The Untold Story of OptinMonster’s 10-Year Journey (and how we ALMOST didn’t make it!)

The Untold Story of OptinMonster’s 10-Year Journey (and how we ALMOST didn’t make it!)

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Hey everyone – Thomas here from OptinMonster. Today, I have the incredible privilege of celebrating OptinMonster’s 10th birthday with you!

Honestly, it feels surreal typing this out. Blessed beyond measure doesn’t begin to describe the immense gratitude and thankfulness in my heart.

If you would’ve asked me where OptinMonster would be now 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to fathom what it has become today.

Someone once said that the days are long but the years are short, and as I reflect on the last 10 years, I wholeheartedly believe that to be true.

But this post and OptinMonster almost didn’t happen…

Our Crazy Origin Story

In late 2012, I connected with my business partner Syed Balkhi at a WordCamp event in North Carolina. After the event, we exchanged emails discussing ideas for a new product. Syed was convinced that there was a market for a particular kind of marketing technology: exit-intent popups.

He had seen the power of well-timed popups on his popular blog, WPBeginner, and he wondered if that could be turned into a solution for other smart marketers and business owners to use.

At the time, existing solutions were clunky, poorly built and very difficult to use for even the most seasoned professional. And, the industry as a whole was not in good repute.

So in January 2013, Syed and I met up at a hotel in Savannah, GA, to put together plans for building OptinMonster.

But unlike other product planning sessions, we began with a different approach: a principles-first approach to make sure we agreed on the truly important things first.

Some of those things were:

  • Level the playing field. We believed that great technology should be accessible to everyone, from small business owners to DIY website assemblers.
  • People first. We believed that great products begin and flourish with great relationships. We’ve been fanatical about customer support from Day One.
  • No debt. We believed that long-term, strategic thinking would be the best approach for building a lasting product that customers loved.
  • Easy to use without sacrificing power. Too often, we saw that products were either easy to use (but lacked the power necessary to achieve above-average results) or extremely powerful (but so difficult to use you needed a training manual with continuing education to work with it). We believed both were possible at the same time, and we were absolutely determined to make it a reality.
  • Zealous for performance. We both cared deeply about website performance. Because marketing tech tools had a bad reputation for being bloatware, we believed we could flip that script and change the narrative. And by all accounts, we have – just look for OptinMonster in PageSpeed reports…you won’t find it anywhere!
  • Steeped in innovation. We believed that the industry had great potential, and we wanted to change the landscape to help our customers win more often by innovating with powerful features.

Only then did we begin to plan the product.

We put together plans for popups, floating bars, slide-ins and inline content offers. We discussed the various triggers needed to display those campaigns including our signature Exit-Intent® technology that we pioneered. We discussed ways to report and allow customers to split-test to get better results.

And after a few full days of writing and refining our plans, we got started building OptinMonster.

Little did we know of the unforeseen challenge we would face along the way.

The Big Challenge

As the summer of 2013 rolled around, we were ready to begin testing OptinMonster live.

Back in January, we had decided to build OptinMonster as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) product. That meant it could run on any kind of website.

We are big believers in using our own products, so we made the decision to use it on WPBeginner first, the most popular WordPress resource site.

We placed the embed pixel on the site and watched as the requests started to flood in.

It was working! People were signing up, leads were being captured and the product was keeping pace with the traffic demands.

And then things went dark.

The servers crashed, and OptinMonster stopped working.

I frantically tried to debug what was happening. We called in some additional people we knew to help us solve the problems we were facing.

And after about a week of ups and downs, we made no real progress.

We simply didn’t know how to scale a SaaS product, and we were coming to terms with that reality.

We were at a crossroads, and we had a big decision to make.

Do we cut our losses? That seemed exceedingly painful, and neither of us wanted to do that.

Do we pay someone to help us figure this out? That seemed very expensive, and we were bootstrapped. And it also seemed like it would take a lot of time…and we weren’t guaranteed the result we wanted.

Do we pivot to something else? We had seen the results, and we knew it would be a hit, so we didn’t want to shift to working on a different idea.

So, we decided to go back to our roots and do what we knew how to do best: create WordPress products.

30-Day Product Launch

It was the end of August 2013, and we had just made the decision to transform OptinMonster from a SaaS product to a WordPress plugin.

And we set a crazy deadline to do it: one month.

I worked furiously day and night to adapt what we had built and package it into a plugin to sell.

And miraculously, after three weeks, I had a working version of the plugin to use.

We put it in WPBeginner, and it worked! And not only did it work. It worked exceptionally well.

Later that week, we met together for our first company retreat together in St. Augustine, FL.

Our plan: launch OptinMonster before the end of the retreat.

We hardly slept. Powered by Mountain Dew and an awesome restaurant called Mango Mango’s, we worked to meticulously refine the product and prepare something we could be proud of for launch.

After some stressful back and forth with a payment provider, we officially launched on September 24, 2013.

But we didn’t stop at the launch. We had lots of work left to do.


As I mentioned earlier, one of our founding principles was exceptional customer service.

We absolutely love helping our customers succeed with our tools.

As we continued to improve the product, launch new features and listen to our customers, we noticed a pattern emerging.

Many customers were buying OptinMonster, but they were requesting refunds because they couldn’t use it on their sites.

Why couldn’t they use it?

Because their website ran on something other than WordPress!

You see, we were pioneers in the advanced lead generation popup space. We blazed the trail for and popularized Exit Intent® technology. We introduced display rule triggers that no one had attempted before, like Geolocation Targeting, OnSite Retargeting® and OnSite Follow Up Campaigns®.

And the word was out. Smart marketers from every corner of the internet wanted to use OptinMonster to get more subscribers, leads and sales.

But because they used website platforms other than WordPress, they couldn’t take advantage of the proven results people were seeing.

And, our ability to innovate was being squeezed by the limitations of self-hosted products.

So we had a decision to make: do we stick with just being a WordPress plugin, or do we try our hand at a SaaS product again?

In an effort to put our customers first to help them grow and compete, we decided to change the game once more and go all-in on the SaaS route again.

And this time, we were determined to make it work.

Re-Launch and Re-Invest

We invested a lot of time and resources into developing the OptinMonster app with a singular focus: to help our customers get even more subscribers, leads and sales.

And in late April 2015, we officially launched the OptinMonster app you know and love today.

We had learned from our mistakes before, and we built the app to be more resilient and scalable than ever.

And, thanks to being platform agnostic, it allowed us to continue blazing the trail of innovation in the customer acquisition and lead generation industry.

Since then, we’ve continued to invest in the platform by building new features and solutions such as:

  • Fullscreen welcome gates and welcome mats that were optimized for SEO.
  • Tons of new integrations with email marketing and CRM platforms.
  • Hundreds of new templates and playbooks
  • Campaign scheduling, countdown timers and smart success screens
  • TruLead® Lead verification and revenue attribution
  • Custom field mapping and MonsterLeads
  • Spin-to-Win campaigns
  • Custom Domains
  • …and so, so much more!

OptinMonster now serves multiple billions of requests each month and is used on well over 1 million smart websites.

And the happy truth is we’re not done innovating. We are practitioners, and we will continue to make OptinMonster better every day because we use the product just like you.

That’s just one of the reasons why G2 recently showered OptinMonster with 20 different awards including best ROI, easiest setup and market leader.

A few of the OptinMonster G2 Awards for Popup Builder Software

What’s Next + Huge Giveaway

You might be wondering: what’s next for OptinMonster?

That’s a great question, and it’s one I am very excited to answer.

(And if you’d like to play your part in shaping the future of OptinMonster, come join our team)

For starters, you can continue to expect exceptional customer service at every part of your journey. It’s part of our DNA, and that won’t be changing.

And for the product?

Well, I can’t leak all the details, but I can give you a brief sneak-peek behind the curtain:

  • More AI integrations to make creating high-converting campaigns easier and quicker than ever before.
  • New smart blocks and rule triggers to help you personalize campaigns like never before
  • New ways to analyze your campaigns to see what’s working and take action on areas to improve
  • Doubling down on our commitment to a “Core Web Vitals Approved” philosophy of performance and SEO optimization
  • Expertly crafted templates to help you get more subscribers, leads and sales FASTER
  • New add-ons to help you get the most out of the subscribers and leads generated with OptinMonster
  • …and maybe even some new products 😉

To commemorate this incredible milestone, the amazing team at OptinMonster has put together an epic sale and giveaway. It’s a celebration that you don’t want to miss out on!

And, since OptinMonster is part of the Awesome Motive family of products, we’ve pulled some favors to get you exclusive access to some impressive deals and prizes, too!

Thank You

None of this would be possible without you, our amazing customers.

I’m so grateful and thankful for each one of you.

OptinMonster is dear to my heart, and I hope it has been a great source of growth for you.

My promise to you is that we will do everything in our power to continue to earn your trust and business for many, many years to come.


Thomas Griffin
Co-Founder of OptinMonster

Start Getting More Leads & Sales Today with OptinMonster!

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In only 7 months, we added more than 95,654 names to our email list using OptinMonster’s Exit Intent™ technology. We strongly recommend it!

Michael Stelzner - Best Lead Generation Tool

Michael Stelzner

Founder Social Media Examiner

I hate popups, so I was hesitant to try one on my site. But the results from OptinMonster exit-intent popup speak for themselves. I doubled my subscription rate immediately without annoying my users. I haven’t had a single complaint. My only regret is that I didn’t start using OptinMonster sooner. I can only imagine how many subscribers I could have added to my email list! If you have a blog, then I highly recommend you start using OptinMonster. I’ve researched them all, and it’s the best in market.

Michael Hyatt - WordPress Lead Generation

Michael Hyatt

New York Times Bestselling Author Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World

Exit-intent popups have doubled my email opt-in rate. When done right, you can see an instant 12% lift on driving sales. I highly recommend that you use OptinMonster for growing your email list and sales.

Neil Patel - WordPress Popup Plugin

Neil Patel

Founder QuickSprout