Automattic goes head-to-head with happytables

Automattic goes head-to-head with happytables

Verticals are the place to be, and we're not the only people to notice. Automattic launches WordPress.com for restaurants.

We’ve all noticed Automattic launch its recent sites targeted at verticals such as cities, weddings and music, so it’s no surprise to anyone that they just launched WordPress.com Restaurants. This puts them in direct competition with happytables, the restaurant web app created by our own Noel Tock. WordPress.com restaurants offers menus, maps, and reservations, provides users with a mobile version of the website, as well as all of the usual good stuff from WordPress.com.

I asked Noel what he thinks of Automattic’s latest move:

It’s only logical for Automattic to start tackling different verticals, and restaurants are certainly one of those niches that has a lot of appeal. It’s also impressive how well they’ve been executing and experimenting on that front the past few weeks.

Moving into verticals makes sense for WordPress.com, but as anyone who is targeting verticals knows, it’s more than just launching a service with some functionality. Successfully working within verticals means working on the ground with people in that vertical, conducting market research, seeing what functionality people really need, marketing outside of your comfort zone. By targeting so many at once, are Automattic spreading themselves too thin? And, is this latest move an indication that Automattic is preparing to place themselves into direct competition with other WordPress SaaS businesses?

Comments

  1. says

    Ignoring the fact that I know and like the folks behind HappyTables; I can’t help but feel this is a tad redundant from Automattic.

    Moving verticals is a huge change in business model, and once has to wonder if Automattic are good at that. Remember they’ve tried it many times before, and failed. What makes them think they have the management and/or marketing power to pull this off?

    Moreover, it seems kind of daft to go after a market that an existing WordPress VIP company is already leading the way. Why go into competition with “your own” when there are so many markets and verticals out there that a small company couldn’t compete in.

      • says

        Moving verticals. I assume Kevin is referring to their forays into forum hosting, food niches etc.

        I don’t really consider this “moving verticals” though. It’s still just good old WordPress.com.

    • says

      Commenting, a year later:

      1. “What makes them think they have the management and/or marketing power to pull this off?”

      They certainly have the bigger cash pile and the best technical expertise. WordPress.com has always been a Saas if you think about it: the “blogs” market is just another vertical market and they have captured most of it. Verticals are the future because they are the present: that is how the economy is structured.

      Three factors are turning the “blogs” market into a minor market:

      a. WordPress is now a full blown CMS – and one of the sexiest there is – with a huge potential.
      b. Small businesses don’t need a blog, but a website.
      c. There are considerably more small businesses than bloggers on this planet.

      Quite a few businesses are already using wordpress.com.
      The odds are wordpress.com will want to keep them coming with a souped-up offer now that they have become a mature market.

      2; “Why go into competition with “your own”?”

      It makes business sense. We live in a capitalist world and there is plenty of room for competition. Automattic’s investors have not injected 150+ M $ for philantropic purposes. As always Automattic moves with caution in order not to disturb the WP community, testing the waters, waiting for a mentality shift (which is already happening): there will be dozens of WP based Saas in two years from now, educating the market. Then, as usual in a mature business environment, we will witness market consolidation with wordpress.com as the market leader. The best will cash out.
      Happytables already tried to see how they could work with wordpress.com, but it was definitely too early. They took the Saas route instead to build value.
      See their initial proposal: http://v1.happytables.com/wpdotcom/

      On the higher end of the market, big budgets for custom websites will go to agencies with critical size.
      On the lower end, Saas is now the killer app.
      There won’t be much left in the middle.

      Independent developers will have a hard time making a living in the years to come as the days of the tailor-made website for small budgets/small businesses are almost over (as a transitional market it has never been an Eldorado, anyway).

      Hobbyists will have more tools to play with but, apart from the occasional family/friend/neighbor website, they will be cut out from the market.

      Matt Mullenweg’s message at WordPress Europe 2013 was diplomatic but clear: the market is ripe, time to regroup and get organized to build value. The “or….” part of the message was elegantly left out for you to fill in.

    • says

      Yeah, I would agree with that. I think the level of flexibility HappyTables provides for the restaurant industry is quite something different than a few Restaurant oriented themes.

      • says

        I totally agree with you guys. I really hope that this helps HappyTables even more. We were pretty curious to test out what Automattic had come up with to challenge HappyTables and it’s got nothing on what Noel has done.

        HappyTables is worlds above the Confit theme that Automattic are offering. I can’t imagine any restaurant owners who have never used WordPress before getting their head around Confit and it’s custom post types. They’d be so confused by it and would give up rather easily.

        HappyTables on the other hand is a seamless experience for those types of people. It’s got a lean interface, progress bars and it’s so easy to use. Not only that but they can customise the look and feel of the site on HappyTables. Hopefully this leads to a nice spike in signups for HappyTables :)

  2. Matthew says

    This move will always draw comparisons with Happy Tables as they are both built on WordPress – but as they are both targeting restaurants directly – the platform they are built upon isn’t really an issue to the actual customers.

    Automattic are not just competing with other WordPress SaaS businesses, but with SaaS businesses in general

    • says

      Yeah, I’m guessing people don’t go searching for “restaurant website solution… POWERED BY WORDPRESS!” They just want a nice website for their restaurant, so this isn’t Automattic vs happytables but rather Automattic vs the whole field of hosted restaurant website solutions.

  3. says

    I’m not fussed about Automattic vs HappyTables, because I don’t think it’s about that.

    It just seems strange that a company like Automattic, who’ve never been good about doing anything non-blogged based (which of course, they’re awesome at!), is aiming for a vertical that it has no experience in; especially given it’s track record.

    *cough* TalkPress *cough*

    My comment is that if AutoMattic, or any company in it’s position, were looking to expand it’s product range and decided to move to a vertical that it’s VIP partners were already in – I’d be concerned, and asking “why” ?

    I’m sure there’s good reasons, and I dont think we need to know what they are, its just another thing that makes me go “hmmmm”.

  4. Marco Pereirinha says

    Couldn’t agree more with Ryan. In fact, I think that Automattic move should had considered the large experience of Noel and HappyTables.

  5. says

    The other challenge I think Automattic faces is that, while WordPress itself has gotten over the stigma of being a “blogging platform”, WordPress.com is still a blogging platform. Getting around that perception is going to be difficult while they are still running a thriving business like WordPress.com. On the other hand, happytables (or similar SaaS) is a web app for creating websites, so it would seem like the natural choice. WordPress may not be only for blogging anymore, but WordPress.com kind of is (or, at least perceived to be).

  6. Andy says

    Interesting discussion and one to watch for sure. HappyTables looks great and one I am going to look at for some clients.

  7. says

    My hope is that they decide to appoint experts in each of the verticals as partners. Happy Tables would be a perfect fit and there must be others with similar expert knowledge of an industry or sector. I understand from Noel’s blog that they tried this but were offered only options around premium themes.

    We have a similar model to Happy Tables for Live Events. We move the system along at such a rate, a theme would be out of date pretty quickly. As partners we could keep releasing new version to the clients paid for as a part of the monthly fee.

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