My name is Jamie Madden, the founder and lead developer of WC Vendors, and co-organizer of the Saigon WordPress meetup. I grew up in Brisbane, Australia, where I spent my childhood and university years. Now, I’m living in Saigon, Vietnam.
I taught myself to program with the help of a friend at school where we learned how things worked by pulling them apart digitally speaking, building things such as tools for bulletin boards, Windows programs, and bots on IRC.
I went on to study a Bachelor of Information Environments at the University of Queensland (UQ), the first user-centered design degree of its kind in the world.
The Journey Began
At university, I was exposed to many different tools and systems to publish online, create communities and be creative. I ran communities and forums using PHPNuke, IRC, and other open-source tools.
I started publishing random thoughts online and was doing this all manually. I used CMS’s such as Cafelog, MODX, and PHP-Fusion before but I wanted something lightweight. In my search, I found b2Evolution.
While testing this, I came across the forum post from Matt Mullenweg about his fork and how the original developer had abandoned b2. I liked the proposal Matt wanted to pursue and followed this as I continued working.
In 2004, I started using WordPress for self-publishing. By 2006, I started a small web agency with my housemate and was using it to build websites for our clients. We created in-house plugins to make these niche sites quickly and easily.
While I had the agency on the side, I came to understand the importance of great customer support as I was a full-time system support officer in the engineering and IT faculty at UQ. It wasn’t until 2010 that I switched my main focus to WordPress for my income.
The Need for WC Vendors
WC Vendors Logo
While using WordPress to build websites and platforms for my clients, I had a project come across my desk. “Can you make fashion eBay on a shoestring budget?” Due to the size of the budget and my experience with WordPress this was the platform of choice.
In my search, there were three existing marketplace solutions available, two plugins and a theme. I tried all three and ended up using a plugin called Product Vendors by a developer, Matt Gates.
While working on the project, I discovered several issues in the plugin which resulted in an internal fork of the product and I was backporting updates. I spent six months working on this project before official updates slowed and the developer eventually abandoned his development.
I was answering questions along with another user on the support forums. After a while, we decided to make it official and launch my version, WC Vendors. After a month, we successfully launched a cleaned version.
After a while, my partner left due to health reasons, and running the project solo put a significant strain on me as I felt a duty to our users to continue development and deliver on what we had promised so I built a team. We are a small 100% remote team spread across the world that helps make things happen.
When we started, we had one and a half competitors. I say half because one was a theme that eventually moved their functionality to a plugin. There are now ten competitors in the WordPress space but we continue to stand out due to our exceptional support and ability to scale to large-scale marketplaces.
I designed WC Vendors for developers, keeping performance and scalability in mind. We have marketplaces with hundreds of thousands of products and tens of thousands of vendors running niche marketplaces worldwide. And I’m proud to say that WC Vendors has powered thousands of marketplaces over the years.
It has provided life-changing success for our users; this has been the most rewarding part of continuing to build WC Vendors.
Until a couple of months ago, I worked remotely from wherever I was with a small office at home. I recently moved into a dedicated office for my company and local staff here in Vietnam.
Jamie Madden Workplace
Advice for Business Owners
If you want to start building a product, start building now. If you already have a job and you have some time, get it started on the side so that you can figure things out while still earning an income. Figure out your exit point is; be it a financial or happiness exit that is up to you to decide.
As a founder, you will have a lot of different tasks you have to do. Just because you can do them all doesn’t mean you should. Hire early and build your team. You can do this on your own, but having others help with the success takes a load of the weight off your shoulders. The first hire for me was customer support and reducing that workload helped immensely.
As a software developer, learning marketing and its importance is something I wish I had learned years ago. Marketing and sales are critical and if you can’t or don’t want to do it, find someone to help you. It will increase your chances of success and help you build a sustainable business.
Don’t compare yourself to the competition. I can’t remember where I read this, but someone said, “Don’t look at them as competitors; look at them as alternatives.” Just because there is an alternative to your product doesn’t mean you shouldn’t build it or continue building it.
WordPress & Beyond
This year our focus is on a large code refactor as parts of our codebase are nearing ten years. This will bring even more performance improvements, a new API, and some much-requested features. We are focusing on automated testing and reducing issues for our users.
We have plenty of feature requests that will help our users build better marketplaces. Moreover, I’m spending a lot of time educating and supporting our users to succeed through writing and video training.
I have been around WordPress since the very beginning, and I have seen a lot of changes in this time. In the next five years, I see WordPress shifting focus to full site editing and cleaning up the admin experience.
There are a couple of competitors that provide the ease of using the parts where WordPress lack. However, these competitors lack the capabilities that WordPress plugins and themes offer.
My Love for the WordPress Community
I have attended, spoken, sponsored, and helped to organize WordPress meetups and WordCamps around the world. I’m an active slack participant on a couple of WordPress-related slacks where I try to assist new users as they navigate learning WordPress.
I have met a lot of great, intelligent, and approachable people in the WordPress community. I interact with a lot of people on Twitter and Slack. I can’t name all of them, but there are some great WordPress-related lists on Twitter.
How I Keep Myself Updated
As a developer, I follow a lot of blogs, Twitter folks, and I keep an eye on release notes for any plugin and theme that I use regularly. Even though I am attempting to step up into the business owner role, I am still patching bugs, write code snippets, and review code.
I’m running the latest betas of the tools we use, keeping me on top of what’s happening. I have also recently subscribed to Post Status, the WordPress Professional’s Community. Having access to this network has provided a greater insight into the business side of the things I was missing.
I Have a Life Other Than the Work
I am a qualified technical scuba diver. Pre-covid, I would spend about two months a year in the water taking photos, training, or exploring the depths of the oceans. When I’m not in the sea, you could find me snowboarding or rock climbing.
Here at home in Vietnam, I have various electronics projects that I’m tinkering with. These projects allow me to explore my interests in electronics and 3D printing.
I don’t have a single favorite travel destination, but I love Colorado and SE Asia.
I Reward Myself
I love to travel, try new activities and food. It’s especially great when I can travel somewhere to meet users, fellow WordPress folks, or other people within my interest circles. Covid has made this challenging recently, but we have been able to get some local travel within the south of Vietnam.
I also like to reward myself by working on passion projects and exploring new hobbies. I have a great workshop at the office that affords me time to explore these.
Connect With Me
- Twitter | WooCommerce Slack: digitalchild