My name is Robert Abela. I left my home country, Malta, when I was 24 years old. Since then I have lived in Cyprus, Scotland, and now, settled in the Netherlands with my family. My wife and I have three children, two girls, and a boy.
I founded WP White Security 7 years ago when our first daughter was born. The timing for such a big change was not ideal. However, when she was born I realized that I was spending too much time away from home, and needed to find something that is less stressful, and that allows me to spend more time at home.
The Journey Began
Before founding WP White Security I held several tech jobs in a number of security software startups and big companies. I started my IT career in 1999, after dropping out of school. My first job was as a software tester at GFI Software.
Since then I’ve worked as a systems engineer, researcher, project manager, product designer, and pre-sales engineer. My last job in the corporate world was, VP of Marketing for a web security software company, which was quite a change after all the hands-on tech jobs.
Till then I didn’t know anything about WordPress. I found out about WordPress back in 2012, when I was working as a product manager for a web security software company called Acunetix. We wanted to start a blog and we’re looking for a self-hosted solution.
After a bit of research, it was obvious that WordPress was the most popular choice. We also liked the fact that it had a big community behind it because it meant that WordPress is a well-maintained software and is here to stay.
The Need for WP White Security
WP White Security Logo
When I started using WordPress back in 2012, security was something new in the WordPress ecosystem. I remember talking to Daniel Cid when Sucuri was just a team of two people!
So when I left my job, I started developing WP Security Audit Log as a hobby because I wanted to learn how to code. I also started this plugin because I figured out that a system like WordPress, which allows multiple users to collaborate and build a website together, needed some sort of activity logs solution.
At the same time, I also started WP White Security. However, back then WP White Security was just a WordPress security and admin blog.
But now it has become a plugins development company and I couldn’t be happier. We currently have five plugins and we are in the process of developing the fifth one! So stay with us and you will find out what it is!
Since WordPress is very easy to use, it allows many individuals to start their own websites. However, many website owners want to focus on their business and do not have the time or know-how to manage and keep a website secure.
So naturally, they need the right and easy to use tools to do the job, especially when both the website and the team start growing.
There are many security and admin solutions out there. However, many of them are bloated with a myriad of features and settings which confuse the users more than they help them.
So we build really easy to use plugins, and each one of them has a specific task. For example;
- WP Security Audit Log is used to keep a record of changes that happen on your website in the activity logs. It has a number of tools as well, but they are all used to get more out of the activity logs.
- Website File Changes Monitor just runs file integrity checks for WordPress websites and alerts you of file changes on your website.
- Password Policy Manager allows you to enforce strong password policies for WordPress users.
So when users install our plugin they know what the scope of the plugin is and are not overwhelmed by too many settings, most of which they might not understand.
But all of this didn’t come easy. Just starting a business is a challenge in itself. However, the biggest challenge for me was finding developers to help me develop the early versions of the WP Security Audit Log plugin.
I can read and write code, but I am not a developer. So when I developed the first early versions of the plugin and had a very positive response, I needed to find a developer to help me.
Back then the plugin was still a hobby funded by my consultancy, so the budget was very tight. This meant that I could not guarantee a monthly number of working hours to a developer, so no one wanted to commit.
So during the first two and a half years of the plugin, I had to work with different freelanced based developers. Whenever I needed something done I had to look for freelancers.
This meant that most of the time I ended up working with a new developer, which was not easy for both of us. It is very difficult to read someone else’s code and build on top of it, or even worse, fix issues in it.
Because of this I also couldn’t release an update whenever I wanted, and support/bug fixing was also very slow.
So naturally, the proudest moment for me was when after two and a half years I released the first premium edition. The premium edition allowed me to finally have a budget, which meant I could pay a developer for a fixed number of hours per month.
So that meant no more chasing developers and I finally could work with the same developer with a proper schedule etc.
So for WP White Security develops these five plugins:
- WP Security Audit Log
- Password Policy Manager
- Website File Changes Monitor
- Activity Logs for MainWP
- WP 2FA
- Some other plugins which are still being developed 🙂
Myself with my Brilliant Team
We are a team of four people but we are all remote. So everyone works from home and all four of us have never met. However, our plan is to do so at the next WordCamp Europe! So the only picture I can provide you with is from my office.
Robert Abela Workstation
Advice for Business Owners
Unfortunately many have a distorted idea of what it takes to start and run a business. Very often we read about or see videos of bosses working from beaches, just working a few hours a day and relying on a source of passive income.
It is possible that it worked for some people. However, the reality is that you need to put in the long hours of hard work, be focused, be patient, and ready to take some risks. Business is a marathon and not a sprint. If you are in it for an overnight success, or just for the money, you’re in the wrong place.
Another advice I would like to give is that if you have an idea and really believe in it, go for it! It’s ok to fail. Many successful people failed before they could climb the ladder of success.
WordPress & Beyond
Our aim is to keep developing the current plugin portfolio and to also develop some new ones.
We are also working closely with other developers to integrate our products together when possible. For example, just a few weeks ago we announced the integration between WP Security Audit Log and WPForms. These integrations really help the business grow while allowing us to learn more about the industry.
A lot of businesses depend on WordPress whether directly or indirectly so I hope to see it installed on many more websites in the future.
But obviously, there are external forces that will prevent that from happening especially competitors and they are always a threat. However, we need them because they are what keep us on our toes. I love it when a competitor develops a good new feature because it gives us a good challenge!
My Love for the WordPress Community
I do attend WordCamps, but not as much as I want to. WordCamps are great because you meet a lot of people, share ideas, and it gives you a lot of motivation. It is also a good time to meet many people who you usually only talk to over email or phone.
Meetups are more local and frequent, so there are fewer people but typically you build more meaningful relations. Personally, I found meetups very helpful because back in the years they helped me push through some tough phases.
They helped me understand that I was not the only one struggling with a consultancy job to fund my WordPress hobby, working 14 hours a day and dreaming that one day it would be my full time. So meetups were like therapy for me. 🙂
How I Keep Myself Updated
I follow what is happening in the WordPress community itself, i.e. core developments, etc, and what the competitors are doing. That is what matters to our business.
I also keep myself informed about what is happening in the security scene by subscribing to WP Security Bloggers, which is a centrally curated aggregate of WordPress security blogs. Full disclosure: this is a project maintained by yours truly.
I Have a Life Other Than the Work
I like to spend my free time playing with my children, or better, trying to convince them to hit the outdoors. I also love mountain biking, running, hiking, camping, and any other type of outdoor adventure.
Our lives are too busy and hectic, trying to juggle time between work, family, and hobbies. So we try to keep it calm during the holidays, and most of the time stay at home. I do not have a specific destination, but I’d pick an outdoor destination over a city at any time.
I also have a pet cat and her name is Kypri. We found her as a stray in Cyprus, and she has lived with us in Malta, Scotland, and now in the Netherlands.
Robert Abela Pet
I Reward Myself by
During my corporate career, I always got a yearly bonus. However, it seems it is not so common with WordPress businesses. So at the end of the year, I like to give a bonus to everyone on our team. As a business, we also like to donate to good causes.
Every year we donate to Let’s Encrypt, Wikipedia (who doesn’t use this at least a few times a year!), and to at least one nature/sustainability organization.
- Get 15% OFF on any of our premium plugins at WPdisounts.