WP Engine Raises $250M to Grow WordPress Platform

The open-source WordPress-based platform vendor raises new money as global adoption for the popular content management system continues to grow.

WP Engine

The open-source WordPress content management system has grown significantly over the last eight years and along with that growth, one of its leading backers, WP Engine, has also grown. On Jan. 4, WP Engine announced it raised a new $250 million round of funding from Silver Lake Partners.

Silver Lake is well-known in the private equity world; not only did the firm work with Michael Dell to bring Dell Inc. private in 2013, but it also helped fund Dell's acquisition of EMC in 2015. WP Engine was founded in 2010, with total funding to date now standing at $291 million.

"Our goal is to build the premier platform for digital experiences with WordPress, and that is a massive market and it's still growing," Jason Cohen, founder and chief technology officer of WP Engine, told eWEEK.

The general perception of WordPress in 2010 was that it was largely for blogs and small businesses, Cohen said. However, over the last eight years, WordPress has emerged as a leading enterprise technology for content management as well. In 2010, WordPress-powered sites accounted for approximately 5 percent of the internet, but that number now stands at approximately 29 percent, he said.

"I'm not surprised that WordPress has grown; it is surprising that it has grown unabated for eight years," Cohen said.

One site that recently moved to WordPress is whitehouse.gov, which migrated from the rival Drupal CMS in December. Cohen noted that any time a well-known site moves to WordPress, it's a good thing for the WordPress community. That said, there are many popular sites and governments that use WordPress, he said. For example, WP Engine helps support the UK government, running the site for 10 Downing Street.

Open Source

WordPress is an open-source project that benefits from the contributions of many organizations and developers. Cohen said WP Engine is an active contributor to the core WordPress project, with multiple employees working as core maintainers for various aspects of the project. WP Engine also contributes to multiple other open-source efforts that are often used to run WordPress deployments, including the Nginx web server, Varnish proxy and PHP programming language projects.

Cohen emphasized that WP Engine's commercial efforts are separate from its open-source WordPress contributions. "Our company does not sell WordPress. Anyone can download WordPress for free and run it for themselves," he said. "Customers come to us for the platform."

The WP Engine platform has WordPress at the core, but it's really a broader digital experience stack, according to Cohen. The WP Engine stack includes integrations with enterprise technologies as well as security, performance and scalability features. Although WP Engine's platform expands on what WordPress on its own provides, Cohen said his firm still uses the same core WordPress code as everyone else.

The WP Engine platform uses the Kubernetes container orchestration system for the core application workload. Cohen said WP Engine makes use of both Google and Amazon for public cloud services as well.

With the new $250 million in funding on hand, Cohen doesn't expect WP Engine's business model to change, but he does expect to be able to grow faster in the year ahead.

"We want to be the workplace of choice for talent, and we'll continue to invest in our people and the culture," Cohen said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.