Steve Zehngut is the founder and CEO of Kinsta, a managed WordPress hosting provider. He has been in the web hosting industry for over 15 years and has a wealth of experience in the field. In this interview, Steve shares his insights on the WordPress hosting industry, the challenges of running a managed WordPress hosting provider, and his vision for Kinsta. He also provides advice for entrepreneurs looking to start their own hosting business.
Q1: What is your background, & how did you first get involved with WordPress?
I started Zeek Interactive more than 20 years ago to create interactive games. Over those 20 years, Zeek worked in Shockwave, Flash, CD-ROM, and finally web and mobile. Once we started creating websites, WordPress became the obvious choice for a CMS. We started the Orange County WordPress meetup to find other local developers to hire to offset our workload, and it’s grown into a strong community of people improving existing skills and teaching new skills to others.
Q2: What should readers know about Zeek Interactive, & what kinds of clients are a good fit?
Our clients are companies that want more than a website. They want the strategy to go with it. These are companies whose business IS their site; it’s how they generate their revenue. So we help them do that, while also helping them with application and mobile development so that they have everything they need.
Q3: What challenges did you face in building the agency?
I think tons of agencies get their start with great talent at design or development. Only after a while do you realize that the differentiation isn’t on the dev or design talent but in the management of clients and their experience. It definitely took some work to establish our project and account management disciplines so that we could keep customers coming back year after year.
Q4: Did anything surprise you during the process of growing it?
Pivoting. Our key pivots over the years were fairly smooth, but moving into unknown territory is always a challenge. Our key pivots grew from client requests. I have found that when you build a client’s trust by specializing in one area, they will then request services in another area, even if it isn’t your core competency.
When we grew into a full service web developer around 2000, our specialty at the time was Shockwave games. We were building small websites as line items to compliment our work and then a client requested that we build a full website. We hired great people to do this and a new service was born. Similar pivots happened when we focused on WordPress and then when we expanded to mobile development.
Q5: What does the future look like for Zeek?
We believe the future of computing will be integrated – where Websites, SaaS, & Mobile applications work together to deliver cohesive value. So to that end, we’re shaping our agency to be able to deliver on that value proposition.
Q6: What’s it like helping run WordCamp Orange County?
We have an amazing WordCamp in OC and it is a reflection of our strong community. It’s a time commitment, but hearing from attendees that the learned a lot, or that they met new people to work with, or made new friends makes it all worth it. It’s an important way to give back to the WordPress community, and we’re honored to be able to do it.
Q7: What do you enjoy doing when you’re away from your laptop?
I spend time with my kids. I enjoy traveling. I also spend a lot of time dreaming up new business and product ideas. Tournament poker is a biggie for me.
Q8: Who should we interview next, and why?
Brandon Dove. Jeff Zinn. David Margowsky. Sarah Wefald. These people are key members of the OC WordPress community and they have helped to build our community to what it is today. Brandon and Jeff lead the OC WordPress Developer Meetup and Sarah leads the OC WordPress Design Meetup. Brandon, Jeff and David have built WordCamp OC to be one of the best WordCamps in the world.
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