I am Topher DeRosia, the founder of HeroPress. I live in the USA. I grew up in a forest full of green in the summer and full of snow in the winter. Far from people with animals in the woods and darkness at night with all the stars that you can see.
The Journey Began
I got into computing by accident, typing papers for people when people would type papers. They write them with pencil or ink on paper and then I convert them to text typing.
Then I found the web in 1995 and fell in love. I’ve been building websites kind of ever since. The web was very simple then. I learned all the HTML tags in the whole world in about 25 minutes. So, it was really fun.
I did not join WordPress right away. WordPress was seven years old before I started using it and then in 2010, 3.0 came out with custom post types and that was beautiful.
I couldn’t build with anything else after that and it’s been wonderful. I loved it. It’s been a good career. I raised my family with it. I raised my children in the community. They have friends all over the world now and it’s been really great.
The Need for HeroPress
In 2014, I was working for a company called XWP and the owner sent me an email and said, you’re not working for XWP anymore. I want you to do something special for WordPress and that was it. That’s all he said.
I wrote back and said, what is it? And he said that’s your journey to discover. I said about trying to come up with a great idea and the idea I had was similar to TED.
We were going to travel the world and interview people and have them or video people giving advice to their peers.
It started because a man in India wanted my advice on business and I said, I don’t know. I don’t know the business. I don’t know Indian business. So, I found him somebody else in India who was successful in WordPress and I connected them.
I said, you know, I’d really love to help people all over the world. I’m a white American dude. I don’t want to come in as a great white savior.
But the idea of finding someone who’s already successful and saying to them, listen, will you please tell this other person or all these other people how you were successful and how you can help them? I like that idea.
Unfortunately, we did not raise our funding and I thought your request was dead. But people came to me and said, no, no, listen, you have to keep it up. It has to happen.
So, I pivoted to text instead of videos and then it’s just a blog. Rather than six months of video editing and travel, it’s an afternoon of writing and some editing and the bandwidth is so much lower.
A lot of the people I was writing for at the time, raised 3G or less to get on the internet. And a 4K video is horrible. But the text, you can download, even download it later and watch, when you get home or whatever.
So we pivoted to text and it was very popular and I’ve been doing it ever since. It’s just extremely heartwarming. The stories that I’ve heard are just amazing. The challenge has been that it does take time.
When I’m working on HeroPress, I’m not with my children. I’m not with my wife. I’m not exercising. It’s never really made money. At the moment, I’m trying to pivot to make it a job and have it make money. But it’s not.
HeroPress is the network, which includes WP Podcasts.com, which aggregates all WordPress podcast episodes into one site. We also have PressItWP, which is for releasing press releases that get sent to all news organizations.
We have WP Wallpapers, which is just for fun. It’s just desktop wallpapers for WordPress.
There’s just a whole bunch. If you go to heropressnetwork.com, you can see a list of everything.
When I talk to people about what I’m trying to do, they say, ‘That’s great. Let me know when you turn on your donation machine.’ I’m hoping that works. An alternative is to find a job, a real job, something, work for somebody, still raise the funding for HeroPress and hire somebody.
Advice for Business Owners
If I had advice for people who want to start their own business, you need to realize very early that a business is not just the thing you love, but it’s a thousand other things that you probably hate.
So, you love being a web developer. You think I’ll go freelance, and I’ll just build websites and people will hand me money. No, you’ll become a tax preparer, and you will become a marketer. You will become a debt collector. You will become a social engineer, and maybe you’ll get to build websites.
So if you don’t want to do all that other stuff, you have to figure out a way to get it done. You hire it, you rent it, you do whatever. But just know that you can’t simply say, I’m going to go do this thing I love and nothing else.
A particular niche, I would say that the low-hanging fruit, if you’re not on the web at all right now, the low hanging fruit is to learn how to use Gutenberg really, well, because you can build full-strength, top-notch, great WordPress sites with Gutenberg without knowing code.
Stay in Touch
WordPress & Beyond
WordPress in the next five years, I’m really unsure. It’s changed so much in the last two and in ways I would never have guessed. So I’m reluctant to say where we’re in five.
If we’re really pressed, I think for a long time we had developers and implementers. Implementers could build a site with plugins, but not really customized and developers wrote a lot of code.
For a long time, there were way more developers than implementers and I think we’re going to flip that.
I think we’re going to get to the point where there are only a few developers and they are building Gutenberg and the implementers will take over the world using Gutenberg to build all the websites.
I’m not sure that’s a good or a bad thing. I’m just curious to see where it goes.
If there was a threat to WordPress from competitors, I would say having them make it even easier to build a website. I recently worked on a Wix site and the reason they hired me is because it was too hard for them to do some things.
But they had built 90% of a good website with just drag-and-drop tools. I can see the appeal of that. Because I can also see somewhere in their deep dark past, they hired a WordPress developer who built something horribly complicated.
And they went, oh, I don’t ever want to do WordPress again. So maybe that’s the threat to WordPress. Bad developers!
My Love for the WordPress Community
I love attending WordCamps and meetups. I’ve been to maybe 90 WordCamps now. Well, let’s count them as Australia, Asia, Europe, and North America.
Topher At WordCamp US
I’ve never been to Africa or South America or Antarctica. So I have four continents. I need to get to South America.
I love them like crazy that a lot of the success of WordPress is people at events sticking their hand out and saying, hi, I’m Topher. Who are you? Where do you live? What is it like where you live? Is it hot? It’s cold. What do you eat? All that stuff.
Topher at WordCamp Asia
That’s one of the foundations of WordPress. That’s why it’s successful. And that’s why meetups and WordCamps are successful.
I’m not going to tell you who my best friends are, because there are 1,000 and I will forget some and feel terrible about it. But I will tell you that all my best friends in the world are in the WordPress community.
Topher at WordCamp Pune
I’m very happy that my children have so many of their own friends in the WordPress community. Many of my friends are also their friends but they have friends that I don’t know.
They met at a WordCamp at some after-party when they were 17. And now they have someplace to go.
How I Keep Myself Updated
I don’t deliberately keep myself updated in WordPress. I am in a dozen slacks. I talk to a lot of people who are core developers or on a contributor team or something.
I just observe what’s going on in the community as I move through talking to people. I don’t think, oh, I need to go read some newsletter to find out what’s going on.
In fact, most of the time, when I get an email newsletter from somebody, I flip through it. I’m like, oh, I read that and then I’m done. It’s old news by the time I get it in a newsletter.
So just getting out there, that’s my advice to people. You want to be in the community, join some slacks, watch conversations, and take part in conversations. And you get a feel for what’s going on.
I Have a Life Other Than the Work
When I’m not working, I spend most of my time with my wife. We recently moved into a new apartment, so we’ve been busy arranging and decorating our living space.
Topher With Cate
We have a beautiful living room with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the River Valley.
We enjoy sitting there, watching television, and simply admiring the view of our city. In the evenings, it’s fascinating to witness the spectacle of thousands of birds or bats flying over the city from a nearby church tower.
We’re also close to the river, so we often see interesting things floating by, including fishermen. During holidays, our approach has changed over the years. When our children were young, we used to travel to visit both sets of parents, but it became exhausting.
So, when our kids were around 10 years old, we decided to stay home for the holidays and spend quality time together as a family. I usually take several weeks off before Christmas and return a few days after New Year. We explore the city, enjoy the holiday lights, and cherish our time together.
As for my favorite travel destination, it would have to be any WordCamp in the world. However, I have particularly enjoyed my visits to Vienna, Porto, and Barcelona. Although I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland, the Caribbean, and Iceland.
I’m also fascinated by the Faroe Islands, which are part of Scotland but located 200 miles north in the Arctic Ocean. There’s a beautiful city with around a thousand inhabitants there, and it’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit.
In the past, we had two dogs. The oldest dog lived with us for 17 years and eventually faced health challenges due to cancer, blindness, and deafness. In her final days, she would peacefully rest in the sun without seeming to be in pain.
Our younger dog, who had never been apart from her, started losing weight a few weeks before the older dog’s passing. It turned out that she had kidney failure, likely caused by the emotional distress of her companion’s declining health. It was a difficult time for us, especially since it occurred during Christmas.
I Reward Myself by
In terms of rewarding myself, I find pleasure in indulging in physical delights. I enjoy whiskey, sugary treats, candy, and fried foods like buffalo wings, ribs, and pizza.
I also engage in activities that bring me joy. I do love travel. It’s usually not a reward. I can’t afford to reward myself with travel. But it’s fun when I do it.