I am Anh Tran, the founder of the Meta Box plugin for WordPress. Many people know me via the nickname Rilwis when I first started with WordPress (sharing my knowledge on my personal Deluxe Blog Tips blog).
I’m living in Hanoi, Vietnam, a country with beautiful beaches and great food. My company and team members are all based here.
The Journey Began
I didn’t study IT-related professions at university. My major was mechanical engineering. But I always love programming and self-touched C, C++, and later PHP and web technologies. I used code to solve my engineering assignments in the University several times.
In the 2nd year of University, I wanted to create a blog and after some research, I found WordPress. I remembered that day, Yahoo! 360 was a big thing, and used it a lot. But it didn’t allow much customization. When I found WordPress, it seemed to be helpful and easy to customize. So I stick with that.
The Need for Meta Box
Meta Box Logo
In 2010, while developing websites, I needed to create multiple custom fields for WordPress. And as the number of fields grows, the code repeats more and more. And I found that there wasn’t such a tool that helps developers to save time creating custom fields. So I started building a tool like that.
I shared the result on my blog through a series of tutorials. Turned out there were a lot of developers who had the same problem and they really liked the idea. After a year, I packed the code into a plugin and shared it on wordpress.org. The purpose was simple: allowing people to update the script within the WordPress dashboard.
The growth for the plugin has been exceptional since then, we got 50k active installs, 100k after a year. Now Meta Box powers 500k+ WordPress sites. Developers like Meta Box because it’s truly a developer tool that is powerful, flexible, and lightweight.
I founded my company 6 years after Meta Box’s initial launch. We’ve been trying to create more products with the hope to get popularity as Meta Box. At the moment, we have GretaThemes, Slim SEO, and WP Auto Listings. They’re doing quite well in their niche, especially Slim SEO – which grows exponentially in the last year.
Myself with my Brilliant Team
This is my team and me (I’m the third from the left):
Team Meta Box
Advice for Business Owners
I started my own business as a developer, so there are a lot (I really mean a lot) of things that need to be learned. So, if you want to start a business, prepare yourself, and keep learning. It’s not a day, a month, but it’s a daily learning process. We have to keep upgrading ourselves to maintain our business in a good position in the crowded WordPress market (I guess that happens in all other markets).
Making great products! That’s the only way that keeps your business running. Other tactics are just short-term, a great product is long-term and will make your living. Remember that marketing a bad product is the shortest way to kill it.
If you’re wondering what’s the best niche to join the market, my advice will be: it’s always good to start with something that you passionate about. Make something that you like and use every day. There’ll be people who have the same needs and they’ll like your products.
WordPress & Beyond
Currently, we focus on upgrading our products to have modern and better technologies and user experience. We notice that user experience (and developer experience) is an important key to make a product successful. So, the short-term plan is focusing on that.
In the long-term, we will add more value to our products and improve our marketing channels. We also need to grow our community as well.
WordPress is growing strong and therefore, the WordPress market is in the same line. However, it’s getting saturated in the next few years, I think there will be more acquisitions in the ecosystem. We’ll see some brands stay strong and some disappear. Competition is not for everyone.
My Love for the WordPress Community
I love the WordPress community. In Hano, we created a community of WordPress developers and users where we share a lot of interesting things together. The Hanoi WordPress meetup is the foundation for a lot of WordPress businesses in Vietnam, including Meta Box.
The WordPress community also brings me a lot of connections with great people. We still keep in touch and are good friends. We help each other whenever possible.
I think the WordPress community is an essential part of the WordPress ecosystem. If you haven’t attended any WordCamp or meetup, you should do it immediately. It’s a chance to know the WordPress world, WordPress people, products and make connections.
How I Keep Myself Updated
I subscribe to around a hundred websites. I use a service called Feedly to manage my subscription. It’s a great tool to manage all the sources. Every day, I spend around an hour reading all the articles and updates. Not only about WordPress, but about web development, react, marketing, and business development as well.
I Have a Life Other Than the Work
I like to read books and love to play with my kids in my free time. This year I have read 24 books which is double from last year. My main topics are Buddhism and Business. I learned a lot from them.
I have 2 kids (a 4-year old boy and a 1-year old girl). They are so adorable. Playing with them, reading stories, and talking to them swipe away all of my burdens, I feel so peaceful and happy at home.
I also travel several times with my family and my company. This year, because of COVID, we went only to some domestic places, enjoying beautiful beaches in the Middle of Vietnam and staying in some gorgeous homestays.
I Reward Myself by
I reward myself for being alone for a while maybe 1 or 2 days without doing anything.
Playing with my kids, watching Chinese movies with my wife in the late evenings are also my favorite times. Sometimes, we do those activities in a far, strange place.
I feel so good helping people by donating to charity activities.