Pixelgrade Transparency Report #3


How we did in the first six months of 2016

These months were a bit of an eye-open­er in many respects. More dynam­ic, more tough and intro­spec­tive most of the time. We’ve end­ed up more in tune with who we are and where we want to go. Now we just need to make it hap­pen!

You need more details, I know. Well, we were, and still are, just fine: we do what we love, from where we like to, we are free from most of the strug­gles of dai­ly life and we are a source of envy for many around us. We are thank­ful for all that we are and what we’ve accom­plished so far.

But we are not com­pla­cent. Far from it. We know there is always room for improve­ment, both inner look­ing (just have a sin­cere, alone, look in the mir­ror), but also out­ward look­ing. We, as a team, can best con­trol the lat­ter. How one can con­tribute best to the team and how the team can make a dent in soci­ety. The last months have helped put this into per­spec­tive.

We choose to do the hard and uncom­fort­able things when things are going alright.

There is a shal­low bor­der between doing just fine, almost on autopi­lot, and see­ing things crash­ing around you for no appar­ent rea­son. It’s one of the sneaky side-effects of com­pla­cen­cy. But we are not like that. We choose to do the hard, uncom­fort­able things when things are going alright. This gives us the need­ed relax­ation to think in the right terms.


The FACTS!’ I keep hear­ing from around back. Ok, ok, it’s about time to get right to the nit­ty grit­ty. (you can check the pre­vi­ous facts first and sec­ond trans­paren­cy reports, so you can get a bet­ter sense of where we’re com­ing from).

  • 1 new mem­ber joined the team: Oana, Dig­i­tal Strate­gist & Sto­ry­teller 👏
  • 1 mem­ber left the team: Ser­ban, Thanks for every­thing!
  • 1 new pre­mi­um theme: Gema
  • 1 theme redesign: Pile
  • 1 free plu­g­in: Fonto
  • our new Show­case web­site


While we’ve seen an increase in rev­enue of 22% com­pared to the pre­vi­ous semes­ter, we’ve failed to grow the impact of our own shop and WordPress.com. Much of the rev­enue comes from Enva­to, while WP.com decreased in rev­enue. We hope the recent release of Gema will put things on an upward trend, again.

The over­all increase is not due to new themes releas­es (as was most­ly the case in the past), but more of a result of a com­bined effort to stream­line things and to put our backs into it. The redesign of Pile (almost a new theme, code-wise) is still too recent to have much of an effect. We shall wait and see if this is a route worth pur­su­ing in the future.

—$57,933 month­ly aver­age (+22.4% — up from $47,321)
— 6,861 sales (+20% — up from 5,682)
— $51 aver­age theme rev­enue (+1.9% — up from $50)

Com­pared with the 6 months before (dot­ted lines)


In line with our desire to fair­ly dis­trib­ute rev­enues among the team­mates, the aver­age month­ly expens­es hov­ered around $33,750 (+3.5% — up from $32,607). These include:
— 68% salaries
—16.5% main­te­nance (rent, account­ing fees, sup­plies, gar­den­ing, etc.)
— 15.5% occa­sion­al expens­es (like hard­ware, office improve­ments, mar­ket­ing)

Some­thing new we haven’t paid (lit­er­al­ly) much atten­tion pre­vi­ous­ly, and con­se­quent­ly didn’t sig­nif­i­cant­ly impact our expens­es, are our mar­ket­ing efforts. These have tak­en off under the watch­ful eye of Oana. It’s still too ear­ly to draw some con­clu­sions (as it is often the case with mar­ket­ing), but we are opti­mistic about it. Do not think Google Adsense.

One of the wis­est expens­es we’ve ever made.

One more impor­tant expense that we’ve made (and hope to con­tin­ue doing it) is our full team atten­dance at Word­Camp Europe 2016 in Vien­na. It was one of the wis­est expens­es we’ve ever made. We spent $6,000 for trav­el and accom­mo­da­tion and $1,100 for the 11 tick­ets (we’ve bought five micro-spon­sor tick­ets — just to give back to the com­mu­ni­ty). While it adds up to a hefty amount, we’ve gained much more and we encour­age every­one to con­sid­er it for WCEU 2017 in Paris.

A better online presence

Oana, our very own mar­ket­ing-wield­ing, com­mu­ni­ty-build­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tion-bash­ing, copy­writ­ing hero (yes, she likes to keep her wardrobe full of hats), was a won­der­ful, and quite sur­pris­ing, addi­tion to our team. She has promised a coher­ent mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy, but has deliv­ered so much more.

She brought action and clar­i­ty to our way of com­mu­ni­cat­ing with our cus­tomers, raised the expec­ta­tions and forced us to write more (right here), and opened up new chan­nels for us to bet­ter engage with out cus­tomers.

On top of this, if that wasn’t enough, she infused us with an addi­tion­al dose of much need­ed ‘can do’ atti­tude. We thank her for that!

Not every best-selling theme is a success

Usu­al­ly, you can mea­sure a theme’s suc­cess by its rev­enue. But we think that is not the most rel­e­vant thing you should care about. It’s far more real­is­tic to think in terms of how reward­ing is a prod­uct over­all.

We did some research and besides the sales and pric­ing, we took into con­sid­er­a­tion the main­te­nance fac­tor, which includes the num­ber of sup­port tick­ets and issues solved on a pre­de­fined time­frame.

We’ve dis­cov­ered that even if some of our themes are sell­ing real­ly well, the effort put into them makes them less prof­itable than the sim­pler ones with much low­er require­ments in terms of assis­tance and bug fix­ing.

A big­ger prof­itabil­i­ty for the straight­for­ward niche themes.

Con­sid­er­ing that the themes sold through our shop are sold at a high­er rate, they are much more prof­itable than the ones from TF, even if their sales are low­er.

In terms of keep­ing things sim­ple, the same prin­ci­ple applies to our most prof­itable theme from TF, Rosa — a pret­ty straight­for­ward restau­rant theme, with­out any 3rd par­ty inte­gra­tions.

The thing with main­tain­ing a best-sell­ing, but unprof­itable, theme is that it con­sumes you all the time, and you will not have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to cre­ate any­thing new, that might give you more sat­is­fac­tion.

That’s some­thing to think about.

To a brighter future

I am sure, if you have made it thus far, you’ve been won­der­ing for the past few min­utes, what was with all that poet­ry about inner search, com­pla­cen­cy, and uncom­fort­able things. Allow me to try and find the gist of it 🙂

Some time ago, a need/idea for a prop­er brand­ing process sur­faced amongst our­selves — one that would bring visu­al coher­ence, a more con­sis­tent expe­ri­ence for our cus­tomers and a bet­ter deliv­ery of our val­ues. Sounds awe­some, right? It turns out this was kind of a Pandora’s box that brought into light far more fun­da­men­tal short­com­ings of ours as a team and as a com­pa­ny.

The more we talked to spe­cial­ists, the more we had to dig deep­er. It seemed that every­one was set on mak­ing things hard for us, most­ly the co-founders as it seems it’s one of our duties ( who would have thought). But we’ve per­se­vered and kept try­ing to answer what­ev­er ques­tion came our way, while mak­ing sure we add some of our own.

We are now at the point where we’ve under­stood that we need to go back to the fun­da­men­tals of why and how we do what we do. Start­ing with a (writ­ten) busi­ness strat­e­gy, with a coher­ent set of val­ues, a bet­ter under­stand­ing of our inter­nal dynam­ic, all the way to that ini­tial goal of hav­ing a brand­ing man­u­al.

We are excit­ed (and some­what scared) for the road ahead, but I am con­vinced we will emerge stronger and bet­ter equipped to deliv­er an even bet­ter expe­ri­ence for our cus­tomers and for our­selves.

That is all for this third trans­paren­cy report. Don’t hes­i­tate to reach out to us if you need to tell how great, stu­pid or crazy we are. We can take it.

George and Vlad, Co-Founders of Pix­el­grade


I'm a daydreaming designer with a desire to improve the world, to be a good and a meaningful person. I value calm but easily get excited by the next challenge.