“An inclusive and diverse community is very important for any project’s future.” Interview with Vikas Singhal (Featured WP-Professional)

  • Interviews

Vikas Singhal and InstaWP have become very popular among the WordPress community today. He shot into fame when Automattic invested in InstaWP. InstaWP is a heaven-sent serverless platform for spinning up WordPress sites instantly saving developers and agencies a lot of time. 

Vikas has his fingers in several pies! He is from India and has founded two companies – InstaWP and Express Tech. Express Tech has several impressive products for WordPress, Shopify and SaaS. 

Today he shares with us his thoughts about WordPress and his WordPress journey.

 You can connect with him on Twitter.

You are well known in the WordPress circles. How did you get introduced to WordPress?

Thank you! I built an eCommerce shop back in 2017 for my brother using a popular eCommerce open-source software. In that process, I discovered the concept of add-ons (plugins) and built some for his shop. I posted them on forums, and they became very popular. I started making some money too, a nice surprise.

I was searching for other tools using which we can build an eCommerce solution, which is when I found WordPress and then there was never looking back.

Where are you based? Does your location influence your work?

Vikas Singhal Work Station

I am in Bangalore, India. The location doesn’t influence my work, we do have a WordPress chapter here which we are trying to make more engaging with the community.

In fact, my whole company is remote.

Please share some projects you are currently involved with including InstaWP. What was the inspiration behind it and what are your future plans for it?

I run two companies – ExpressTech and InstaWP. I started by acquiring a WordPress security plugin back in 2017-18. I tried to understand the WP market ever since and acquired a bunch of other plugins & themes in the process. We have a quiz plugin, a menu plugin, a project management plugin, a couple of very popular Envato themes etc. These are all under the umbrella of ExpressTech, a team of over 30 people.

 My current focus is two things – making onboarding simple for WordPress and making the building experience awesome for WordPress. Two projects in this area are InstaWP & Gutena.

Screenshot of instawp.com

InstaWP was born out of necessity, I want a tool where I can quickly spin up a test site to test plugins or import something. Every time, I had to use my hosting credits or set up a local site – wasting time every time I did that.

I did play around with Wix, Squarespace, and other fancy tools and found that the onboarding part is really simple where WordPress lacks but the usage part is where WordPress shines. So, I started InstaWP to fix it.

Screenshot of gutena.io

 Gutena is also very close to my heart as it rides on the forwarding looking block-based development. Our goal is to follow the design principles of the Block Editor and provide very flexible and yet beautiful blocks and starter templates for people to easily build websites with WordPress.

What makes WordPress so special to you?

it is an open-source platform – so much power to business owners, designers and devs all at the same time.

What is your favorite a) Plugin b) Theme c) Hosting and why?

Plugin – Apart from our own, I like all the dev-related plugins like Query Monitor, Debug bar, etc.

Theme – I love lightweight themes like Hello and Wabi. So many block theme options nowadays.

Hosting – We love DigitalOcean with RunCloud. We also use WPEngine and Cloudways.

What do you think about the future of WordPress?

It is very bright. I think the thinking from a “plugin-first” approach will shift towards “block-first” and I welcome that change. Building a site is not just about writing anymore, design and aesthetics are a major part of it.

There is a talk that WordPress is becoming more and more complicated. What do you think?

Block Editor will solve that.

Recently several people have shared incidents of discrimination based on gender, race etc. What do you think about this and what can we do as a community to ensure such incidents don’t happen again?

I believe cast, gender, or any other factors should never come between talent and success. Voicing concerns and working on them as a community is the way to go. An inclusive and diverse community is very important for any project’s future.

However, I have personally never experienced it, in fact, the community at Post Status, WP Make Slack and others have been very welcoming.

What would you like to see implemented in WordPress as a Core feature?

I wish CPT was baked in, along with major + simple use cases so that folks don’t have to use plugins for basic features, which by the way, other platforms have built in from day 1.

We had so many acquisitions in WordPress in recent times. What are your thoughts on it?

Both good and bad.

Good – if a project was popular and/or the owner has worked hard in the past and wants out, I think it is a good thing.

Bad – if the acquirer plays it badly or abandons the project, the community gets hurt and this is not good for the ecosystem.

As a founder of 2 companies, what tips can you share, especially about marketing and finding funds for your dream projects?

I acquired an initial set of customers by “buying businesses” however I now understand the power of being active in the community and starting from day 0.

Join FB groups, subreddits and slack communities. Try to understand the problem firsthand and find/propose solutions. Slowly build an audience towards the solution, yourself as a brand and build your product/service in baby steps. Once there is enough traction you can scale. It will come naturally.

There are a lot of folks with money who wish to find a good founder with a good product, if you have done the previous step (explained above), finding funds is the least of your problem. One quick tip: Over time build a database of companies (both who got funded and who funded the theme) or find such a database in your genre. When the time comes, build a very short and to-the-point email and start sending.

Hustle is the name of the game.

What tools do you use mainly to stay on top of your work schedule?

I use ClickUp, Asana, Obsidian, HubSpot, Calendar, and Slack a lot.

Life has both success and failure. Please share one mistake that you made early in your career.

I acquired one project without doing much research on code quality. I assumed it was good by looking at the UI. So the mistake was “assumption”. I should have been more diligent and checked instead of assuming everything was good. Once I learned, this mistake has helped me countless times from there on.

What is Vikas like away from WordPress? What are your ways of chilling?

A major part of my time is spent with Family. My children (2 boys, 8 & 5) have a rule at the house, no laptop during weekends and even if I beg for it, I get 2 hours max.

I also like going out with friends every Sunday morning. Running & exercise in the morning is very important to me.

I love filter coffee (people in south India will understand) and watching good series on Netflix.

The WP-Content team wishes him all the very best for his future endeavors and hopes to see him make more contributions to WordPress. 

Meet our previous WP-Professionals of the Month – JB Audras, Ellen Bauer, Ben Townsend, Michelle Frechette, Nat Miletic

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