Baris Unver of Optimocha Sharing His Success Story
Baris Unver of Optimocha

Barış Ünver – Founder of Optimocha

My name is Barış Ünver, a 32-year-old WordPress developer living in Ankara, Turkey. I own a small business called Optimocha, offering tailored speed optimization services for WordPress-based websites.

We’re also the maintainers of the Speed Booster Pack plugin, and we intend to make it the best speed optimization plugin in the WordPress ecosystem (more on that later).

The Journey Began

I got my first computer, as a gift, in 1997. I started making Flash animations in 2002. It was fun to make animations but I quickly fell in love with the ActionScript language (version 2 works a lot like JavaScript, and comes from the same ECMAScript family) and started programming without knowing anything.

After designing and programming a few websites in Flash. I decided to learn HTML and CSS, which led me to migrate from Flash to Dreamweaver.

Fall 2005 was the time I met with WordPress. After a few months of going back and forth with Blogspot and WP, I published my first personal blog on WordPress.com in January 2006. In a month or so, I migrated to a free hosting company which was the milestone for me to technically start developing my theme.

In July 2006, I paid for my hosting and domain (beyn.org). My personal blog is currently my longest WordPress endeavor, with Beyn, I started tinkering with the theme and installing a lot of plugins to extend my blog.

I also started accepting web design jobs and started making websites for a living. I lived with my grandmother, and getting paid for one website helped me to afford my necessities food,  drinks & transportation for around a month; so I didn’t try much to improve my skills.

The Need for Optimocha

Optimocha Logo

Optimocha Logo

In 2012, I saw a blog post on Wptuts+ (later renamed to Tuts+ Code) saying that they need bloggers to write WordPress tutorials. I spoke (wrote, really) English pretty good back then (still not bad, right?) so I applied for the job. After a tutorial I wrote to show off my knowledge about WordPress, my English, and my writing skills, I was in!

I wrote close to 150 WordPress tutorials on Tuts+ Code in 4 years – 2 years as an author, 2 years as lead instructor. I got to know brilliant people who wrote with me like Ahmad Awais and Rachel McCollin. I was mentored by inspiring editors (Japh Thomson and Tom McFarlin, each for 2 years).

Unfortunately, Tuts+ Code management decided to lean more into tutorials that focused more on heavy coding, so I decided to part ways.

In 2015, close to the end of my journey with Tuts+, I became more and more obsessed with WordPress speed optimization, and while researching for those articles, I realized that there were many speed optimization plugins, but only a few companies offered expert-level speed optimization services for websites.

As I realized that the need for a “tailored” speed optimization service can be profitable., so decided to build a small business around that idea.

I wish I didn’t throw that paper away, but deciding to name the business Optimocha wasn’t easy: I wanted a good name so badly that I’ve written hundreds of different names (mostly combinations of words with a prefix like “opti-” or “speed-”). If it weren’t for Tom, my old editor I mentioned earlier, I almost chose the awful name “WPtimize” which still sounds horrible.

The Bad Luck of 2016

In April 2016, I registered my company. I started building Optimocha’s website with a nice theme and a simple payment form powered by PayPal.

In May 2016, PayPal announced that they’ll halt operations in Turkey because of their dispute with the Turkish government. I was shocked but quickly decided to switch to another big payment gateway provider called 2CheckOut.

They also left Turkey after PayPal did. After lots of cursing to my bad luck, I signed up with a Turkish payment gateway provider. (Later that year, I switched to another Turkish company.)

I was battling with depression at that time, because of some gruesome terrorist attacks that happened in the past year. (one of which happened only 2 kilometers from my apartment.)

July 2016,  was the month I almost gave up on everything. I don’t want to bore you with those dark memories but if you want to learn more about it, you can read my post on HeroPress.

Luckily, I won the battle against depression and got back on my feet in October. I emailed a bunch of bloggers about new business and my not-really-finished website and asked for links on their blog posts about Black Friday 2016 deals. I remember I’ve got two or three positive responses.

On November 25, 2016 (Black Friday and my birthday), I made my first two sales. Everything went better after that.

Meeting with Frank

I first contacted Frank Goossens in 2014 about a feature suggestion to his plugin, Autoptimize. We exchanged several emails about my Tuts+ articles and stuff like that after that.

In 2016, I let him know that I’m building a business for WordPress speed optimization services and wanted to know about his policy about showing banners in the Autoptimize settings screen. He made a counter-offer about selling Autoptimize configuration services and employing me.

I’m not going into the details about the negotiation but in the end, we decided to partner up and sell two service packages:

  1. Pro Autoptimize Configuration
  2. Complete Speed Optimization

In April 2017, we made our first sale and finished close to 500 jobs to this date with an incredible success & satisfaction rate. We’re still business partners with no intention to break things up.

Growing the Business & Thinking Beyond Optimocha

When I first wrote drafts about my business plan in 2015, I knew that optimizing websites isn’t exactly scalable. I thought of starting to build a speed optimization plugin from scratch, maybe offer managed hosting services, and eventually growing beyond WordPress to offer speed optimization services for all kinds of websites.

Thank God I drifted away from the other two ideas but making a plugin was always on my mind. Then, in fall 2018, Frank introduced me to Cristian from MachoThemes who owned Speed Booster Pack.

After some talking, I decided to acquire the plugin. With 40K+ active users already existing, I thought I made a great purchase (I still do) because even if I built a plugin from scratch the day I started my company, I wouldn’t have been able to grow it to 40K+ active users.

The sad thing is, I failed to realize Speed Booster Pack was a mess back then. (It wasn’t Cristian’s fault because that mess was coded by someone else, and it wasn’t considered “messy” back when the plugin was first built.)

The plugin was constantly losing active users, which eventually led the plugin to show “30K+ active users” after a few months (turns out 39,999 active users means “30K+ active users”, heh.)

I also made some bad choices (mostly about choosing a developer) which cost Speed Booster Pack about a year, but eventually, I and my developer (Zahid) rebuilt the plugin FROM SCRATCH and we’re constantly working on improvements & new features, and a premium version!

Apart from growing Optimocha and Speed Booster Pack, I’m planning on creating a speed optimization course and maybe even a newsletter dedicated to web performance optimization.

Myself with my Brilliant Team

Team Optimocha

Team Optimocha

Advice for Business Owners

  • Always work globally: The WordPress ecosystem offers limitless opportunities to share your knowledge across the world, and even get paid for it! This is especially important when you’re living in a country with a “developing” (read: bad) economy; because you’ll be rewarded by everyone in the world in exchange for your knowledge and skills.
  • Delegate: Greed is really the worst sin – If you choose to do everything by yourself, you’ll lose money in the long run. Set a realistic hourly rate for your own time (e.g. €50/hr or €250/hr) and delegate EVERYTHING that costs less to you.
  • Keep yourself updated: Keeping WordPress up to date isn’t that hard, but keeping yourself up to date needs more work. Follow WordPress giants (people and/or companies) on social media; subscribe to the different parts of make.wordpress.org, and get daily newsletters from the WordPress-related blogs of your choosing. I have over 15 years of experience with WordPress and I’m aware that if I choose to hit “pause” for only a year, I’ll lose half my knowledge.

 

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    WordPress & Beyond

    Right now, our main focus is to get the Speed Booster Pack better and provide premium solutions to monetize it.

    Regarding going beyond WordPress, we’re hesitant about it because WordPress is such a big ecosystem that we might lose our focus if we think outside it. However, I’ve got a few SaaS-like ideas that can work for Shopify users as well as progressive web apps. Who knows, maybe we’ll expand beyond WordPress some time next year!

    My Love for the WordPress Community

    I’ve been an avid community supporter of WordPress Since February 2018, I’ve been organizing official WordPress meetup events in the city I live in (Ankara, Turkey).

    During the pandemic, I’ve been less busy with organizing meetups but I’ve come up with a horde of new meetup ideas to realize in 2021, satisfying from the least knowledgeable WP user to the biggest WP experts!

    How I Keep Myself Updated

    I’m one of the few people in the world who still love RSS feeds! Along with two news websites in Turkey and several blogs, I’m following close to 20 websites that publish WordPress-related content.

    Other than that, I have subscriptions for a few email newsletters, some of which aren’t at all related to WordPress. One of my favorites is Hacker Newsletter.

    I Have a Life Other Than the Work

    I have a passion to write: I’ve been blogging since 2006 (15 years now, wow!) and I’ve started trying myself on creative writing: I’ve finished writing a play in 2018 and I’m working on a short novel for the past year or so. I’m still on step one, but I aspire to spread my words across the universe – I’m even ready to retire to pursue this passion, but only if I generate enough monthly passive income for myself and my (future) family.

    I Reward Myself by

    • Coffee! Next to writing, coffee is my secondary passion, and one of my biggest hobbies.
    • Books! I try to read at least 52 books every year, and I realized that the more books I read, the better I get at expressing myself.
    • Movies! I can’t say that I’m a “cinephile”, but I love watching movies. It’s a great way to spend time recharging yourself with joy, awe, and (in some cases) new ideas.

    Connect With Me

    Thanks for reading everything all the way down here! If you want to get in touch with me, you can contact me over Optimocha’s contact form. (Hint: Tell me you’re coming from WPfounders and I’ll send you a special discount for our services!) You can also follow us on GitHub or my Twitter account.

    Spread The Love!

    1 thought on “Barış Ünver – Founder of Optimocha”

    1. Sinan Tandoğan

      This is a very sincere and inspiring story Barış, I hope you continue to enjoy your business journey by creating value in global scale. I am an old friend of your father from our high school years…
      Best wishes,
      Sinan

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