We’ve caught up with TemplateMonster’s CEO, one of the oldest and most successful marketplaces in the web development space.
David Braun has been in business for two decades. During this time, he managed to build TemplateMonster marketplace and sell it for more than $100 million, although he still remains at its head. In addition, Braun actively advocates, popularizes entrepreneurship, and supports social initiatives. His global ambition is to help create 1 million jobs for women in India.
A quick intro: Who are you and what’s your background?
Georgian by nationality, I was born and lived for some time in Gagra. In 1992, during the war, I moved with my parents to Mykolaiv (Ukraine). After school, I entered the European University, the Faculty of Economics. And now, years later, I am a public activist and serial IT entrepreneur, happily married husband and energetic father of 3 kids. It’s my story if very briefly :)
Tell us about Template Monster. How did you get started and what is it about?
TemplateMonster is a kind of marketplace selling templates for all popular platforms. We launched TemplateMonster in 2002 in Mykolaiv as a small web-studio. Later I met an American who came to Ukraine in search of love. He found out about my business and offered a partnership – he promised that he would look for clients in the States. I agreed, but I was sure that nothing would come of it. And in vain – after some time he sent us an order for $70 thousand. For comparison: then, an apartment in Mykolaiv cost for $5 thousand. In 2002, we made websites for $30-40 thousand, in 2008 the cash flow of TemplateMonster was $2-3 million. Not so long ago, we sold the company for more than $100 million. At that time, we already had 650 employees and offices in 17 countries.
Who are your target customers? How do you differentiate Template Monster from its competitors?
Look, we have been on TemplateMonster since 2002. For 16 years, we have been building sites. We have made over two million sites. In the beginning, our target audience was mostly developers. They knew what they wanted and had a certain kind of design feeling. Now, our customers 60-70% consist of end-users and only 40-30% are developers. Mostly our clients are business owners who want to have a site for a reasonable price. And in this case, our themes are ideal for them. In addition, our templates have a great support and updates. Our customer support is the main aid to differentiate TemplateMonster from its competitors. Due to a lot of direct communications with customers, we always understand what they want. We continue to communicate with customers after buying and installing the theme. And it’s one more way to increase sales. Besides that, we have a team that analyzes trends and helps to move with the times.
Looking at your WordPress Themes and Plugins, and you have many of them listed on your website, which ones are the more popular options?
Well, for now, WordPress trend is Elementor templates and everything related to them. I cannot but mention our greatest update of Multipurpose Modular Elementor WordPress Theme Monstroid 2. It was a really huge update starting form headers and ending with Elementor plugins. By the way, to make it more comfortable we’ve created Elementor marketplace where customers can find everything related to Elementor – themes, templates, and plugins. And the plugins are very popular. They help to make any site better and more functional.
Searching for and selecting a Theme can be a daunting task, given the choice there is. Do you have any tips to help people find the best theme for their websites?
Yes, you’re right. When choosing a suitable template for a site, people can spend a whole day and even more. And to speed up the process, you need to clearly define your desires and budget – this is the main thing. When a person knows what he wants and how much money he can afford for it, the process goes much faster. After selecting the appropriate templates, it is necessary to thoroughly test everything. Try to work with the template. Walk through the menu, moving from section to section. See how the video and image settings are done, whether they are displayed correctly. If you need a theme for making money, choose a template that looks good and is professionally executed. What types of themes are used by competitors? Are the program codes of the selected template suitable for SEO promotion of the site? Do you plan to display the company logo on the site? Will the blog be monetized in the future? Are there any ready-made widgets for the template? And so on. Everyone has their own vision for the design and functionality of the site. But, having defined your desires and budget, you can avoid unsuccessful attempts to choose a template for the site. Don’t chase cheapness and don’t try to achieve a great result without investing any strength or funds.
Thinking about Theme developers, what are the main benefits of signing up and selling their work through Template Monster?
TemplateMonster marketplace is the global market where each of the manufacturers will find their own piece of cake. We give the author up to 70% of the goods value. In addition, the profile creation and the vendor verification procedure are made in such a way that all this takes no more than a couple of days. While the closest colleagues can stretch such procedures up to 90 days. All you need to do is apply, load the product, go through the checkout and start receiving the money :)
Gutenberg, WordPress’ new editor, is a major change in WordPress’ 15-year history. How have your Theme developers been affected by it, if at all?
If I ask you “Why do you buy a Mercedes, if now all around are praising Tesla?”, you would have the same feeling. Competition forces us to do everything possible to improve our product. Due to this, we get a better product. The same situation is in the field of the site editors – companies learn from each other’s mistakes, making their software more streamlined and convenient. Undoubtedly, Gutenberg has excellent prospects for the future and we will take this into account, but currently, it is not so reliable as for example time-tested Elementor editor. And in order to integrate into the WordPress ecosystem, the editor needs further improvement and time to gain popularity and trust. At me moment, we are learning more about how it will influence other WordPress sites. We will definitely help all our customers to meet all the changes smoothly.
Something personal: What’s the best business advice that you have ever received?
Before launching any product, consider how many customers will buy it. You cannot be “everything for everyone.” Each of us has our own desires, needs, and life experience. The same thing is with business.
To conclude, what awesome developments are there on your roadmap in the next 12 months, that you can talk about?
First of all, I would like to reach the indicator of 300 sites per day on Weblium, a new project, but this is a very difficult target. Secondly, I also have a government program with the Indian government. This is an initiative called Digital Woman 2020. Its goal is to virtually digitalize 1 million women in India by 2020. The country has 2 problems. The first is that there are few female entrepreneurs. The second is unemployment. I came up with a program in which we can solve both problems. We create digitalization units: these are small offices in each city, in which women get jobs and they can build websites and promote. In other words, to digitize businesses. And they will be digitizing women’s businesses that need it. We connect them and the government has a double effect: new jobs and digitalization of women’s businesses, due to which they become more competitive. This will be a good example for the development of female entrepreneurship. The reason is that all this is great for small and medium businesses, and all successful examples will become role models for others. What is important, it will be an understandable role model: they did this and that, they got this result.