Automattic has acquired Prospress, the team led by Brent Shepherd, and the makers of the largest WooCommerce extension, WooCommerce Subscriptions.

The acquisition secures a future for Subscriptions under the primary Automattic umbrella, and it’s an increasingly important part of WooCommerce’s success.

Subscriptions offers the most powerful and flexible subscription option in the eCommerce market, and it’s common for stores to use WooCommerce because they need Subscriptions.

Other providers, namely market leader Shopify, do not offer an in-house subscription option, and their third-party options are not nearly as advanced as WooCommerce Subscriptions.

Prospress brings a couple other products and services with them
AutomateWoo and Robot Ninja primarily — but Subscriptions is the real breadwinner. It has long been the highest revenue extension in the WooCommerce marketplace.

Paul Maiorana, WooCommerce’s Head of Payments, Shipping, and Partnerships, tells me, “Subscriptions is an important differentiator for WooCommerce amongst eCommerce platforms, and we’re really excited to now be working closely with the Prospress team to create a more unified experience.”

I have known Brent and his team for a long time, and I’ve used Subscriptions for many years. It’s an outstanding and complex project that requires enormous amounts of testing, a skilled development team, and a lot of care.

In 2017, the support structure changed for third-party WooCommerce extensions, which led to an immediate surge of support hiring by the largest extension providers — namely Prospress and SkyVerge — for whom, for the purpose of disclosure, I do contract work.

Support is the biggest component of a plugin company, especially for a complex one like Subscriptions, which interfaces (sometimes in very different ways) with dozens of payment processors. I have seen spec documentation for their proposed new features, and it is astounding how much detail is required to be outlaid before a single line of code is changed or written.

With Automattic, a company that formerly consisted of a few dozen folks now has the backing of hundreds of “Happiness Engineers” to help manage the load.

The primary risk I see for Subscriptions with Automattic is that it will get lost in the fray if Prospress developers are pulled to other work and more pressing needs. I have perceived this to be the case with their ownership of WP Job Manager, WooCommerce Bookings, and some other extensions — though none with the significance of Subscriptions. I think the strategic importance of Subscriptions should keep that at bay under good management, and I know Automattic management understands that strategic importance.

Automattic will eventually go public, I’m almost certain. Strategically, I fully believe the Prospress acquisition is the right move for them. If I were involved, I would’ve been trying to make this acquisition for years now.

Having significant revenue streams under the scope of a company out of your control is a risk, to my thinking as a theoretical investor. I would take this now in-house feature set direct to marketing channels against Shopify
— which is an absolute juggernaut in the eCommerce space today, particularly among high revenue generating stores.

I don’t know what led Brent to make the choice to join Automattic now, but it’s a much-deserved exit after something like eight years of work.

Brent said the following in the announcement Q&A:

I’m extremely proud of what we’ve achieved at Prospress. I’ve had the great pleasure of having some amazing people join me over the years. Together I believe we’ve advanced a mission that matters to me — so much so that it predated Prospress and even WooCommerce.

I believe joining Automattic is the best next stage for Prospress, and I am personally excited to lead the transition and work with the Automattic team to further WooCommerce.

I’m very happy for Brent and the entire Prospress team. I hope they made a fortune with this acquisition; in my mind, Subscriptions is one of the key reasons for WooCommerce’s amazing growth as a platform. I think they will do great there, and I have no doubt they will stay committed to making Subscriptions continue as a terrific tool in the toolbox that is WooCommerce.