Letter to Customers – Founder/CEO

JasonCohenCTOI’m extremely proud and happy to make a huge announcement.

As the technical founder of WP Engine, and the founder of several startups before WP Engine, it is my honor and privilege to do what I love for a living — inventing and building products that people actually want.

As the CEO of WP Engine for the past three years, it’s also been my honor and privilege to have worn all the other hats, not just writing code. In the early days, all of us were support, engineering, and sales. For more than a year, I was also marketing, finance, HR, and the janitor.

I love that too — doing lots of different things, every day different, every day a struggle and many days difficult, but in the good way, like when you have a great work-out and the next day you’re sore but happy.

Today, as we grow past 80 employees, the job of the CEO has changed considerably. It’s not about some “hero” founder doing everything himself — all the work, and all the decisions. It’s about building teams, and teams of teams, hiring people who are more talented and wise than the CEO (or founder!) at each position, empowering those people to lead and grow, coordinating everyone around common goals, and ensuring our company values grows stronger as we grow, not diluted as we lose the ethos that earned us our current place in the market and our customers’ hearts.

We need the best person for this new job, and after working side-by-side every day for the past six months with our amazing COO, Heather Brunner, I’m thrilled to announce that Heather is that best person! As of today, Heather is officially our CEO.

I will be continuing the technical innovation charge as CTO.

As you might imagine, it took months of soul-searching and collaboration to reach this decision, and I’m confident it’s the right one. Heather’s 20+ years of experience leading fast-growing teams in all disciplines, while preserving both performance and culture, has already prove invaluable to us. Working with Heather has been like adding a co-founder — someone equally dedicated to the company, both to our commitment to our customers, employees and culture, working has hard and as long as I do, caring as much as I do, but with a complementary and vital skill set.

This also means I’m free to focus on what I love best and what I do best, which is building tech. As a company, it means we’ll have even more focus on innovation, in growing the team, in accelerating the rate at which we bring you new features, as well as more work under the hood making your sites fast, scalable, and secure.

Please join me in welcoming Heather in her new role, and me in mine!

Post was updated to reflect Jason’s continued on-going involvement with WP Engine as CTO

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  1. says

    Wow. Congratulations on making such a large decision. Sometimes stepping back is the hardest thing to do, but exactly the right thing. Congratulations on the growth too, 80 people!

    • says

      Thanks so much, that’s exactly right. You have to seek the thing which is the combination of what makes you happy and energized, and what’s best for the company. This is one of the lucky few situations where those things are the same thing.

  2. Daniel says

    Congrats, Jason. As somebody who remembers having interesting “what-if” chats about WP over a few pints at BD Riley’s, I’m impressed and honored to know you and see what you’ve accomplished!

  3. says

    Never knew that you guys had 80 people – that’s amazing.

    One of the problems of being good at your job is that you get promoted to a management level… where you don’t get the chance to do what you’re good at!!

    Many congratulations to Heather and hope you enjoy being back with the techies.

  4. Jason Stoddard (@JasonStoddard) says

    Congratulations on creating the opportunity to make this decision.

    I gotta ask: Given the success of WPEngine and all that you and yours are accomplishing, will you always be “asmartbear” or is a change eminent there too? Don’t get me wrong, asmartbear works, especially as an homage to your coming of age/ vulnerability (and it’s one of the few business allusions to John Irving extant or extinct); but you’ve really grown up as professional, individual, husband, father, etc and I wonder if the nom-de-plume still fits/ works for you? All the other identities associated with you have gone through creation and destruction, but this one remains, and if a change is not afoot, what’s the thinking there (if any)?

    Congratulations, again. Inspirational, even.

    • says

      I will always be `asmartbear`. I’m not “Smart Bear” but I’m “asmartbear.” :-)

      I’m also not going anywhere! I’m very excited to be able to focus on technology and strategy as CTO and to continue to both learn and teach those around me. That’s what life’s all about.

  5. dabent says

    “Today, as we grow past 80 employees…”

    Wow! Seems like you just announced this a week ago. You must be doing something right.

  6. says

    Exciting things happening at an exciting company! I love it when founders/owners share their growth decisions and why. It helps smaller business owners like me see a possible path we can go.

  7. says

    Jason,

    It has been a pleasure working closely with you and the rest of the WP Engine family over the past 2 years. Many members of your team have become personal friends of mine through our partnership. This is a bold move and commend you for doing what is best for the company, not your ego.

    Congrats on all of your success so far. I look forward to growing our business/partnership with one of the best startups I have ever had the pleasure working with.

    • says

      Wow, thanks so much Justin! It’s a natural, incremental change from what was going on organically, so it really feels terrific internally here. As you said, we all made the decision around what’s best for personal happiness and the success of the company and our projects, which of course are tightly linked anyway.

  8. BrianR says

    Congratulations Jason and WPengine! This sound like a super smart move.

    BTW I’m loving using your service at work and tell people about it all the time. :)

  9. says

    Heather has big shoes to fill Jason. You are one-of-a-kind, and it was an honor learning from you, even if it was for such a short time.

    Congratulations on the growth, the awesome redesign, and the big decision. Eager to see the WP Engine story continue to unfold!

  10. says

    Congrats to both of you! I think the humility and analysis that are part of this process portends great things for the future of WPEngine. Wish you all the best of luck, and hope you follow up with a retrospective post in 6-12 months.

  11. says

    Glad to hear I am in good hands.

    Sometimes stepping down and deciding to spend time doing what we do best is the correct decision. It speaks well of the company that you are still flexible enough to do this.

  12. Hayden K says

    Single best Word Press host I’ve come across. Blisteringly fast and maximum reliability.

    Congrats on the role shift, keep up the great work.

    Best
    Hayden

  13. says

    Congrats to all. Excellent decision. Sometimes it is hard to make such a decision but courageous to exert your energies where your passion and interests lie. Exciting things ahead for the team.

    • Austin Gunter says

      Thanks so much, Lorelle! We’re very excited about the new brand, and love to have your support. Thanks for all that you do for the community! :-)

      -Austin

  14. says

    Just wanted to also chime in to say that you guys really are the best and worth every penny. The additional features (staging in particular) are incredibly convenient.

    I think what really separates you guys from the rest is your amazing customer support… I’ve screwed up my WordPress install on a couple of occassions and even though it was not due to anything on your end, your support was able to help me out and fix the issues very quickly.

    Keep it up!

  15. says

    Seems like things have really been cooking since we talked in Vegas in April. Awesome and inspirational to see how far WP Engine has come. Good luck with the new role!

    P.S. I just signed up today :-)

  16. says

    Congrats on the amazing growth. I did not realize the team was as large as it is. We are looking forward to working with you as we are now recommending WP Engine for select WordPress clients.

    ~ Anthony