WordPress cloud service provider Sova raises $3M, launches freemium hosting plan



See the original story in Japanese.

Singapore-based Sova (named after buckwheat noodles in Japanese), the startup that provides cloud-based WordPress hosting service, announced last week that it has secured $3 million in a seed round. Details of the funds have not been disclosed, but it is understood they were raised from an angel investor in Singapore.

Why so confident?

Sova was launched back in December by Japanese engineer Miyako Itonaga (CEO/CTO) and serial entrepreneuer Takashi Fujimoto (CFO/COO). The company provides cloud-based hosting services focused on the WordPress environment, which allows them to save costs in engineering support for their customers but provide better experience. Fujimoto elaborated how they are trying to differentiate from competitors:

Typical service providers build their environment on Amazon Web Services because it’s easy. But if doing so, one remains upon the cloud service in the cost structure. So we developed our own cloud platform; service of the specification that our competitor WP Engine provides for $99 in the US is available from us for as low as $20.

Our readers may recall that his aforementioned company WP Engine recently $15 million in the US. We can expect that Sova to fare well in the Asian region because we’ve seen no competitors focused on such a niche space.

Adding multilingual options

Many of their users come from Japan and the Southeast Asian regions. To address a latency issue for them, the company’s cloud facilities are located in Singapore and Osaka, Japan. Using the funds raised this time, they plan to set up another facility in Palo Alto to prepare for their expansion to the US market and also add user support offices in Palo Alto and Indonesia to the existing locations in Singapore and Osaka. Fujimoto explained:

Since WordPress accounts for over 20% of all websites in the world, everyone knows how it’s sure to monetize. We’re still as young as six months old, but we’ve been receiving many takeover offers from companies like telcos in Asia and Silicon Valley-based companies expecting expansions to the Asian markets. But we have no intention to accept their offers for now.

Sova is also in talk with a undisclosed Japanese hosting company to provide a white label service for their customers. So you’ll be able to see a WordPress cloud hosting service branded with a major Japanese company pretty soon. The service is currently available in English and Japanese, but plan to add Vietnamese, Chinese, Indonesian, and Spanish to its language options next month.


Launching freemium hosting plan

Earlier this week, the company started accepting applications for their freemium hosting plan called Sova WP Free. Now that they’ve got the funds and a measurable number of paying users, so they thought it’s good to launch the premium plan to gain their awareness amongst potential customers. Fujimoto added:

It’s a freemium service but has a feature to boost the capacity of your environment to withstand up to 1 million daily page views. We’re developing our own ad network platform, which will enables blog owners using our service to monetize their content. It’s also available for mobile browsing. Typical WordPress templates are limited in its variety of design, but we will provide many templates using responsive designs and give users more choices.

We understand that they are trying to secure a series A funding worth an amount ranging from $10 to $15 million by the end of October.

I was curious about how Fujimoto have been working prior to this business. He told me that he started his own business while he was attending Kyoto University. Subsequently he launched an IT business and sold it over to a big Japanese IT company back in 2009. He’s busy flying back and forth between Singapore and Palo Alto for setting up their first office in the US.