WeFoster is launching a complete hosting platform to target community-centric WordPress sites of all shapes and sizes. I spoke with Bowe Frankema and Marion Gooding about the project last week, to get a sense of their aims, and to see just how specialized for communities the platform is.
Bowe and Marion have many years of community website experience, primarily as consultants, but also running their own community projects.
With WeFoster, they are seeking a transition from client work to more broadly supporting community websites, with a hosting platform built and engineered just for communities.
Technically speaking, the kinds of things they want to be focused on are compatibility with a variety of community and membership plugins, as well as the performance experience for sites that focus on logged in users.
The platform WeFoster has built is a container system, on top of Google Cloud Platform. Whether a customer is on the starter “Village” plan for $29 or the “Metropolis” plan for $249 per month, it’s the same infrastructure.
The way they’ve differentiated plans is by recommending a specific plan based on the size of the community itself, and minimize things like bandwidth and disk limits.
I was quite surprised just how integrated the customer experience is, with a custom user experience all the way from signup to managing individual WeFoster websites. It’s more thorough than many of the generic managed WordPress hosting dashboards out there.
Bowe and Marion tell me that their goal is to grow initially through partnerships with the makers of community and membership plugins. They are launching with a partnership with Peepso — a plugin for creating social networks.
They’ve done a lot of testing with BuddyPress, bbPress, and many other networking, social, and membership plugins. They want to position themselves as uniquely aware of the challenges running community-centric sites, so that plugin makers will want to send customers to WeFoster to help reduce the burden of hosting-related support on themselves.
Partners with WeFoster can also create their own templates, so that new community sites generated from the partner referral can be setup with the partner’s own template to include their plugin and recommended setup.
As an added bonus, WeFoster partners will be incentivized through recurring revenue sharing, as well as be able to keep track of their own customers on the WeFoster platform through a custom partner dashboard. They want partners to be able to see their customers on WeFoster long term, and not just through one-off affiliate referrals.
WeFoster will be offering additional task-based services for non-support inquiries from clients. And for tasks larger than one-off tasks, they have recommended freelancers and agencies with community experience.
The entire setup is quite advanced for something that’s just launching. Part of me thinks perhaps they have waited too long and built out too much — whereas they could’ve launched and iteratively worked on many of these additional features. Alternatively, if they had launched earlier, maybe these features they really wanted to have as part of their platform would’ve been pushed out due to prioritizing customers’ more pressing needs.
They are confident that the market size for WordPress community sites is big enough to support a hosting company focused on it. They believe that their strategy for customer acquisition through plugin partnerships is their best route to getting the attention of serious community site owners.
I agree that partnerships with plugin makers is smart. Such community managers are already spending money with the makers of these plugins, so WeFoster can get a much stronger signal rather than broadly targeting the thousands shoestring-budget communities on the web.
I believe they have a fighting shot with this model, but I certainly don’t think it’s the easiest route in the world for a new hosting company. It’s clear to me that they have a passion and commitment for enabling online communities, so I hope they find success in this targeted niche.