Episode 329: Talking MainWP With Dennis Dornon

Show Summary

Rob Cairns talks to Dennis Dornon about MainWP.

Show Highlights:

  1. What is MainWP.
  2. Why you should use MainWP.
  3. Features in MainWP.
  4. What is coming in MainWP.

Show Notes

Hey everybody, Rob Karens here again and today I’m here with my guest, Dennis Dornao, the founder of Main WP. How are you today, Dennis?

I’m doing great, Rob.

And thanks for joining me today. So I wanted to jump in right away and ask you how did. Founding this company come about and why did you decide to jump into the WordPress space if you could?

Sure, sure. It’s a it’s a story where we were actually building something. I’m actually a cofounder with my other cofounder, Chris, about 10 years ago, we were doing affiliate marketing. I had about 500 sites. I’m going. To say he. Had close to 1000 sites and. We were doing just like PHP, real simple sites where you could just change out the word or something. So I was really big into the into the car affiliate marketing space. So I would just change out Ford with Chevy and change out cities and just put up these really boilerplate type websites. But then Google started cracking down on that. About ten years ago, and it just so happened that we both switched to WordPress around the same time to get out of the more cookie cutter sites and be able to put. Up still quick sites. But sites that were different from each other, and as we did that, we quickly both learned that it took forever to keep them. Then we started looking around. There was only one or two. Other WordPress managers at that time, but neither one of them was privacy focused. And as affiliates especially back then, we were very focused on privacy. We didn’t even tell each other what our money sites were back then. So we started looking for ways that we could make a private way of updating sites. And that’s kind of how we came up with main. WP we put that together, we hired a developer. We both put in, you know, 50% of the money to get the. Developer to work on it. He worked on it for probably 6 to. Eight months before we actually used it ourselves, and as we used it, we enjoyed it and we had built up a pretty good relationship with other affiliates. So we started. And then they kind of started offering to buy it or join in and that’s really how we transitioned from affiliates to main WP. And now, over the years we’ve gone from focusing on affiliates to more focusing on solar preneurs and agencies.

And what I would say is for me, and I’ve shared this with you offline, it is the product that allows me to run my security side of my business and my update side pretty successfully, it does a really good job. Of managing multiple sites and I’m managing over 300 sites and I just honestly couldn’t do it manually so I have to thank you and your co-founder for that.

Oh yeah, that’s great. And 300 sites, that’s above our average, I believe our average user has 60 sites. So you’re you’re breaking that average a. Little bit.

I’m about to go over 400 if there’s any thirty of those secret in this podcast. But what I’ll what I’ll say is I think what separates you from a lot of your competitors is this product is self hosted. So privacy is your data’s not being stored elsewhere on the server, and we all know about the cloud security breaches running around in the WordPress community and outside of the community right now. And because it’s self hosted, you have more control over this.

And and that’s really just by because of. Where I guess the DNA of the product is was focused on the privacy because we didn’t. Like I said, we didn’t want each other to know what our money sites were. So there was never a tie back, so privacy is kind of built into our DNA and it’s just kind of happenstance that now nine years later, that’s a focus of the Internet as a whole. And we’ve been doing it from the very beginning just to protect ourselves. And it’s just kind of. Snowballed into what it is at this point.

And by the way, congratulations a nine year anniversary was just celebrated and that’s a big deal in WordPress space. So kudos to you and your team.

Thank you. I appreciate it. Always good to hear the always good to hear the good things and I. Appreciate you saying.

That the the thankless job of being a business founder or providing support and you and I both know this is this, that one or two squeaky wheels that just screaming at you about all the stuff that you’re not doing instead of all the amazing stuff that you do do. I mean, you know, it’s like I attribute it to walking into a restaurant. Does anybody say thank you to a waiter or waitress? Almost never, unless they’re not happy with something, and then everybody knows about it. Right. So you kind of got to share the successes and the fails at the. You gotta. Same time, right?

That’s right. And one of the things I do. I do do is. Even though I may not answer all the support chats, I look at every ticket that comes through. I look at everything that gets posted on the the Members group, things like that, just to make sure I’m keeping in line and I still maintain a small group. I’ve gone from 500 to about 20, but just so I can, for lack of a better better term, eat my own dog food monthly by. Using main WP itself and making sure it’s working the way we originally attended it, even though we’ve changed focus from the Affiliates and more to the entrepreneurs and agencies.

Yeah, that that’s an amazing way of doing it. It’s like I was watching before we record an episode of Shark. Tank and they had Tony Howe on who’s the founder of DoorDash, one of the Co founders of DoorDash in the states, and Gino is a co-founder. It is mandatory that every DoorDash employee must do deliveries one day a month. And as the co-founder, he does still does door Dash deliveries to customers one day a month. To keep that synergy going. So in essence, you’re doing the same thing. You’re using your own product to make sure it keeps running properly.

Right. And I did not know that about DoorDash. That’s pretty.

Yeah, I didn’t either. It’s an interesting story. So a lot has gone on with main WP. Let’s jump into the two new extensions that you’ve just announced and you’ve kind of done a bit of a splash. Do you want to talk about them and what they do?

Just last week we announced our partnership with a jet pack to release a jet pack protect extension at. Scan extension that was part of the 9th anniversary. We’re going to be focusing on getting out the information more about jet pack and how they’re separating their core plugin into separate plugins. For example, with jetpack protect you don’t need to install the whole jet pack plugin, it’s got its own. Plug in now just jet pack protects. You’re not taking in everything that most. People don’t want. So we can. Push that out a little bit more.

And how how does that working with Jetpack having split or starting new split up their application a little bit? Has that caused any issues for you over at Main W?

No, it’s actually good for us. Went with the overall jet pack protect. It wasn’t something that we actively with the overall jet pack, not jet pack protect with the overall plug in. It wasn’t something we really pushed, but then we started working with jet pack and their team. Great team really enjoy working with them and learning more about their system and where they’re going in the future. Aligns with what we are doing with the partnerships and 3rd party extensions and things like that. We’re really building into the system now and getting them on board and getting our customers on board I think would be great for both teams not they’re separating them out.

The other thing worth mentioning is Main WP is one of the few products that you still offer a lifetime deal on your product, correct? And why have you not moved or decided to stay with that model? Like what is it done for you?

There’s a few different reasons. When we first started, we only had a lifetime model. When we first started going back to the opening sentence, we were really only selling to our friends in the affiliate world. So we were doing it lifetime. Then we started to expand to other people and we just stayed with lifetime. We were with lifetime for probably the first two or three years and I just heard over and over and I’ve heard for the full nine years. You know, you can’t maintain a business. With lifetime, you can’t maintain a business with lifetime. But with WordPress plugin you really can. If you’re just a plug in. We’re not paying hosting costs obviously for our website, but not hosting cost to run the business or anything like your average SaaS would have to do. So, per site and per user doesn’t really affect us, so we’re able to do. The lifetime, and I think as long as you know. Like your average LTV, the lifetime value your customer, you can offer lifetime without hurting your business and give both yourself the influx of cash right in the beginning and also keep that customer happy. I would say the main thing I’ve seen. People do lately. And for lack of a better term, they. That sumo themselves, which means they’re releasing their lifetime at, like $49.00, where, when even when. We started, we started at a higher price point. I can’t remember exactly what it was after nine years, but I believe it was around 149 for lifetime. Now we’re at 499 just because we keep upping it basically every year a little bit until we find a happy medium between people paying for yearly and lifetime and monthly.

That’s an interesting. OK.

Right. But you just you hear it so much and I think if you know especially your per unit pricing, things like that, lifetime works fine as long as you’re a WordPress plugin, I wouldn’t suggest it for a SAS where you paying for, you know servers and things like that. But if you’re a plugin with just. A basic website like. We have, I think it’s an excellent option. Especially get your feet in the door, get people talking about you, things like that.

Yeah, that’s a good idea not to put you on the spot, but do you know what your breakdown is? Or like roughly is it like 50% lifetime or is it more than that? Or? Or would you rather not say?

As far as actual breakdown off the top of my head, I don’t know as far as LTV, lifetime value monthly is where it’s at for us, our monthly is add more lifetime value over the course of time than even we get from lifetime. Even we get from yearly. So we keep it the monthly and that seems to keep. Everybody happy with the three different price levels monthly, yearly and lifetime. It keeps everybody, it gives everybody a little something to pick from.

It’s an interesting facility, I. Really like it actually. Let’s move on to. I think your number one problem that you guys have that mean WP and correct me if I’m wrong, it’s probably. Cheap clients using cheap hosting is that a? Is that a fair comment or do you think I’m off base with that one?

No, that would be what causes most of. The issues if you. If you track them back, it’d be. People putting, like I said, the average user has 60 sites, but they’re putting 60 sites on a $5 hosting and then they’re trying to update, you know, 60 sites. Say they have two plug-in updates. That’s 120 updates. They’re trying to throw through a $5 servers, which can cause some issues. So we really recommend going with the the more cloud based servers that are able to handle that kind of things. You know, digital ocean vulture, up cloud or even the WordPress are not WordPress. The hosting cloud hosting. Managers, as I call them, such as grid pane, cloud ways or run cloud. I’ll give you the the the best type of hosting for those type of situations. But you can run a main WP on just on a small host if you only have you know three or four sites, but when you get up to the. 60 you gotta you gotta start looking into different hosting.

But but if you’re running 60, frankly, you should have been looking at that hosting main WP or no main WP. To start with. And you know, I always say to clients, it’s a resource thing and a where you want to run 50 sites and. Either way, I don’t recommend running 50 or 60 sites in one dashboard anyway from the security perspective, let alone let alone a a hosting resource perspective, so it’s worth throwing that out there too. But yeah.

And it’s hard for me, too, to tell people to upgrade their servers because we do come from the affiliate background where you know, you’re making pennies. So you want to make sure every site is at least making a couple of dollars a year so that you’re able to pay for the domain and pay for the hosting, and then you’d have your every once in a while your your one site that busted out to have you know. 1000 or. $2000 months and you know, over the course of 500 websites that starts to equal up over to.

Yeah. And I and I honestly I think you know different websites have different requirements like are you running a three page brochure site with nothing going on and maybe a $2.00 host works for that. I mean you know, but you know, no, it’s OK. I was going to say. But I know in my business I have a requirement that if a client isn’t on certain hosting or hosted in with me on my server, I frankly won’t even touch the client site. So that’s how particular I am just cause. I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t.

And and I’m not saying main WP won’t work on these smaller hosts, you would just have to do your updates different if you have, you know, 60 brochure brochure sites and you’re doing 120 updates I talked about before. That’s still hitting that all at once. I would recommend on on those if you’re doing that on a smaller host, you just do them one at a time, one side at a time and get the two updates at a time. And go down through your list instead of hitting your server all at once and causing it to freeze up.

That’s a great that’s a great recommendation, Dennis. One of the things I love with main WP. Is because you install a plugin on the site and then you have the dashboard. I don’t have to remember all these passwords or go to my password manager for 350 odd sites and change main. WP handles it all seamlessly once the plugin gets installed. And I think from somebody who maintains a lot of sites, that’s pretty beneficial.

And I think it’s it’s also a little more secure when you’re when you’re logging in that way just because we allow you to to log in through and we’re not using your passwords, we don’t collect any passwords. Your dashboard never knows your password. Everything goes through open SSL running on your server, connecting to our servers so they communicate back and forth. So there’s no passwords. Being exchanged. That could be, you know, middleman or anything like that.

And I I would also say just a tidbit advice. If you are setting up a main WP self hosted install. You should certainly be turning on two step factor authentication on that site one way or the other like I think if you’re going to control all your sites out of 1 dashboard and getting access to that site gives them access to the dashboard, I would turn to FAA on that pretty quickly to be. Honest with you?

And one of the things we used to recommend is that you don’t install any other plugins other than ones we offer. And we have like dashboard security plugins that will lock it down for you, but we’ve moved away from that recently and we have started recommend 2FA. Other security plugins that may lock you in by IP or area, things like that. And the great thing about being a a WordPress plugin ourself is that any two of a plugin for WordPress you just install, you can go with whatever you want. Any security plugin? You trust to not cause issues you install and that’s on you, and you’re in control of your own. Destiny at that point.

I actually run my main WP. And I used the word portal on sub domains that I hide and I’ll say that right away if you stumble across them, you’re going to get an under construction screen or well too. And the only plugins I’m running besides main WP plugins is backup buddy. I think security and that’s it and I’m running them pretty lean and mean for exactly that reason.

Right. And I believe I theme security, we don’t have it in because we actually have an I theme security extension. We don’t have it built into that yet. We should have it actually by the end of this month. New options. But as far as. Putting that directly on your dashboard, then you can also use their bio security, I believe they. Just came. Out with so.

Yep, yeah. OK. Yeah. And for those who don’t know, item security database is driven by right now by our friends over at Patch Stack. So they’re the ones that are are driving all the security database for items these days, so that might entice some people to go that way. I think it’s a a valuable. Resource if ever call.

And I believe a lot of things you can do with Patch Stack as far as determining and fixing. You can also do with the the plugins we just released at the jet Pack protect and then the Jetpack scan will do similar things. I believe they all read off basically the same databases.

Yeah, they do very much. So what is your most popular extension out there right now?

That’s a good question.

Do you know?

We actually just started because we were so. Privacy focused we. Used to have no information at all on anything but then talking through different people, we realized that our. Our when you log when you put in your API to activate an extension. We can actually take that and then use that information while remaining private, because we’re not taking any other information other than your public IP. To see what extension has been activated and let. Just see here. I just had it.

That’s OK.

Up a few minutes ago.

Talk about putting the founder on the spot just a little bit. I’m sorry.

Not sorry. Actually our top ones for the month of February were boilerplate, which allows you to put different keywords actually like similar to what I was talking about. What I used to. Do as an affiliate, so if you have a whole bunch of privacy policies that are all the same but you just need to. Change the company name or city things like that. Boilerplate allows you just to put in those little tags you know company name, like a. Almost like a PHP tag and then you put it off to the side and it creates a page. Based on that. Company name White label which just allows you to change the name of the main WP plugin on your client site so it could appear you know stunning, stunning digital and instead of saying main WP. Reports is one of our more popular ones and maintenance.

So let’s go to reports because we were having this conversation a couple weeks ago or last week, and you and I got talking and it seems if you read the main WP Facebook group and you’re pretty active in it, there’s always complaints about the reports. And I personally think, and I shared this with you. I know my customers don’t read them, so if I gave them reports they would look at me and say why, where or how like give me a one line. I know you have to produce them. Is it a large minority or customer base that’s asking for them? Any idea or a majority? Or do you know where that sits?

I would say it’s a. Vocal minority, but at the same time when with your vocal minorities, you want to deal with them as a business owner and make sure that they are happy and we’re doing the best we can. With the reports. I think if you take a look at, it’s actually pretty comprehensive and we’re just trying to make it easier for people to design their own at this point and we should have. Update for that also within the month of March. That should make things a little bit easier. Happier, but I’m kind of along the lines of you. When I worked at agency before I even got into WordPress and things like that, we used to have to send out month reports and nobody ever read them. So I’m I’m in the same camp as you, but if our users are on our because we have a feedback page where they can vote on things they want. And if they keep voting on report stuff, then that’s what we’re going to work on just out of. You know the democracy of the.

No, I I agree with it. It’s funny. I actually used to send out reports and I get more mileage on sending my customers a monthly e-mail saying, hey, guys, here’s all the things I’ve worked on for you as a group in the last month. And here’s some stuff coming down the pipe, and here’s some changes I’m making that to me is better communication than just shoving reports down, which your customer is finally going to call you and say, could you explain this? To me anyway, like.

What does it mean? You did 20 updates and. By blog posts and you know without actually explaining the information.

And why did you do 20 updates and so on and?


So forth. I I agree with you. Down the pipe. What are you? Is there anything you can share that you’re working on or?

I don’t want to share it because we’ve actually just started getting into it, but we’re going to have an additional model. Coming out right now, we have what I’m determining the the maintenance section of it, where it allows you to update the plugins and stuff like that. We’ve started on the small CMS which will be expanding. Sorry CRM.


Which we’ll be expanding and then we’ll be adding another module to that. Hopefully if everything goes right around July or August. Just but as we. As I found out with doing our reports, we tried to update that in a in a special way that I want to get too deep into and it took us a month out of our way just to find out we that it couldn’t be done the way we want it to be done. And so I don’t want to put any date on what’s coming up or announce it until I make sure that there’s nothing like that that’s going to happen to us.

No, I that I can understand you. We all know any of us have been in a softer game, including me because I was a program analyst in the prior. Their life sometimes timelines just don’t go the way they’re supposed to go. And that’s and that’s not making light of it. We’ve all been there and then you get to release date and people say, well, you said on such and such release, you were gonna get this done by this date and it doesn’t happen and you know most of us understand. But there’s always a couple of people who. Don’t, right? So.

Right. And it’s the nice thing about having multiple developers too that work on the project. So we were able to, I don’t want to say waste that month month because we learned a lot, it just didn’t happen. But other things we’re still getting done like we released those six extensions last week while we were doing working on updating this reports. So it’s nice to have the multiple developers in there and I’m not a developer myself, but I’m able to to watch them and and see what they’re doing.

Nor me. I’m a designer. I am not a developer anymore, and frankly, I don’t want to be so. So there you go. Really enjoyed talking about Main WP and highlighting some stuff. I know you’re very active in the main WP Facebook group, so there’s one spot to get a hold of you right? If somebody else wants to reach out to your your team, what’s the best way?

One of the I just put up a new website that redirects to my Dennis dornan.com, but it’s easier to remember Dennis with mainwp.com. It will just send you right to my site and you can click on contact me and I’ll open up the calendar and I’m happy. To talk with. Anybody for as long as they want to. About main WP. And to reach the team, you can go to. Managers dot main WP if you need support or just go to main WWP directly, yeah.

Yeah, and and check if you haven’t checked out Meme WP take the time. I think you know, for somebody who’s used it for a number of years, you’ll fall in love with the product pretty quick. And it will certainly make your website maintenance life a little easier. So thank you for doing that, Dennis, and thanks for joining me today. Much appreciated.

Thank you. I appreciate you having me on. I appreciate all the kind words. It’s really nice to hear.

Such a pleasure, Dennis. Have a great day and talk soon.


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