Miriam Schwab is Co-Founder & CEO of Strattic, a serverless publishing solution for WordPress websites that makes them more secure, faster and scalable.
In this episode, Miriam takes us through Strattic's technology and business model differentiation in the WordPress world. The lessons are many and include the importance of technical depth combining with business savvy, but never in isolation to a connected understanding of the customer.
and the Strattic
team are helping people and doing good in the world by making web security simple and accessible to all.
If this was important yesterday and today, it can only increase in importance as we mature our work practices and communication routines.
Miriam provides valuable insights in this conversation, from developing a unique proposition in a crowded space, through to the value of mentors. It was also great to hear her perspective and considerations around diversity and inclusion in a startup.
[00:00:05] Tony Hackett: Tony Hackett is my name and I'm your host at the start Ups Roundtable. Today's guest is Miriam Schwab, and she is co founder and CEO of Strategy, a serverless publishing solution for WordPress websites that makes them more secure, faster and scalable. In this episode, Miriam takes us through strategies, technology and business model differentiation. In the WordPress world. The lessons are many and include the importance of technical depth, combining with business savvy but never in isolation to a connected understanding of the customer. So let's hear from mirror.
[00:00:43] Miriam Schwab: Okay, so I'm here in Schwab. I'm originally from Canada, actually, but I've been living in Israel for the last 26 years, and now I am the co founder and CEO of a startup called Static. Static publishes WordPress website as static, and that makes the sights much faster, basically unlikable and seamlessly scalable. We're like intend hosting platform that's very different than the other ones, the conventional ones that exist out there
[00:01:13] Tony Hackett: And what was the trigger to go from this being a good idea to actually being something you stepped all the way across to start your own company
[00:01:25] Miriam Schwab: before I found it static. I founded a Web development agency, and our focus and expertise was WordPress, and I did that for 13 years. Towards the end of that period of time, we provided custom work resolutions to companies, so we weren't like Web agency, where we took a theme and slapped it on. We actually built from scratch, and we did a lot of customization for our customers. Our customers were like enterprise level types of companies where their branding and performance and all that was very important to them. It works with a lot of Israeli tech companies, and we were providing an ongoing maintenance service to them where we would keep their sights backed up and updated and provide customer support. Because what happened was we were built on websites hanging them off, and then the customer come back like, six months later, going it was hacked, and it's not, you know, problems. This way we would help them keep their sights alive. That's very typical experience in the world of WordPress. Um, and that was like a great service for us, and for them it was win win. But as time went on, even that for us as a company became more and more complicated, even though, like my team and myself were WordPress experts. And, uh, we're high level professionals. It just was taking more time. It was becoming more challenging to stay ahead of the hacker box that we're trying to hack. The site performance became painful. Scalability became painful. So I started thinking, Well, maybe we're pressed is no longer the ideal solution for companies looking to build their websites. Maybe it's time to explore more modern, um, solutions that are out there. And so I started to look into the world of static site generators, which is very cool, very update up to date. Very appealing to developers and output of those sites is kind of what WordPress isn't, which is there's nothing to have because it's a collection of static files. It's fast because every page is pre rendered and there's nothing to hack. So and it's scalable So. But I also saw that building sites with the static site generators was complicated, not user friendly, not marketing friendly. So then I thought, Why not to WordPress? It's a static generator, so that was where the idea came from. The development that gave me the confidence to pursue it as its own standalone projects and potentially startup. I saw that a local startup accelerator was had open applications and I decided, Okay, I'm gonna try. I'm gonna see I'm gonna apply. And if they bite, then maybe there's something here. And if not, then Okay, it was and I said, Yeah, and that was an amazing for stuff for me because I learned, you know, about startup models, and I was I had access to all really smart people of interest. That was early stages, but it gave me the courage and the support to move forward.
[00:03:57] Tony Hackett: I'm going to come back to the accelerator topic in a moment when I first saw your site and got to understand your story, a little I started to think about is at a time when there is almost a second wave or a new dawn of content creation that you bring the value to. I'm in the sales of business development role and there is a default that we will use LinkedIn and all hail LinkedIn. We should use that, and it's got a place in the universe. But if it's about developing a brand and creating connectivity with prospects with customers with an audience. Then it felt that what you're doing brings something that is more current for that engagement for the content creation driven engagement. Is that a reasonable way to think about what you're doing?
[00:04:43] Miriam Schwab: It's interesting that you see, because that's traditionally I think, what WordPress has been, which is, and this is the way that we spoke about it to our customers at the Web agency, which is you have, like a system of content creation and sharing, like the solar system and the sun is your WordPress site, which is out of all the content sharing platforms out there. It's the only one that you truly own. It's your own real piece of real estate on the Internet, and in my opinion, that's really important that you own your brand there. You can't exactly rely on these other platforms because you never know what's going to change. If they're going to change their policies, who's going to be around? I mean, they're going strong, but you just never know. And so when people put all of their resources in those platforms and ignore their own personal platform, they can find themselves paying a price later on. So in my opinion, you always have your your website in the center. And it's generally been WordPress because WordPress has a very robust ecosystem around it of developers and users but and also tools that integrate really well with marketing sales tools. And so it's a It's an excellent kind of hub for all that activity. What we're doing is we're taking WordPress to the next level, so it's still WordPress. Platforms end to end, and there's still WordPress site there. The message of that is that our users can continue using WordPress as they used to, and they don't have to learn a new platform. They don't need to learn new tooling or anything like that. But the output of that WordPress site is a modern architecture with is static static sounds like a negative thing because it sounds like something that's not dynamic. It's not interesting in this case that it refers to the architecture. It means that there's no underlying processing, server and database which tends to weigh down the site and also be the cause of all the issues related to speed, security and scalability. So you get to have the hub of your content creation and your marketing efforts and sales efforts be wordpress still, but we're pressed in modern format. The advantage of that is that when you're making your efforts, you don't risk sending someone to a site that's painfully slow and embarrassing or potentially hacked, and you don't realize we see this a lot. People's sites can get hacked by these bots, and they do it in a very sophisticated way. Where the site owner doesn't necessarily know because they don't see the infection. It's only their users end up being forwarded to inappropriate websites or whatever, so that the hackers make money off it. That's where I think we come into play in terms of supporting that hub, supporting the son of the system kind of thing in a modern, scalable, secure, fast way.
[00:07:19] Tony Hackett: When you think about your go to market, then do you find that people who are existing users of WordPress are your target market? Because I'll understand the elegance and the sophistication and the increased tooling versus somebody who's new to WordPress or new to creating their identity.
[00:07:37] Miriam Schwab: The people who respond in the strongest way to strategy are more advanced users of WordPress or people who have been using it for a long time. Those users have seen it all kind of thing. They are familiar with the ecosystem, They're familiar with the current solutions, and they're also very familiar with the issues because they repeatedly experiencing it. So they're looking for other solutions, and then they come across static and they're like, that kind of thing where oh, I can still use WordPress and I don't have to deal with all that annoying stuff. Those are the people who tend to respond to it in the most positive way. As a company, one of our biggest challenges is educating market because WordPress has been around for so long. Repressed is 17 years old the way that people have in managing WordPress basically stayed the same. When you have a sight, you're like, I need to host it somewhere and there's a list of companies that everyone talks about and you go to one of them and you host it there. And when you hosted there, your experience is almost the same on every company. They all say we do this, we do that in the end you stick your site, there is a parking space and the Internet and then see your site with us. It's a very it's quite a different approach, and so we need to help people understand. What does this mean? Why is this advantageous to them? And so that that's something that we need to do for the new beast that you described. That type of thing
[00:08:58] Tony Hackett: is experimentation, something that plays a big part in your development and your testing of the market.
[00:09:04] Miriam Schwab: The way that we approach our development and our roadmap is twofold. One is we have a number of people on my team, myself included, who have very, very strong background and WordPress. We understand the market in and out. Having run an agency, I understand how people use websites, whether their companies or other agencies, and I know the pain points. And so me and the other people on the team were like me. We can drive the project forward from that point of view, the other point of view is we listen to customer feedback very strongly, and we learn from a lot of the sites that are on board in terms of features that maybe we don't get support. And then we consider whether we should roll out support for them. Depending on how many users either say they have this issue or we can foresee that others will. We're not exactly experimenting at this point. At least in the beginning, there was much more experimentation in terms of how do we publish the sat perfectly in a static format and how we do that quickly and efficiently. And how do we create a great user experience around It were always speaking that, obviously, but that system is in place, and now next Steps is are figuring out where the next features that we're going to be developing. We have a roadmap in place, and we also tweet that based on what we learned from our customers.
[00:10:21] Tony Hackett: Mary, where do you go to look for trends? If you were to say if I was to pick a period of time, say, 12 months out and maybe 24 months out, what's the pulse that you look for?
[00:10:31] Miriam Schwab: I spent a lot of time reading and participating in developer communities. Whether we're talking about Twitter, I get a lot of newsletters, industry newsletters, not only about WordPress but about peripheral solutions and trends. I get alerts and I follow Reddit, and that informs a lot of what we're doing as well. That will determine certain features that we will roll out. That's how I've always approached in our agency as well. What type of services that we provide. How did we address people's issues, and how do we become better at selling what we're doing and standing out by listening to people how they're speaking, what their concerns are, how they're communicating and then responding to that. So it's kind of sit here.
[00:11:17] Tony Hackett: What tips and tricks would you share that a part of your change selling in this covid universe that we live in right now and leveraging online and remote access?
[00:11:29] Miriam Schwab: Well, we can't depend on conferences anymore. That's that's something that's changed. From January to June, I was supposed to fly six times to six different countries, and I was going to be speaking at at least three conferences and participating in three more. It was something like that. I always found that speaking at conferences was an excellent way to create awareness among people and position itself as a thought leader but that's no longer an option. I do participate in online conferences quite a lot, but in the end they're missing the vibe that the in person conferences have, and in the end you're essentially just another webinar, and people are starting to get burned out from online events. So that's a challenge. So aside from that, it depends on what you're selling. But I've always approached whatever your product or service that I'm working on by being participatory in communities, trying to help people as much as I can with my knowledge and supporting others. You know, in their efforts to do their own jobs and just being out there then that generally no inbound or word of mouth and things like that. That's like scalable to a certain extent at the beginning of a startup. But we're at a reflection point to start looking on on more scalable sales methods. And so we hired a director marketing Who's going to be leading that?
[00:12:54] Tony Hackett: I must say that's something that's very much a friend of mine for me and my role. I'm in a business development role with a tech company, and the accounts are by and large, quite mature customers, a small number and it is truly the challenge. It's so how to get people's attention. It feels to me it's about trying to get to this heightened degree of granularity, of understanding, a problem, but not just that being able to make it really simple to understand how can take baby steps in testing that out because no one's going to say That's fantastic. The other thing is you made a really great point about not being face to face. Trust comes from that being able to be read in a room and being able to read a room, and that doesn't exist. So then how do you build those proof points and make sure that people are confident you're not going to wreck their career, let alone the company, let alone their customers?
[00:13:51] Miriam Schwab: No, totally. I am fortunate to be in a position where, for the last like 10 years, I've been very active in WordPress community and I've been flying to the conferences and I built connections and relationships there with many people, and so even though I can't meet more people face to face, that helps. But I don't know how someone who's like let's say, breaking into a new industry, how they would try to stand out from the crowd in this online world. One way, I would say, is creating content, creating, you know, blog posts and videos that always helped me. And if a person can invest in that now, I would say that that's probably something that they should be doing in order to start building their reputation.
[00:14:39] Tony Hackett: 100% agree with you. I've been well intentioned amateur, but I've bought into the use of video for probably about the last 18 months, maybe last two years and video sales letter, and even to the point where I was reading a book just in the last two weeks. But it is essentially saying Answer the questions people are asking and the guy Marcus Sheridan's He's written this book about It's about content, and he had a pool company and building pools. And at a very simple level, he said, people want to know how much they cost and one way of developing content. Tell people how much they cost, and all of a sudden, as I read the book, I went Yeah, of course. So why wouldn't you? It doesn't mean you're giving somebody a quote, but it's helping people think through things. And there is just one example, and there are five different areas that he says build content for this. It's interesting you raise this because I've had a moment just in the last few weeks. So first of all, I came across this book and at the same time are about the same time, totally coincidentally, on ABS Sumo with no AB sumo. So there was an app phrase fr s e dot io. I'll do a poor job of explaining. So somebody from phrase here's this like he's butchered it. But fundamentally, I can put a search in and I can go. My company's name, Ransomware Banking creates a content brief is a perfect as a business development person. It is stunning. So all of a sudden I'm able to go through and actually pick bits out. And then I actually started to test this out a little bit, and it says if that's the topic here, a stack of articles, by the way, here are the questions that are being asked that feed to that. And here are the words being used in these articles. And so I did a rudimentary level and started to populate it, using this as my guy guidance system. But all of a sudden I'm getting traffic that I did not get a step change in traffic. It is amazing. So this whole thing about rudimentary questions answer questions people want answered, and then being able to go and draw things in, find references, produce the content. And it was about the same time that I found your company, and it was sort of this, this interesting connection to the universe for me that brought me to get in touch and as good of you to make the time available today. But in my mind it is about content creation. Because if you're not creating the content, how can anybody know what you stand for previously is an issue Now. I think it's an even bigger issue. How can somebody doesn't really know? You might have met you on a zoom once. Who did you speak for? 30 words. How do you build that trust? Let them know your point of view. Start to communicate in a way that is knowledgeable and thought through, and to be able to do it in a way that is highly secure, fast delivery. I think the story that your ability, what you're building is a company is really interesting. I don't need to be telling you that. I'm just saying that my reflection on it's pretty interesting time for you to be doing it.
[00:17:38] Miriam Schwab: Yeah, it's interesting because of because of covid, people are increasingly moving online or paying more attention to on their online presence is and and they're going to need to be focusing on their websites and their own brands. And so there's increased interest in different tools like ours. What you said about creating content to answer questions totally right when we create whatever content we have on our site, and we need to update it more. But what we have so far has answered questions we kept seeing come up whether they people asked us last online. So we address that create content around it, and we have quite a nice amount of traffic coming to our site from this type of content ethic, us or an excellent piece of content that people should add to their sites. In my opinion, a lot of our users just go straight there or they find the content by googling it. And yeah, you're absolutely right about that.
[00:18:28] Tony Hackett: Can I ask for your commentary around diversity and inclusion and from your experience and a startup? How you think about that?
[00:18:38] Miriam Schwab: I organized five word camp conferences in Israel for the WordPress community. They were camps. So the press conferences that happened in the world and I did five in Israel, and already then I saw the challenge of inclusion in general and creating a conference. I learned after a few times that I had to specifically reach out to women to try to get them to speak rather than have them apply. And then even once I did that, I would have to explain to them that I think they're awesome and they could bring a lot of value, and even then I would often fail. So that's a like a tech related conference. That was my first experience with the challenges of creating diversity. I had already experienced the lack of diversity in my agency because many times whether I'm participating in conferences and meetings, I was very often the only woman in the room I got used to that so founding a startup until the stage. We are very heavily R and D driven, text driven, and our focus has been Their marketing has been basically me putting myself out there whatever whoever comes comes. But it hasn't been like a strategic effort when we're hiring tech talent and we put a job out there will get, say, 50 applications, 100 applications, and 1% of them will be women or some other like minority. But I I'm gonna specifically focus on women because I guess that's a cause that's dear to my heart, and that's the landscape. So, in my opinion, with regards to women, what needs to happen is more focused on the earlier stages of young girls' lives, where they are exposed more to this potential direction of stem science and technology and encouraged to participate in that and then encouraged to stay, stay the path because what happens is a lot of women end up retiring from the industry because it's very demanding and the hours don't work around them wanting to start a family. And so I think also, workplaces need to create a much more family friendly environment because we really stage. We don't have the luxury of hiring people who we are then going juniors who are going to train. Yet right now we have to hire people who can hit the ground running. It tends to be men. We have, thank God a few women on our team, but were, I think, a quarter of the teams women, including myself. We are very family friendly company by our nature because I am a mother of seven. So I am familiar with the need for a family friendly environment. I've always needed that and I'm very empathetic towards that. My co founder Josh, also Family man. Most of our team members are parents. We are very understanding at that point of view so that parents and people can have personal lives and also have a job and then going forward. My dream and our dream as a company is that we will start to be able to hire more junior developers who we will have some kind of internal training program. And in Israel that means we could hire from sectors that traditionally aren't found in text. So that's women. The ultra Orthodox in Israel, women and men, Arabs and Muslims and hopefully also from the Ethiopian community. And the idea is to help these younger people who are starting their career path work. It's tragic train a static and then hopefully continuous static. But that demands a lot of resources. And because we really stage, we can't do that yet. But that's that's
[00:21:54] Tony Hackett: it's fantastic. You've actually painted a picture that it's about being conscious. I think that's that's the important element. But thank you for sharing that in closing. Could you give some commentary around accelerator programs and mentors and coaches and what your guidance and suggestions would be to somebody who might be listening to this and trying to make their own decisions around those types of communities
[00:22:18] Miriam Schwab: I found participating in actually put it into startup accelerators to be very, very valuable, because when you start off with a concept or an idea for, start up your generally alone or maybe you're two people each year could be excellent. And one thing that doesn't mean you have any business sense or start up business sense or sales experience, marketing experience or like there's a million things that go into building company and then when you're in a startup accelerator. What they good one does is they have a network of ventures that they make available to the companies that are participating in the program. You can then reach out and ask someone who's a top expert in sales, how they would suggest you approach X or a top finance person how you should build your business model. I found that very useful, and I highly recommend to anyone I talked to who has an idea that they're working on or they want to pursue that they should really try to be part of an accelerator. The accelerator is there to support you and promote you, and then they stay part of your journey even after, and that's very valuable as well. So L and and even more valuable or equally, I would even say, actually, more valuable is the connections that you make other founders because as you're all going along your journey, you can consult with each other. How did you handle this? How do you handle that? Who's your lawyer? Who's your accountant incorporating here, incorporating there? When you have that network of other founders, you can learn from each other a lot. I highly recommend that we have a number of advisors like official Advisors is static. We're really smart, and we do turn to them when we need to. But it's not like an ongoing, like coaching thing or anything like that. It's like, How do we deal with this? And then you call him up.
[00:23:53] Tony Hackett: The strategy story is an amazing story. I'm so glad you've been introduced to it today. And Miriam, Thanks for taking the time and sharing your insights and tips for other people who might be looking to go the startup journey as well. So thanks very much.
[00:24:05] Miriam Schwab: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
[00:24:07] Tony Hackett: That's it for today. I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Miriam as much as I did. And, as always, feedback is appreciated. Thanks for listening. And bye for now.