Last week I sold my first business. It’s not the first project I’ve sold, but it’s by far the biggest and was my main source of business income for five years.
Disclaimer: Yes I sold an internet business and no I am not a millionaire (not even close).
It’s amazing to think just how far I’ve come since the weekend I spent making the Nivo Slider jQuery plugin in my flat at University. I had absolutely no idea then how much that small script would impact my life.
Running a business was a huge learning experience for me and something that took me a long time to settle in to. At it’s peak Dev7studios was making ~$10,000/month but looking back now I had pretty much no idea what I was doing at the time. I spent most of my time stumbling through my “accidental success”, learning as I went. The money was good and I enjoyed the rewards that it brought, but I always knew it wouldn’t last forever.
Success is great but it also tying. After a few years my interest in building and maintaining my own WordPress plugins dwindled. I tried, and failed, many times to recreate the success of my original product (Nivo Slider) but nothing ever came close. As time went on I spent less time working on Dev7studios WordPress plugins and more time working on side projects that I actually enjoyed (I love to build stuff). Moving on too quickly is one of my weaknesses for sure, but I definitely struggled with the pressure of being able to recreate the success of the Nivo Slider and not just be a one-hit-wonder.
Throughout the entire life of the Dev7studios business I’ve always held a full time job, so in my eyes it was always very much a “lifestyle” business. Good pocket money on the side, but never quite enough to sustain me full time. I did hire help over the years but never really made an attempt to grow the business in any real way (something I would definitely do differently if I did it again). Another thing I struggled with was the pressures of running a small business (e.g. bookkeeping, accounting, tax bills, fraud, refunds etc). These represent the unattractive side of running a business but are all unavoidable and take up way more time than I would like.
So my dwindling interest in running a WordPress plugin business combined with other factors like declining sales due to market saturation, lack of development and marketing from me etc. lead me to the conclusion that it was probably the right time to sell.
After getting burned when I sold my last project I was very careful this time to do things properly. That meant not using a brokerage and finding the right buyer myself. I reached out to some of the folks I know in the WordPress space and put the word out. None of the original folks I spoke to were interested but they kindly recommended some other people who might be interested. In the end I had serious discussions with three people.
At the beginning all three potential buyers rejected the offer for different reasons (e.g. I wanted too much $, timing wasn’t right for them etc.). Nothing happened for a few months and I didn’t pursue the sale any further. Then out of the blue a few months later one of the potential buyers, Ionut Neagu (founder of CodeInWp), got back in touch saying he was still interested in buying Dev7studios.com. We went through the process of defining what would and wouldn’t be included in the sale, settled on a price and started the paperwork. A month or two later I’m writing this and my WordPress plugin business belongs to someone else.
For those interested in the details I’m keeping the Dev7studios Ltd company and branding (but not the dev7studios.com domain) and all other Dev7studios related projects. Any of the Dev7studios WordPress plugins (free and premium) as well as their related jQuery/JS plugins have been acquired by CodeInWp. As a guide the sale price was between $25,000 and $50,000 USD.
Sitting here now I feel a strange mix of emotions. It is a relief to have sold the business and make a good chunk of money, and yet I feel sad that this era of my life has ended. I’m thankful for the opportunities and rewards my business has given me and yet I’m glad I don’t have to work on it any more.
One thing is certain. Given the same opportunity now that I had then, I would do things completely differently. But then that is the benefit of hindsight and being much more mature and knowledgeable than I was five years ago.
Looking ahead I hope to be able to spend more time with my family, concentrating on my career and continuing to tinker on side projects without having the pressure of past success weighing on my mind.