A niche community might be one of the simplest and most frictionless places to find a buyer for your company.
That’s what Matt Cromwell and his co-founders, Jason Knill and Devin Walker, discovered during the 8-figure acquisition of their WordPress plugin for charities, GiveWP, by web hosting company Liquid Web in 2021.
“WordPress is a tight community. Technically, the buyer approached us, but we also knew them personally over years of conferences and meetups,” Cromwell said.
GiveWP streamlined online donations to charities
Cromwell and Walker, both WordPress developers since the early days, knew each other through WordPress and developer meetups and deliberately sought a big problem to solve on the platform.
By 2011, no company had yet provided a successful solution for online donations for nonprofits. In response, the two developers founded Impress.org and launched its core product, GiveWP, to solve that issue.
The product’s mission was to “democratize generosity,” Walker said in a blog post about the acquisition. In the past decade, GiveWP has helped more than 100,000 charities raise funds online through WordPress pages. The company also grew to 24 distributed employees in that time.
Joining a suite of WordPress brands
The founders weren’t actively seeking to sell Impress.org, though they had plenty of opportunities.
“We had been approached by half a dozen different companies and investors, so we were entertaining investments of all kinds, but not aggressively,” Cromwell said.
When Liquid Web approached, the offer was just right to accelerate the company’s growth.
“Our primary goal was growing our brand,” Cromwell said. “The offer Liquid Web made was exactly what we needed to grow the company, incur less personal risk as we scaled and ensure our team was well taken care of.”
The buyer didn’t approach with an offer to “rescue” or change the brand. Liquid Web saw the growth trajectory GiveWP was already on and wanted to keep moving along that path — and keep the existing team intact.
The founders had seen Liquid Web hold true to similar commitments with other acquired WordPress plugins in the past, such as those from LearnDash, iThemes and The Events Calendar. The Impress.org team trusted the company would honor their roles and their employees’, rather than downsizing after the acquisition.
GiveWP employees haven’t experienced much change in their day-to-day work, just “better benefits” with Liquid Web, Cromwell said.
In the sale, the founders received a buyout in the upper 7 figures, with a two-year earn-out that pushed the deal above $10 million. Walker and Cromwell have joined Liquid Web full time, working as managers over GiveWP operations. Knill, a serial entrepreneur and executive, has gone on to start an organic farm in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.
Cromwell said the sale experience was “surprisingly smooth,” because Liquid Web was a trusted buyer in the WordPress community that had acquired several companies like theirs already. He also mentioned, “Our books were very clean, [and] our business very straightforward to understand and audit.”