoring and copying some of our ideas too.
Both companies have very similar pricing with a slightly cheaper entry point in favour of FlyWheel. In the short term, I can see WP Engine adopting some of the features and user interface of FlyWheel, but what is really going to be lost is the innovation. As with most major acquisitions, the key influencers and decision makers tend to move on quickly, after any tie-in period obviously, so I expect we’ll see much of their product development road map slow down.
Looking at Twitter, there are already plenty of angry and upset customers who have moved from WP Engine over to FlyWheel and it looks like they might be on the move again. In the medium to long term, this acquisition is going to leave a void for another competitor of WP Engine to fill who may well be much stronger and better suited.