Interview with Rich Tabor on his journey building ThemeBeans and selling it to Go Daddy

When it comes to WordPress themes there are a lot to choose from, okay more than a lot, I think it’s fair to use the word “zillions” right? In a sea of themes a few theme designers have stood out to me over the years and one of them is Rich Tabor and his company ThemeBeans which was acquired by Go Daddy back in April of this year.

I’ve been a big fan of Rich’s, I think he makes some of the most pixel-perfect themes out there, and I’m also a big fan of Go Daddy’s – so when I heard about the acquisition, it did really feel like a great match.

Since it’s not every day your company gets acquired by a big public company like Go Daddy I thought it would be interesting to talk with Rich about his journey from inception to acquisition. With that, let’s get to the interview!

[ Morgan ]
When did you start ThemeBeans? What inspired you to start the company?

[Rich]
I started ThemeBeans back in 2011. I’ve kind of always been a “maker”, and WordPress provided a field to grow in my creativity while also making a bit a living doing so. 

My inspiration was honestly to learn more about WordPress, as I was designing for a local marketing agency who used WordPress exclusively. Selling themes was a forcing function to hold myself to a higher standard  – as people were actually paying me for a beautiful and performant theme.

[ Morgan ]
What was the biggest challenge you faced in the early days of ThemeBeans?

[ Rich ]
Differentiation. Being able to make beautiful themes doesn’t make you different. But being able to craft effectively delightful experiences, wrapped by clever design, and supported like we were good friends – that’s what set ThemeBeans apart.

[ Morgan ]
What was your biggest triumph while running ThemeBeans (outside of the acquisition of course!)?

[ Rich ]
I’d say 100%, it’s how I leveraged the future of ThemeBeans (and my career) on the promise of Gutenberg. Focusing on Gutenberg propelled ThemeBeans into a leading WordPress theme shop, laying the foundation for Gutenberg-optimized themes. That focus then inspired me to pursue Gutenberg block development, which led to the acquisition of both CoBlocks and ThemeBeans.

[ Morgan ]
Given your expertise with WordPress, is there anything you know about WordPress that most people don’t know but would be interested to learn?

[ Rich ]
Most notably, I think we’re going to start seeing folks focusing on user experience. UX isn’t new at all, but the art most certainly hasn’t been a priority for the majority of WordPress developers. With the addition of Gutenberg, we absolutely have to lean more on UX than we ever have before. It’s honestly a great thing for WordPress. Who doesn’t like leveling-up and building better experiences?

[ Morgan ]
Did you ever think you’d sell ThemeBeans to another company?

[ Rich ]
I was hoping to do so one day. As much as I liked the business, I knew it was unlikely I’d continue to make and sell WordPress themes throughout my entire career. 

I always thought of ThemeBeans as my first big push to learn on the job. I mean, running the shop taught me everything I know about about WordPress, helped me refine my design aesthetic, gave me a runway into development, taught me to focus on user experience, and how to tackle all things business related. 

Selling ThemeBeans is just another tick on that list; learning how to navigate the ins and outs of an acquisition. 

This kind of personal development is hard to come by without experience – and this is one I’m particularly proud one. 

[ Morgan ]
How did the GoDaddy acquisition come about?

[ Rich ]
It started on a whim at WordCamp US 2018, by meeting a few folks from GoDaddy’s MWPCX (Managed WordPress Customer Experience) team. Little did I know, those conversations would quickly escalate into full on discussions on what life could look like as a part of GoDaddy.

About a month later, I visited the team and soaked up everything I could about the direction GoDaddy wanted to go, the team’s passion, the company culture, and the very people I’d work with day in and day out. I left that trip feeling confident that GoDaddy would be a great place for me personally. The challenge of taking on a leading role with a bigger team than I’ve ever worked with before, at a scale much larger than I ever imagined,  was quite enticing. I knew this future role would lay the foundation for massive personal growth and development. 

And honestly, it couldn’t have worked out better. 

[ Morgan ]
What has it been like working at GoDaddy so far?

[ Rich ]
It’s fantastic, really. I can’t say enough about how empowering the company culture is, how incredible the Managed WordPress team is, or how talented the folks I work with are. 

Working at GoDaddy is kind of like being at a delightfully awkward family reunion where you feel 100% supported for who you are and everyone’s proud of the cool stuff everyone’s been up to. I’m proud to be a part of GoDaddy and to have an opportunity to make such a massive impact on the future of WordPress at GoDaddy.

[ Morgan ]
Last but not least, tell us something fun about you, Rich, that most people don’t know?

[ Rich ]
I saw Twenty One Pilots in concert twice this year. Totally one of my favorite bands of all time. 

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