Karim Marucchi, CEO, joins host Josh Elledge of The Thoughtful Entrepreneur to talk about Open Source Digital Solutions.
In this podcast, Karim shares his history with WordPress and Open Source, and how he became a major proponent for Open Source technologies after seeing how proprietary technologies were limiting brands on future digital innovation. The variety and adaptability in an Open Source platform makes for a much more unique roadmap for users.
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Open Source Digital Solutions Podcast Transcript
Josh Elledge: Hey, there thoughtful listener. This is Josh Elledge, CEO of upmyinfluence.com. With us right now is Karim Marucchi. You are the CEO of Crowd Favorite, which is on the web at CrowdFavorite.com. Karim, thank you so much for joining us.
Karim Marucchi: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here, Josh.
Josh Elledge: All right. Give us an overview of what Crowd Favorite is.
Karim Marucchi: Crowd Favorite works with large clients, Fortune 500 as well as complex organizations to create what they need to fix digital problems. So at its simplest, we create websites, but, realistically, what we're doing is we are integrating what their business needs are to try and solve some of their problems around workflow, dealing with their clients, helping their clients out anyway they can. It's gotten more and more complex. It's no longer just about marketing websites out there.
Josh Elledge: Yeah. So what was your approach when you launched Crowd Favorite? You started this January, 2014, so congratulations on your longevity. But coming into this, what precipitated Crowd Favorite?
Karim Marucchi: So it's been now 27 years that I've been working with enterprise clients, large organizations in solving digital problems. And one thing that's always been sort of the center of the ethos was dealing with their needs, not dealing with whatever technology they needed. A lot of clients will show up and say, I've heard I need technology X, or I need technology Y and using the consultative approach of actually having deep conversations and not saying on day one, yes, we're gonna install solution X to solution Y makes a giant difference.
A lot of agencies out there, and a lot of marketing or technology companies will say, here's a solution, tell me about your problem. Instead, we wanted to come along and say, all right, how do we create a bespoke solution for your problem? And we can use off the shelf components, but really how do we solve your problem? Not how do we just force technology down your throats?
Josh Elledge: Yeah. So Karim, what made you such a proponent of Open Source?
Karim Marucchi: So for many, many years, for almost 15 years, I was working with proprietary systems and these giant CMS, Content Management Packages, and other ways that people were publishing on the internet. And we realized that the more closed that a piece of software is, the more you are stuck with whatever the roadmap is of that piece of software. So, I fell in love with the concept of Open Source when I realized that it's community led.
Take for example, the WordPress community, there's over 10,000 people committing code to the WordPress platform. And some of them are literally high school students who are making their blogs, they’re mom and pop businesses who are selling anything on the web. And they're literally the Walt Disney company who's helping define how to scale WordPress and how to make those things go bigger. So, it's just interesting to see the variety that you get and the openness that you can contribute to in an Open Source platform.
Josh Elledge: Yeah, you know, it's the wisdom of crowds, right? And there are so many use cases out there and so many great ideas. If you're counting on a small development team, you know, of four or five developers and a project manager to know everything that they should be. It's like, you know the strength in numbers principle is just so powerful. In fairness, do you know what would be the downsides? When would Open Source not be appropriate or what would be the inherent challenges to an Open Source architecture?
Karim Marucchi: So there's a few downsides. The first one is while it was growing, it was constantly being attacked security wise. If you talk to anybody who looked at an Open Source project five to ten years ago, they'd say the number one problem is security. It's all being hacked. Well, the strength in numbers argument even goes there because now it's such a large community that if, by some reason, somehow some piece of code gets put in, it doesn't survive testing. There's too many people testing it. So it's really becoming more and more secure, as code goes.
It's about adapting the right parts of Open Source to whatever your project is.
– Karim Marucchi
And then it's about the infrastructure that you put on it. Another drawback might be that the crowd might want to go more in one direction, and your clientele or your business might want to go in another. So sometimes it's about adapting the right parts of Open Source to whatever your project is, right?
There are some Open Source projects out there that I would say anybody who has a small or medium business stay the heck away from because it's too complex for you. The audience is still there. And then there's some types of Open Source that the market is really focused on SMB (Small and Midsize Businesses) and you really need to focus on and just say, okay, this is maybe right for me. So it's about knowing what the audience is, and understanding where that project is going. But there's a project for just about any audience.
Josh Elledge: You know the logos that you've got on your website, Mitsubishi, Nvidia, Disney. What does a company like Disney need from your expertise?
Karim Marucchi: Well, we first started working with Disney on this particular project in 2011 when they had spent the last decade putting literally tens of millions of dollars into a proprietary platform. And they said, we are just dumping money into a proprietary platform that we have to maintain ourselves. How can we take advantage of Open Source? So they literally said, how do we move all of our public facing websites to Open Source? There was a brief project where everybody looked at the different Open Source projects and what the alternatives were, and they finally settled on WordPress. And then there was literally a five year project to just do the architecture for moving their hundreds of thousands of websites from proprietary to Open Source.
Josh Elledge: What kind of Open Source platform specifically, do you mind sharing?
Karim Marucchi: Not at all, not at all. It's widely known they're based on WordPress and they use WordPress for their small sites that might just have a little bit of internal volume and they use WordPress for D23.com, which gets literally millions of unique visitors.
Josh Elledge: That’s amazing. Yeah. At some point, what are the technical limitations of WordPress? Like if you start getting above X then it's well… but then there are ways that you can run multiple instances of WordPress, you know, can you talk about that? Like how a big, big company can still use WordPress and it will run well at getting at those more enterprise levels?
Karim Marucchi: It's about infrastructure really. WordPress will run great if you wanna start a home business and you literally want to sell coffee mugs out of your kitchen. It'll run great out of the box on any very reasonable hosting. But then for companies like Disney, when you're talking about that large website they need to put it on a very robust infrastructure. So they're spending a lot of money on hosting, a lot of money on infrastructure. They're spending a lot of money on making sure that the pieces you put into WordPress, all those little plugins and themes and other modules that you put in there are all to scale They're all written in a certain way.
So the reason why, for instance, large corporations come to us and say, we have a need and we want to use Open Source is because we have a proven track record of making sure we're using scalable code and scalable infrastructure. That's the key. So WordPress can do any size. That's the beautiful thing about this project.
Then it's just about bolting on the different pieces. WordPress does definitely have a place where it sort of ends. When you want to do conditional content, personalization, all those wonderful things that get more towards a digital experience and more complex platforms. There are pieces that you can actually bolt on to extend that Open Source package to even compete with companies like Adobe and Sitecore today that have these seven figure packages.
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Josh Elledge: Yeah. That's very cool. What does your team look like today and who do you serve today? How do you acquire new clients at this point?
Karim Marucchi: So our team today is based here in the US and in Europe, mostly. We actually even have a developer in Africa at the moment and we're looking to expand all the time. We are completely remote. One of the beautiful things is, as people are in the pandemic and started talking about remote as a new thing, we've been doing it literally for the last 10 years and we love it. It's been something that's been a lot of fun. We used to have offices before that, and then it slowly became less and less needed in our particular industry. And now it's becoming a norm. Our team is diverse between folks who are up and coming and just want to get ahead in this industry. And a lot of folks who have been at it for years, like I have, and want to share their experience with clients.
Josh Elledge: Yeah. Do you advertise or are you doing anything like that? Do you need to do that?
Karim Marucchi: Most of our work does come from referrals or word of mouth because of our particular market. We do put out some content, we're found within our industry because we're sort of specialized. So we don't do a lot of outbound at the moment. It’s just sort of what we’re known for.
Josh Elledge: Yeah. And your website is again, it's CrowdFavorite.com. What would you say are the smallest jobs that you’ll typically do? I'm just wondering, like, who would make a great fit for you at this point?
Karim Marucchi: We have quite a few clients who are literally considered startups. They come to us and they say, hey, we're starting up and we need a particular function done on a website that isn't just marketing. It goes to that next level of integrating into any amount of things from a Saas product to their own idea, to some specific business process that makes it complex to publish content on the web. They come to us.
We have a lot of clients who would be considered sort of the small-medium enterprise who are competing with a Fortune 500 and want to say, you know, using the old, “I want to be like Mike” analogy. They're like, all right, you've been successful with some of the largest brands, how can you help us get ahead in a digital transformation? We have a lot of clients like that. And then we have our marquee clients we've been working with for years that are recognizable name brands, that sort of just help… they're the proof in the pudding of what we've been doing, so to speak.
Josh Elledge: Yeah. Awesome. All right. So your website again, CrowdFavorite.com. When someone goes there, what should they click on? What should they do?
Karim Marucchi: Please just get in touch with us. Our projects are so varied it's just about literally jumping on a call and having a conversation. We are happy to talk with anybody about their project and hey, if we're not a good fit, we've got good ideas of who could be a good fit. We've been in the business for years and we're well known among our peers. So we do a lot of partnering.
Josh Elledge: Yeah. Awesome. All right. Again, Karim Marucchi. Thank you so much for joining us here. The CEO of Crowd Favorite found on the web at CrowdFavorite.com. Thanks Karim.
Karim Marucchi: Thank you, Josh.
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