Reflecting on CloudFest
Last month was my second time at CloudFest and, outside of WordCamps, attending CloudFest has become my go-to recommendation for product companies wanting to grow in the WordPress ecosystem. In reflecting on my experience at CloudFest and the value for product companies, a few observations stand out.
The Growing Presence of WordPress
Last year at CloudFest I gave a keynote on WordPress and there was a growing sense of WordPress’ presence throughout the event, including references in talks and panels. This year, WordPress’ presence grew significantly.
CloudFest started with a hackathon on Sunday, which highlighted WordPress related projects. On Monday, we kicked off the main event with “WordPress Day”, a packed 4+ hours of keynotes, interviews, and panels. I started with an overview of the WordPress ecosystem (a huge thanks to Tammie Lister for her work on the slides!) and later had a “fireside chat” with Ben Gabler of Rocket.net, followed by a panel on WordPress security. CloudFest was also a great opportunity to talk publicly about the past year of work leading up to our launch of Guildenberg.
WordPress as a topic then continued on throughout the event with panels and talks, including an interview with Josepha Haden Chomphosy on the relationship between Automattic and WordPress.
CloudFest USA is coming up next in May and the theme for the entire event is “Taking WordPress to Scale”. WordPress’ presence is growing well.
Opportunities for Product Companies
Working closely with hosting providers as distribution partners is one of the best opportunities available for product companies wanting to grow in the WordPress ecosystem. CloudFest is the best place to meet hosting providers and for the many product founders I had the chance to connect with throughout the event they affirmed the same.
Three particularly types of opportunities stand out to me:
- Perspective – I’ve been involved in the hosting industry at various levels for a long time. Walking the floor at CloudFest last year, though, gave me a whole new perspective on the size and scale of the industry and its interdependence. I got to meet companies I’d never heard of that I now see as key parts of the Open Web that we love. For a product company investing in WordPress and building on the Open Web, attending and connecting at CloudFest offers invaluable perspective on a world much wider than you probably realize.
- Presence – WordPress is a vast, decentralized ecosystem in an even larger Open Web and it’s easy to remain unhelpfully unknown. Being at CloudFest offers you a unique, business-oriented opportunity to introduce yourself to others and begin cultivating your own sense of presence within the ecosystem. WordCamps are an essential way to do the same, it’s just a very different type of experience. CloudFest is a great place to be present.
- Partnerships – I’ve been happy to see more and more product companies forming partnerships with hosting providers and CloudFest is proving to be a great place to support making that happen. I observed and helped facilitate conversations throughout the event focused on identifying opportunities with mutual wins for all involved and figuring out how to work together. While successful partnerships often take significant time to start and grow, CloudFest presents an opportunity to accelerate progress and I’ve been happy to see product companies making the most of it.
The Future of WordPress Events
Fresh from WordCamp Asia and now CloudFest, I’ve been thinking more about the future of WordPress events. WordCamps are an essential part of the community and broader ecosystem of WordPress and I’m excited about the work Angela Jin has been doing to lead the evolution of the Global Sponsorship Program, which reflects the growth we’re seeing in community-lead events.
We’re also seeing a need for more business-oriented events in the WordPress space and while I expect to see CloudFest cement itself as a key event in our ecosystem, there remains opportunity to focus on the needs of the tens of thousands of product companies that focus on WordPress.
My hope is that WordCamps themselves evolve to meet more of the needs of our ecosystem and I’m confident in the direction that Josepha, Angela, and the rest of the .org team are leading. I’d also love to see more experimentation with events in the space and more collaboration broadly. Josh and Sally Strebel’s periodic forays with Pressnomics were great and the gap left since the last event in 2019 remains unfilled.
Entrepreneur and strategist with 18+ years of experience in WordPress