2,700 days ago, and 40,000 subscribers ago, I published my 13th blog post. Feedburner said there were 50 RSS subscribers, but at least 40 of them were directories or scrapers.
It was: “You’re a real company when….” An existential question of when a startup becomes “real.” At that time, I had decided it was when our sign went up on the building:
By “the building” I mean a windowless loft of 1/14th of a small strip-mall in a cheap area of town, where rats ate through our Ethernet cables and a tin roof made a light drizzle sound like hail and hail sound like the End of Days.
But it was ours, and from the earliest days of human enterprise it’s always meant something to hang out your shingle. (Let’s not get into exactly what sort of “shingle” is hanging out with the oldest profession…)
This past weekend, WP Engine hung its shingle as well, but this time it’s so much more meaningful, and not just because this building doesn’t have rats:
I grew up in Austin. I’ve traveled the world but there’ve always been reasons for me to stay.
As a kid, “downtown” was a weird, mysterious place. Unlike today, no one lived there, there were no family-friendly attractions, and the buildings housed organizations that a kid would never have occasion to visit: the workplaces of lawyers and government officials and bankers.
However, on Sundays we’d drive down 5th street towards those uncharted one-way streets, stopping just short of downtown proper. There was a grey building I could see out the left side of the car, where my carseat was, with a long, sloping ramp leading to a parking garage; this marked the caddy-corner of our destination — the bagel shop. (“Hot Jumbo,” which, like almost everything that was downtown 30 years ago, is no longer there.)
We’d scoot in, grab a baker’s dozen of bagels still piping hot from the oven, jump back in the car, U-turn away from the unknowable center of the city, and get home fast, hoping to eat one with its warmth intact.
This image of the building’s garage-entry is etched into my childhood memory, associated with “whatever adults do” and doughty 5th street, a one-way corridor into a world that maybe I’ll be admitted into, someday, when I’m a big boy. It’s a magical building, even if only for me.
That sign in the photo above, is mounted on that very building. “The WP Engine Building.”
I drive up that ramp every weekday, joining almost 200 people on this journey we created together.
Like a big boy.
TO EVERYONE AT WP ENGINE:
My hope is that being an essential part of this unique journey is your dream too, not just mine, and that you’ll point up to that sign five years from now and explain to the children in your back seat that it’s there because of you, not because you were “there for the ride,” but because you actually helped create it, one customer at a time, whether you thrilled them with customer service so deeply that they convinced a friend to sign up too, or helped them find us through the fog of “web hosting” propaganda, or helped them decide whether we’re the right partner for their business, or got them excited and saved them hours of drudgery through platform features, or helped all of us run the company smarter through finance and metrics, or made our office a lovely place to come to, or ensured that everyone we hire shares our values, or if you’re the silent hero who put out fires at 3:15am while everyone else slumbered in bliss.
Our building sign that a million Austinites will see is there because of you as much as me or Heather or anyone else. This company is ours.
There’s much more hard work ahead. This will never be easy. But it’s worth it. You and I may never again get a chance to be a part of something this special.
These are the “good old days.” It’s wonderful to share them with you.