Today we are talking to Brad Litwin who is the marketing manager for a hosting company based in the US, called A2 Hosting. They have been around for over 10 years now and have made their name offering web hosting "for developers by developers". I am interested in companies which are started off by one person, such was A2hosting so I interviewed Brad to get a little insight into what it's like to work for such a company.
Could you tell us a little about your yourself & the company background ?
My name is Brad Litwin and I am the Marketing Manager for A2 Hosting. We are a high performance Web Hosting provider founded in 2003. We are based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and this is actually what our company is named after. A key focus of ours is to be the web hosting provider we would want to use ourselves. To us that means fast servers, reliable performance, 24/7/365 support and being 100% honest.
I personally have been with A2 Hosting since 2007. Previously I was working for the Affiliate Management division of Think Partnership. I applied for a job listing for A2 Hosting's Marketing Manager position after I rejected a mandatory transfer to Florida with Think Partnership. I was interested in A2 Hosting because the position encompassed a lot more of the marketing mix than my previous position including content writing, social media and PPC. I met with our CEO and was hired a few days later. It's funny because I have a wealth of technical knowledge, but starting to work here at A2 Hosting was a completely different ball game.
Who were the founders and How many Staff do you employ now ?
The founder is Bryan Muthig, who is also our CEO. His background is as a Unix System Administrator, so that's why we're interested in offering high performance, developer solutions. The idea was hosting for developers by developers. He started the company as a side venture and began by hosting websites for friends and family. The business started to expand though and he decided there was an opportunity to expand and work on it full time. Things have worked out well considering we celebrated our 10 year anniversary last year.
We currently have about 38 employees. We are a green company, so most of us work remotely. Initially all employees were located within Michigan, but we're located all over the country now.
How was the business initially promoted and how has growth been ?
When we first launched, the company really made a name for itself by becoming one of the first hosts to offer PHP 5 Hosting. Since then, and along with our high performance Web Hosting, we steadily released services like our VPS Hosting, Managed VPS and Cloud VPS Hosting that met the growing demand of our customer base. We continue to grow thanks to our high speed hosting capabilities.
Over the past year, we've seen a large amount of growth in our amount of affiliate sales. One of the hats I wear is as Affiliate Manager and I spend much of my time recruiting new affiliates and making sure our current ones are getting all the tools they need to be successful. Persistence in recruiting has been a key element for that growth. Over the past year we've seen 68% growth in our affiliate sales. We've also more than doubled the amount of sales we've received from Google Organic traffic.
What are some of the challenges the business has faced along the way ?
One of the biggest challenges is the sheer amount of competition there is in the web hosting industry. It's easy carving a niche for yourself when there's only a few competitors in your marketplace. To make a name for ourselves, we needed to provide a clear advantage over our competition. Our high performance SwiftServer platform and SwiftServer SSDs with up to 300% faster page loads compared to competing hosts has provided us with that distinct advantage.
Could you tell us about your WordPress hosting offering ?
Our full product range includes Web Hosting, Reseller Hosting, VPS Hosting, Cloud VPS Hosting, Managed VPS Hosting, Dedicated Hosting and Managed Dedicated Hosting. Our customers can grow with us throughout the entire life cycle of their website. Our most popular product line for WordPress Hosting is our Web Hosting product. You get the option of hosting on our 300% faster SSDs, in our European data center or on European SSDs.
A very cool feature we offer is our no-click WordPress setup. When signing up, you get the option to have WordPress installed automatically immediately upon signing up. There's no need to fumble around with install files or log into your hosting control panel to get WordPress setup. We also offer what we call "All-Inclusive" hosting. While other hosts charge extra for services like backups, hack protection and a CDN, we offer each of these for free.
Do you do anything else within the WordPress Community ?
We publish a lot of non-promotional WordPress tutorials in our knowledgebase, blog and Youtube channel to help WordPress users, regardless of their host, get the most out of WordPress. We'll post beginner articles like how to install a WordPress theme as well as more advanced tutorials like how to administer WordPress from the command line.
Do you have any advice for someone working on their own startup ?
Make sure you focus on your site's page load speed! You can have the best products and the best website design, but if your page loads slowly, your visitors are just going to purchase from a competing site. According to a Kissmetrics study, a mere 1 second delay in page load speed drops your conversion rate by 7%.
What does a typical day look like for you ?
We have a small Marketing department as most of our employees are in our support and engineering departments. For that reason, I wear many hats. I spend much of my day getting the word out regarding our services. That could mean a number of things including running our PPC campaigns, advertising campaigns, speaking to our current and potential affiliates/partners, writing website content, blogging and not to mention doing interviews like this!
What are your plans for future expansion?
We recently launched our Cloud VPS Hosting service. This service features distinct advantages that allow users to only pay for the resources they use, features free high availability failover and allows users to re-size their VM on demand. We will be rolling out another unique service that will build upon this Cloud VPS service in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!
Where do you see the future of WordPress Hosting?
Right now we're seeing a shift towards Managed WordPress solutions that start roughly around $40/month. That can be a tough price point for someone just starting a blog to pay. I believe as hosts continue to partner with plugin providers and processes become more and more automated so WordPress sites are even easier to manage, I believe the shift will be to quality, more affordable WordPress Hosting solutions.
Anything else you'd like to add ?
Thank you for interviewing us and I would like to thank your audience for taking the time to read this interview. I would just request that you give our no-risk WordPress Hosting a try. If within 30-days you're not happy with our service, we'll give you a full refund. With our speed advantages, I'm confident you'll want to stick around though.
Thanks for talking to us!
Thanks to Brad for taking time to answer our questions. We are always interested in talking to businesses and individuals working around WordPress so if you would like to talk to us, please get in touch. You can check out some previous interviews here.