When I was a kid, I loved building stuff and started programming on my Commodore 64 and Apple IIC when I was 12. It was mostly assembly language back then, which later helped me in my career as well.
Around that time, I also started windsurfing, which I still love today.
I’ve learned electronics engineering a long time ago. Worked as an ASIC developer for some 15 years.
Saved some money and started OnTheGoSystems. To start the business, I looked for an economic place to live, where I can work on building my own business while living on savings.
I moved with my family to Argentina and we stayed there for 5 years. During that time, I started our first project – WPML. It was in 2009.
From there, we’ve grown – both in what we’re doing and in the size of the team.
The Journey Began
I built my first website on HTML before I learned about WordPress. At that time, WordPress didn’t yet have “pages” (just posts). Once WordPress got pages, I started using them for work.
I created our first site with WordPress and it’s still working great. I think that it was around 2010.
Before WordPress, I coded the site in HTML and used Python scripts to generate consistent navigation between pages.
I was very happy to find a tool that takes care of content management, without me having to build it all myself.
I was always a fan of customizing things. So, I’d never use a ‘hosted’ system, which I can’t tweak. I guess that’s part of being an engineer.
The Need for WPML
When we started WPML, I would have been happy to use an existing plugin, but none existed, that I could rely on.
There was a very old plugin called qTranslate, but it didn’t look reliable enough to me and I didn’t like the way it organized translations in the database.
Again, being an engineer, I cared not only about the end result, but how things are built internally. If it doesn’t make sense, it’s going to break at some point in time.
OnTheGoSystems was the first time I was in charge of a company, not only a product. Working as an employee, I never appreciated the amount of effort that goes into HR and building a company culture.
I have to admit that I was pretty bad at these areas in our first years. We’re doing much better today, thanks to Laura, our amazing HR manager, and a growing HR team.
Myself with my Brilliant Team
We all work from home. Right now, my home is in Madrid. It used to be in Israel, Bariloche (Argentina), and even Maui (Hawaii). We’ll see where the home will be in a few years from now.
WPML Team Enjoying at Beach
Advice for Business Owners
Pick something that:
- You’re good at
- You enjoy doing
- Enough others need and will pay for
- Don’t bite more than you can chew
- Treat people like you want them to treat you
WordPress & Beyond
Our WordPress plugins are growing nicely. We’re always working to build more value for our users. Business follows the value that we create.
And, we’re expanding our products to work both in and outside of WordPress.
I’m hoping that WordPress will continue growing. I think that WordPress leadership should listen more to the community. This includes end-users, agencies, and theme/plugin authors like us.
There’s always a threat from competitors. A business that has no competitors doesn’t have a market. Empires fall not because of outside forces but from the inside.
My Love for the WordPress Community
Especially for people who work from home, live events are a great opportunity to catch up on industry news and to get together with peers and our team.
We have excellent work relationships with many other authors. This has been our strength since we started WPML and Toolset projects. It’s great to meet up with our partners both online and when we come to live events.
Syed Balkhi from WPBeginner, in my opinion, is a success story. I’ve followed his progress for years. I don’t think that there’s an interview here with him yet.
How I Keep Myself Updated
I’m subscribed to a number of WordPress blogs, including the official make.WordPress. With around 100 people working in OnTheGoSystems today following different news, we usually know what’s happening pretty quickly.
Personally, I love reading psychology, economics, and history. I do most of this reading on my Kindle. I also follow financial news, but I have to admit that it’s more for the adrenaline rush than to actually get smarter.
I Have a Life Other Than the Work
Since the age of 13, I’ve been windsurfing. My wife and I dance a lot. We started with Argentine Tango when we lived in Argentina and now we have our own club, right here in Madrid.
Amir Helzer Loves Windsurfing
Adelance Dance Club
As we’re now in Spain, we have a lot to discover. Every holiday, we go somewhere else. We did a wonderful trip to Spain’s North in the summer.
Instead of 43 degrees in Madrid, it was 25 in Galicia. It even rained, which was great! On our last holiday, we went to a ‘tango festival’ in a city called Murcia, on the Spanish Mediterranean.
We have a dog, who stays with our son in Israel. The son is completing his military service next year and will join us with the Dog. The dog’s name is Dudu.
Amir Helzer Pet Dudu
I Reward Myself by
I’m a bit of a digital nomad. I love traveling to other countries with my family, and always eager to learn more about other cultures, their norms, and values.
It really fascinates me to get updated and help others without expecting anything, which makes me feel proud.