WordPress will change your life if you let it

Chris Lema


Something from nothing

If I told you the five most important moments in my life, the thread between them all would be simple – I crafted something from nothing.

Whether it was a speech, a software product, a blog audience, a company, or a family – the same was true each time. First there was nothing. Then there was strategy. Then there were partners. Then there was something. And each time I was delighted!

Everything changed 9 years ago

Almost nine year ago my wife brought our daughter, and our first child, into the world. When that happened, everything – and I mean everything – changed. One of those changes included a conversation my wife had with me.

I could say that we had, but there was one person talking and one person listening. She said, “I would like you to step out of startups and join a company where you’ll stay in one place for more than five years.”

Many of you know this already, but I married up. She’s an incredible woman, wife, and mother. When someone like that asks you for something, you don’t hesitate. Even if she was asking me to do something that frankly, I hadn’t done since high school.

From the time I was in college until we had Emily my world had been startups. And I loved everything about them because their goal was always the creation of something from nothing.

But I chose my wife and family over a career in startups. So I left my fifth software startup and looked for work elsewhere. It led me to Emphasys Software – a vertical market enterprise software company.

The last 8 ½ half years with Emphasys

Over the last eight and a half years, I’ve loved every minute of my time there. I’ve had the privilege of leading teams in R&D, marketing, product development, engineering and more.

I’ve helped the company go from being in two vertical markets to five – all the while creating new products that either allowed us to grow organically in our existing markets or step into adjacent markets.

It’s been a fantastic journey of learning what it means to be entrepreneurial within a corporation.

Getting involved with WordPress

Three and a half years ago our family moved to Southern California and I decided to go from being a WordPress user to someone who contributed back to the community (in my own particular way).

After a year of observing the community, my sense was that I could add value by writing articles for freelancers in the WordPress community, articles on pricing for product developers in the community, and comparison articles for end users in the community.

As my blog (chrislema.com) took off, and as I began speaking at WordCamps, I found that some of the WordPress product vendors were also interested in my product development background and I began providing some coaching.

A hobby that became more

My afternoon writing and evening coaching were a hobby that gave me an incredible amount of joy – much like my startup days.

And that’s when, six months ago, my wife started asking a different question on our date nights – “How do we get you to feel the way you do all day long, instead of just in the late afternoons?”

This was the woman who had asked me to step out of the startup world. Now she was asking what it would take to move more completely into it.

Reason 34,768 why I’m married to the most amazing woman on the planet. Sorry guys – she’s taken!

Melissa would say, “I can tell if you’re doing your day job or your evening coaching, not by the time of day, but by the energy in your voice.”

So we began talking about what it would look like to step into the WordPress community full time.

WordPress will change your life if you let it

I’ll be honest. My sense has always been that the community doesn’t really need me full time. I’m a twenty-year software executive with deep product development experience. In many ways, that’s overqualified and likely priced out of the market.

In fact, many people only know me as the guy that writes blog posts and gives WordCamp talks. So explaining to the community what I do in my day job, and looking for full time positions worried me a bit.

Let’s be honest – I have told you before that I struggle with the impostor syndrome. So when I say it worried me a bit I meant I didn’t believe it was even possible.

But WordPress will change your life if you let it.

Karim Marucchi is more than Crowd Favorite’s CEO – he’s a good friend

As work slowed down at Emphasys, things came to a head where I realized I needed to either renew a commitment to Emphasys for the next several years – taking on some big new projects – or to step out and consider full time work in the WordPress world.

I started spending time with VeloMedia’s Karim Marucchi in a business capacity when I joined their Board of Directors last March. It became pretty clear, pretty quickly, that we complimented each other well and had enough similar experiences to see the world in much the same way.

He’s been asking me to join his company for a while. Only recently, with Melissa’s questions and a good decision moment at Emphasys, did I really consider it. As our families spent time together, and as Karim and I worked on various initiatives, it was clear that we enjoyed working together.

So as worried as I might have been about stepping into the WordPress world full time, I had a friend in the community that made the transition really easy by simply saying he wanted me to join them full time– without debate.

(There may have been some colluding going on, as I later witnessed Karim Marucchi and Melissa Lema talking in whispers in a corner at WordCamp Orange County.)

I’m leaving Emphasys and joining Crowd Favorite in mid-September

So it’s with great pleasure that I step back into the startup world.

It’s with great pleasure that I join my friend Karim, and all my friends at Crowd Favorite, to join their executive team. I’ll step into the CTO role, but focus on more than just their technology dynamics, as there’s still a lot of room for growth, performance improvement, and tons of opportunities to take WordPress and WordPress products into Fortune 500 enterprises.

My first day as a favoriteer will be September 15th.

You can hear my interview with Brian Krogsgard on Post Status and read his take on the move as well.

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  1. Justin Sainton says:


    You are a rare, rare individual. Crowd Favorite is incredibly fortunate to have you on board. Congrats to all!

  2. Congrats to you, your family, Karim, and the entire Crowd Favorite team. This move is a win, win, win, win, and I can’t wait to see what the world looks like with you all working together :)

  3. Brian Krogsgard says:

    Congratulations, Chris. I’m super happy for you, and I’m sure you’ll help take Crowd Favorite to new heights. It was a privilege to interview you for this, and I wish you the best of luck on your new journey!

  4. Congratulations, Chris – and Crowd Favorite. Love seeing good folks join forces with other good folks in this community, it’s a good feeling. Solid move, all the way around – enjoy!

  5. How exciting!!! Congrats to both you and Crowd Favorite!!!

  6. Great post Chris. WordPress has changed the lives of so many (most everyone I know in the community as well as myself) and it’s nothing short of amazing what can happen when you “let it” as you say.

    Huge congrats to you and the team – it’s going to be great!

  7. corymiller303 says:

    So excited for both of you — two great friends now working directly together — as you go far! #BOOM

  8. Wow…congrats!

  9. Wow! Congratulations, Chris! It’s a win.win situation. You are joining a great company, they are hiring a great CTO. :)

    Kudos to you, I wish you a great success!

  10. MrRyanCowles says:

    Congrats all around!

  11. You’re right Chris, the WordPress community doesn’t need you full-time, we need 3 of you.

    Congratulations on the new position, Crowd Favorite just got even more awesome.

    Please say thank you to your wife for us.

  12. Congrats Chris! Can’t wait to see where this new venture takes you, and how you bring your unique ability to Crowd Favorite as well!

  13. Congrats to both you Chris and Karim. You are both amazing fellows and I am looking forward to watching you take the WordPress world by storm!

  14. Congratulations! Lots of luck and good times at Crowd Favorite.

  15. OMG! How exciting is that…your wife is a very wise woman. So pleased that your diving into something that will energise your whole day. It really makes a difference to your quality of life… cash is great, but fulfilment takes it to an entirely different level.

  16. Congratulations Chris! Sounds like a really fun and cool opportunity! You’re the man!

  17. rita best says:

    Congratulations Chris! Looking forward to reading, learning, and seeing all your new ventures and start-up insights. Thanks for making the time and sharing.

  18. Well, Twitter led me here and…. Congrats!! very motivational story as I’m just starting out on my own with a hobby/company. WordPress, Internet Marketing and SEO are a time suck that I just can’t get enough of :)

  19. Congrats, good luck and good health!

  20. timcolling says:

    Congratulations, Chris! That’s terrific. You are a blessed man.

  21. Congrats Chris ! many happy days for you . Please bring all the favoriteer’s to South Africa.

  22. tommylinsley says:

    Congratulations, Chris!

  23. Chris,

    Just curious as to why you connect “start-up world” with working with WordPress and CrowdFavorite?

    When I personally think of “start-up” I think of a small group (less than five full time people) working on a brand-new (less than a couple of years) revision of something cool.

    While I agree WordPress is cool, it’s hardly new (over 10 years old now) and Crowd Favorite isn’t brand-new either (name change in 2007) nor is CrowdFavorite small either (I think I saw a “total staff count” of 150 people on one of the most recent acquisition posts that PostStat.us or CrowdFavorite has written recently, as I’ve been reading a lot of these as Forty is a local AWESOME design company whom I’ve become friends with.). So personally I wouldn’t equate these two things with “startup”…

    Which leads me to be curious as to your “definition” of startup…

    Also – Congrats on the new gig of course! You are an amazing mind and the WordPress community and CrowdFavorite is so lucky to have you. :)

    I’m quite jealous you get to work with Alex King, James Archer AND Jeffery Zinn. Man talk about CrowdFavorite gathering a big-hitters club of amazing talent very quickly.

    Talk soon! :)

    • Chris Lema says:

      I sold my second startup (10 people) to a larger startup of 300 people. They’d been around a couple of years and had already raised $50 million. I know some people would look at a 300 person software company with millions in the bank as a non-start-up. But I think it’s a matter of perspective.

      Companies go thru phases – from figuring out a business model, to scaling the company, and more.

      When your business is taking WordPress into the Enterprise Market, I’d suggest there’s still a lot of scaling that Crowd Favorite has to do. And potentially refine its business model to include more products with its services.

      That’s why I think of it as a start-up.

  24. Bob Dickson says:

    Congrats my friend. I saw you were going to be in San Francisco soon. What are the dates? Would love to get together!

  25. Petri I. Salonen says:

    Congratulations Chris, welcome back to entrepreneurial world !

  26. Andrew Behla says:

    Congratulations Chris. I’m sure you will enjoy this new chapter of your life!

  27. Pamela Hirsch says:

    Congratulations, Chris! I’ve only recently started reading your posts, but the energy your wife noticed about the way you were in the latter part of the day really comes across in your writing and your speaking. I, too, am leaving the corporate life in 2.5 weeks to concentrate fully on my WordPress business. All I can say is that when I’m “doing WP,” I feel like I’m playing. And I love it! Wishing you all the best!

  28. Congratulations!

    Quick question, are you still going to be on Clarity? I might call you some time. Going through a transition myself.

  29. Congrats on the change, Chris. That’s game changing for sure!

  30. Excellent news. Congrats to you both because I think you’re both winning here and frankly I think we (the entire WP community) continues to benefit from you two being an positive and influential part of it.

  31. Nothing but smiles from my little island perch in Sweden, Chris. Nothing but smiles.

    • Chris Lema says:

      I am still getting over the fact that you’re in Sweden. Congrats again on all of life’s changes. It all started with a laptop, I’m sure. :)

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  • People don’t fully grasp how strategic Chris is. I love that about him and count on it all the time.

    Karim Marucchi
  • Chris often breaks paradigms and has me rethinking the way I approach my business.

    Jeff Zinn
  • Chris always gives me something to think about – a new lens through which to examine my business.

    Lucy Beer
  • Chris’s advice has helped me to make better decisions about my business, and manage my clients better.

    Natalie MacLees
  • Chris has been a source of wisdom and insight in business and product strategy, startups, entrepreneurship, and more.

    Austin Gunter
  • Chris is one of those rare people who can take a difficult subject and make it easy to learn and remember.

    Dave Jesch
  • Chris has a heart of gold and is willing to reach out and help. He has helped me in several ways both in WordPress coding and consulting with me on my business. He has been a blessing in my life and look forward to a long friendship with him.

    Gregg Franklin
  • Chris Lema always drops knowledge bombs that makes me think about how I can evolve my WordPress-powered business. Even more valuable is that he does it in a way that makes drastic change seem achievable.

    Chris Ford
  • Whether it's product strategy or a question about which plugin to use, I know Chris will get me an answer faster than anyone else.

    Steve Zehngut
  • Chris is a great mentor, instructor and friend. He fills all these roles with a down to earth style and ease that actually encourages you to believe that success is within your grasp.

    Alex Vasquez