This week marks six years since we launched online training here at OSTraining. And, it's now nearly ten years since we started training people to use open source software.
It's humbling to think that some of you have been keeping us in business since 2006.
If you're a business owner, you've seen both crazy years and quiet years. 2015 was a crazy year for us and filled with major turning points. So many in fact, that it took me until February to write this report!
Here's a look back at OSTraining in 2015 and a look forward to 2016.
Turning point #1: The end of live training
In April, we made one of the biggest changes in our company's history. It was also one of the most inevitable. We decided to end our live, public classes.
We started holding live classes by accident in 2008. Seven years later, we had run nearly 1,000 courses from Alaska to England and from California to Austria. Beginning in 2010, we added online training, but even in 2014, live classes were 50% of our revenues.
Many of you still love to learn in the classroom, but I'm afraid, the writing is on the wall for most in-person training. Everyone has become far more comfortable learning online. Video streaming technology is faster and more reliable than a few years ago. And, there's no denying the economics: live events cost hundreds of dollars to attend, whereas online training often costs $15 to $50 per month.
- A big thank you: Rod, our Director of Training, worked his Canadian-American-Australian butt off in 2015 to increase our video production.
- Looking forward: We still do private classes for large organizations, and training at conferences like DrupalCon, Joomla Day Florida, and Drupal Camp Florida, but we're an online company now.
Turning point #2: Rebuilding all our major software
Another hard decision we made in 2015 was to pay down a lot of technical debt. Our current site has been running in one form or another for almost ten years. Every time we tried to innovate, we risked breaking old software.
In March, we rebuilt our billing and subscription system and then released it as the open source project, Simple Renew.
This weekend, we'll hopefully relaunch our learning management system. The project has taken about ten months, but we've completely re-written the software that powers our videos, lessons, quizzes and certificates. This new software is called "OSCampus", and we're going to open source it also. OSCampus is a Learning Management System that is designed specifically for video training.
As an OSTraining member, you won't notice many changes this weekend, but over the next few weeks, the new software will allow us to aggressively roll out a whole host of new features.
- A big thank you: Our lead developer, Bill, brilliantly led the re-write of both our subscription and learning systems.
- Looking forward: We aim to roll out a ton of improvements to OSTraining, including a redesign and many new features.
Turning point #3: Partnerships
In April, we launched a Kickstarter to fund free Drupal 8 videos. We ended up raising over $27,000 thanks to individual supporters, plus partner organizations such as Acquia, InMotion Hosting, Glowhost, Commercial Progression, and the Drupal Association.
This decision frightened our team more than any other in 2015. Were we crazy to give away 200 Drupal videos for free, including some of our most popular classes?
In the end, it worked out well. The Drupal 8 Beginner class has over 140,000 views on YouTube in the past two months, and it's increasing in popularity every week as more people realize it's available. You may have noticed that many recent Drupal classes have Acquia's logo. That's the result of a more comprehensive partnership with Acquia that has allowed both of us to ramp up our production of Drupal training.
- A big thank you: Nancy and Eddie, who made a great case for OSTraining to people who mattered.
- Looking forward: We'll release a lot more Drupal training thanks to our partnerships. Also, look out for more partnerships, starting early this year.
Turning point #4: Live Chat support
You always have to judge your prices and service against the market leader. If you're in e-commerce, everyone compares you to Amazon. If you're in online training, everyone compares you to Lynda, especially now that they have access to Linkedin's spamming email marketing juggernaut.
So, we sat down and asked ourselves, "how can we stand out from Lynda?".
Our answer was to provide even better support. The number one reason that people leave us for Lynda is the quantity of the training on offer over there. The number one reason that people leave Lynda for us is the support. If you get stuck watching Lynda videos, you have nowhere to turn.
So in July, our Pro members gained access to Live Chat support. You can log in and ask anything about WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. Our members who use it, love it.
One obstacle was that Live Chat is potentially a lot more work than providing help via support tickets. Plus, many start-ups try to avoid providing support because it's just not cheap or efficient. Sometimes, it's worth doing things that don't scale.
- A big thank you: Nick and Valentin led our support team and did an outstanding job.
- Looking forward: We hope to get even more personal in 2016, with even better support, plus opportunities for internships and career development.
Turning point #5: A new product business
For a long time, we had several Joomla code projects hanging around OSTraining. At the end of 2014, we moved them all to Alledia and started building a product business there.
In retrospect, we could have picked a less busy year to tackle this challenge! We ended the year with 12 Joomla extensions at Alledia, including four new releases:
- OSEmbed, which allows you to embed anything in Joomla.
- OSMap, a Joomla sitemap.
- OSpam-a-not, a spam-fighting extension.
- Simple Renew, a membership and subscription extension.
Growth was not quick or easy, but it started to accelerate in the second half of the year. The image below shows revenues at Alledia. They were six times greater than revenues in January 2016 than in January 2015.
- A big thank you: Anderson, our lead developer at Alledia, juggled 12 extensions on top of an already heavy workload, always without losing his cool and his smile.
- Looking forward: We plan to add two more major Joomla extensions and also enter the WordPress plugin market.
Thanks to you also. Thank you for reading our annual report all the way to the end. Thank you, whether you've been a customer since 2006, or have just started following us recently. Your support allows us to keep this kick-ass team together and we aim to repay your faith in 2016 by producing more training and products that you love.