Seven Years of Statamic
I’ve spent the last hour reminiscing as the clock ticked past midnight. The nineteenth of June has arrived here in the Eastern Time Zone.
Exactly seven years ago I was up late. I mean, late late. I was in my home office, revising documentation for the 10th time, writing and rewriting a blog post entitled “Introducing Statamic: The Dynamic Flat File CMS”, and watching the sun come up.
That blog post began much like this one, like so many entries written by designers, developers, and entrepreneurs on the precipice of a new chapter in their lives. Full of hope and anticipation at the possibility of wild success come morning.
“We’re very pleased to be unveiling the result of many, many long days and sleepless nights…”
Come join me on a trip down my own personal memory lane as I reflect on the last seven years of Statamic history. And I’ll just get this out of the way now, there is no v3 announcement or launch hidden in this blog post. 😊 We’ll get there. Patience is a virtue.
On June 19th, 2012, we launched Statamic 1.0. It was an exciting day full of congrulatory tweets and well wishes. At the end of it we had earned $970. My dreams of overnight wild success appropriately dashed, I reluctantly admitted that a thousand bucks in a day was still a great thing. After all, what if we did that every single day, all year long? The math was simple and the future became bright again.
I had delusions of grandeur and imagined numbers increasing every month, accelerating our success into ever escalating glory and internet-wide domination. I still do.
After our first month, Statamic had earned $3,153. In all honesty, pretty good for a new bootstrapped product in a highly competitive space jam-packed with free solutions. A flat-file CMS? What even is that? Why isn’t it free? We still get the same questions.
I pushed very hard the rest of the year. I cut my teeth on marketing this strange new product. I had a degree in marketing rendered useless by the real world. We released regular updates, added features, fixed blogs, wrote blog posts, built a mailing list, and tweeted. Boy did I ever tweet.
By the end of 2012 Statamic had earned $24,864.50. Not bad for a side project. But it wasn’t a side project. I was putting every spare minute into it. I turned away client work, let go of some other recurring revenue, dipped into savings, all to keep the pressure and focus on.
By the end of the year it was pretty clear it couldn’t support me as a full time gig. Not yet at least. The slow growth curve of the software startup had begun. But first, I had to face reality. I had a 3 year old son and a newborn baby, so I started taking client work again. A father does what a father must. I did my best and carved out as much time as I could spare for Statamic.
Fred LeBlanc joined as partner shortly after I lost my co-founder Mubs. Mubs always had a special love for building shiny new things, but wasn’t into the marathon of maintenance and organic growth. Not everyone is built for it. We hired our first intern Matt (that didn’t last long), followed not far behind by our first community and support gentleman, Gareth. His announcement blog post mentioned Google+ circles, whatever those are. Did anyone ever know?
Revenue went right to these fellas. I made my living on client work, hoping that one day Statamic would take off and I could focus on it full time without “distractions”.
Statamic did a bit better than 2012. It didn’t hurt that we had a full 12 months to work with.
In 2014 Jason Varga joined the team and we announced that work on Statamic v2 had begun. Slowly.
Overall it was a good year. Statamic grew another 20%. We were a couple of devs on it part-time, which mathematically equaled more than one full-time person, but as I’ve learned over the years…there’s no replacement for whole-assing one thing instead of half-assing two things.
I also lost Fred in 2014. It was time for a major change in his personal life, so I bought him out and he was able to move on. Statamic was now ultimately my full responsibility.
We spent most of 2015 building Statamic v2 from scratch, carving out every minute we could spare to work on it.
We launched the beta in Q4 and spent a few months refining it with community feedback. We learned a hard lesson though and immediately knew we opened the beta too soon. What would have probably taken 6 weeks of focused work took nearly 4 months while handling support, managing expectations, communicating changes, and replying to repetitive bug reports we knew were there since before beta.
This is something we want to avoid with v3. We have significantly raised the bar as what we consider “beta-ready”.
2016 was another year of marginal growth. Nothing spectacular, but respectable. No possibility of full-time yet.
We launched Statamic 2.0 on March 31st, 2016. You can even read the blog post if you’d like. It was a full (and necessary) rewrite. I mention how pleased, excited, and relieved I was to launch it, but in all honesty I was terrified. What if nobody bought it or used it? What if it was confusing and terrible? What if it broke when you touched it? What if that whole year was for nothing?
It worked out fine. People loved Statamic v2. It was a lot closer to my initial vision for what I had hoped Statamic could be. Sites like asana.com, freshbooks.com, and kellyclarkson.com were using Statamic.
Also in 2016 we said goodbye to Gareth and hello to Jaggy. Jaggy tinkered on Statamic a bit before ending up working primarily on client projects. That situation allowed me to put more of my time into Statamic, and it worked pretty okay.
We grew a bit more that year and my Hopeful Math™ proved that maybe someday soon we could all really do this thing for real, full-time.
Features, features, and more features. We built everything we could and then built some more stuff. We launched and then retired Statamic Unlimited. I pushed harder on marketing, did more things that didn’t scale to build relationships and happy customers, and did some conference speaking.
Spiegel began using Statamic and we flew to Germany to collaborate with their team.
We were doing everything right to the best of my ability, and revenue shrank. 2016 was simply a better year than 2017, probably in large part to revenue lost from the Unlimited program. It was a flawed model and to be honest, it almost killed us. That’s just how business goes sometimes. Another lesson learned.
At the end of the year I finally took some advice from a friend who told me that I was missing out one of the best marketing tools available: me. I had been trying to build this persona for Statamic that wasn’t quite natural, trying to get the product to speak for itself on its own. I had hid behind the company and hedged my bets to some degree. This friend recommend I just pour my own personality all over Statamic and light a match.
I went for it. Enter the rebrand: the hot pink infused glory of the late 80’s/early 90’s was here. We immediately saw an uptick in buzz, engagement, conversions, mailing list sign-ups, and best of all — sales. We stood out in a world of flat, stark, sterile design. Even if you hated pink (and some people sure did), Statamic became visually memorable (if not pronounceable), and the brand voice was simply my own. It was easier to relate to, easier to understand, and the promises we made were no longer vague.
“Better, faster, more flexible” is never enough detail to convince someone to quit using what they’re using. Remember that.
The turning point year. A lot happened in 2018. We launched the marketplace, said goodbye to Jaggy, hello to Jesse, built some great features like Bard, rewrote the caching layer, switched from Slack to Discord, and made one small change that very well may have had the biggest impact of any other decision up to this point.
I took Jason off client work. It was clear that someone needed to be full-time, someone who didn’t have to switch context several times a day. No more 3 days on, 2 days off. If I couldn’t whole-ass Statamic myself, then I made darn well sure somebody could. And who better than the lead Statamic developer?
It was like pouring gasoline on the hot-pink-infused fire. Jason crushed it. Bugs were fixed faster, features were built quicker and better, and it was infectious. I found myself being more productive, carried along with the momentum, inspired to tackle things as team I had lost hope of ever building.
In 2018 Statamic’s revenue doubled and by the end of the year all three of us were on it full-time.
And here we are, nearly halfway through 2019. We’re pretty close to being in beta with v3 and I’m getting those mixed feeling of excitement and fear again. We’ve come further than I ever dreamed, and it was harder than I ever expected. But with seven years of work behind us, a fantastic team around me, and incredible community around us, we can finally see the real fruits of our labor.
It’s never been all about the money. If it was I would have taken one those job offers from PayPal, Google, or Facebook. I would have just used a database and built another WordPress clone. But I love creating something unique that others can fall in love with. Something that can change the game. People don’t just build websites with Statamic, but businesses.
So from the bottom of my heart, if you’ve ever bought a license, thank you. You laid a brick in the foundation of my dream, making this whole thing possible. We don’t have recurring revenue like a traditional SaaS company and every month is a walk of faith, starting with close to zero dollars and zero cents of guaranteed income. Every month God is faithful. Every month you all come through. Every month I’m renewed in my efforts to do my part and make Statamic the greatest CMS of all time.
I never take it for granted. Because of the sites you all build, we can homeschool our kids. Jesse and his wife can homeschool their kids. Jason and his wife can get back to Australia once a year and visit his family. We can afford homes, groceries, and life insurance. To me this is a successul company. I don’t want to play the Silicon Valley game and chase venture capital or angel investors. This is the company I wanted to build. It’s here now, thanks to you.
I hope Statamic always delivers drastically more value than its cost. I hope you keep building sites and supporting us. For those on the agency/freelance side, I pray you make a fantastic living on delivering great websites for your clients, and that Statamic becomes (or remains) a big part of how you do it.
Here’s to the next seven years!
And now let’s have a little fun! Want to see how far Statamic has come in the last 7 years?
A peek back at Statamic 1.0
I dug up a copy of Statamic 1.0 and after fiddling around with MAMP for a while to get PHP 5.3 running (I don’t want to mess up my beautiful Valet environment), I took some screenshots.
For those of you who never used v1, it was so basic. The entire package was 766kb. The control panel was just a glorified YAML editor, you couldn’t create collections, taxonomies, manage settings, or anything like that. Composer was nowhere in sight. It was built on SlimPHP and nearly the entire control panel was written in a single routes file, inside closures.
But it worked! It was the first stepping stone to where Statamic is today and I’ll always have a special place for the version that could fit on a single floppy disk.
Default “London Wild” theme
The login screen
The content tree
An entries listing
The publish screen
For the fun of it…
If you want to try Statamic 1.0 out for fun (and can manage to get PHP 5.3 running somewhere), you can download it here. This should go without saying but please don’t use it in production, it’s super buggy and probably insecure. Okay, definitely insecure. You can find the docs at v1.statamic.com.