I was born in Karachi, Pakistan. Ever since I can remember, I have been extremely competitive which makes me work hard at everything that I do.
I started my first business when I was 7 years old selling holiday greeting cards for Muslim holiday (Eid). My mom gave me the initial funds to start, and it was a successful venture. I tripled her investment within a month.
I loved it so much that I replicated it by selling flags for Pakistan’s Independence Day celebration. This too was profitable.
The entrepreneur spirit in me could not stop there. I wanted to expand from doing seasonal sales to doing something more regular.
With the help of my mom and grandmother, I started a small snack shop for my neighborhood when I was 9 years old. This was extremely profitable.
At age 12, my family immigrated to the United States.
I found myself facing some of the biggest challenges of my life. I had to learn a new language, make new friends, and get used to of the new reality where I have to regularly deal with racial tensions from the 9/11 incident.
If that wasn’t enough, my family was going through a lot of financial hardship like most immigrant families do, and since I’m the oldest of 4 kids, I felt it was my responsibility to help out my dad who was working 16 hours every day.
These difficult times became my motivation and led me to start my online career in 2003 when I was 12 years old.
The early days of my online career were not exciting. I did a ton of grunt work because I just wanted to make extra cash to help my family.
One of my cousins pointed me to an online forum where I could pick up tasks like forum posting, directory submission, data-entry, etc. I took the money I made and reinvested some of it into buying / selling domains.
As a high school kid with no life, I spent majority of the lunch breaks in the library trying to play games. Since most gaming sites were blocked by my school firewall, I learnt how to code and built a web proxy to bypass the firewall.
In the process, aside from learning how to code, I also learnt a lot about monetizing websites with advertising revenue and driving traffic.
This led me to create a large proxy network supported by ads, a suite of flash game websites (online arcades), and a network of web directories to promote my websites (old school SEO).
During this time, I started getting consulting requests from other businesses (some small and some very large). I decided to start a small agency to offer SEO and web development services.
Fast forward few years, I graduated high school and attended University of Florida — Yes, I did graduate with Honors in Anthropology and Religion.
Through out college, I further expanded my online businesses, but I couldn’t keep up.
In 2008, I decided to migrate all of my clients from static websites over to WordPress, so I can get rid of the maintenance part of our business.
Next thing you know, all of my clients were asking questions about how to use WordPress.
In 2009, I created WPBeginner, the largest free WordPress resource site!
In 2011, I created an entertainment site, List25, with my college roommate and best friend David Pegg. It got to over 2.3 Million YouTube subscribers and over 550 million video views. Update – I sold List25 in October 2018.
In 2013, I launched a product called OptinMonster that helps businesses convert website visitors into email subscribers and customers. Now its the leading conversion optimization toolkit used by top brands like NBA, McAfee, TripAdvisor, American Express, etc.
In 2013, I acquired ThemeLab where we sell high quality premium WordPress themes. We decided to shut this down in 2016.
In 2014, I became a partner in SoliloquyWP, the fastest responsive slider plugin for WordPress. I also became a partner in Envira Gallery – a responsive WordPress gallery plugin to help you showcase your photos. Update – We sold Envira and Soliloquy in Dec, 2017.
In 2016, I launched WPForms, a drag & drop WordPress form builder with a single goal: make the most beginner friendly WordPress forms plugin. Currently it’s being used by over 5 million websites.
In 2016, I acquired the largest Google Analytics plugin for WordPress and renamed it to MonsterInsights. Currently it powers over 2 million websites.
In 2017, I launched IsItWP, a useful WordPress tool that tells you what themes and plugins a website is using.
In 2017, I acquired the largest WordPress SMTP plugin, WP Mail SMTP. Currently over 1 million websites use it.
In 2018, I acquired Google Analytics Dashboard for WordPress and rebranded it to ExactMetrics. Currently it’s being used by over 1 million websites.
In 2018, I acquired SeedProd, the most popular coming soon & maintenance mode plugin for WordPress. It’s being used by over 900,000 websites.
In 2018, I also invested in MemberPress, PrettyLinks, Affiliate Royale, and Formidable Forms through my Growth Accelerator Fund.
In 2019, I launched a giveaway and contest platform, RafflePress, to make it easy for businesses to unlock viral growth.
In 2019, I relaunched Blog Tyrant, a website I acquired in 2018 from a fellow online blogger. My goal with this site is to offer exclusive blogging tips.
In 2019, I also invested in Wholesale Suite, Advanced Coupons, and Thirsty Affiliates through my Growth Accelerator Fund.
In 2020, I acquired All in One SEO, the best WordPress SEO plugin to increase your rankings.
In 2020, I also acquired Smash Balloon, which creates custom social media feeds and displays it in WordPress.
In 2020, I also acquired PushEngage, the leading web push notification software that helps you connect with your visitors after they leave your website.
In 2020, I also invested in UncannyOwl and Automator Plugin through my Growth Fund.
In 2021, I acquired SearchWP, the most advanced WordPress search plugin that helps you create custom on site search experiences to improve user experience and boost conversions.
In 2021, I also acquired Easy Digital Downloads, a powerful eCommerce solution for selling digital downloads. This is the eCommerce tool that I use to sell many of our softwares.
Along with EDD, I acquired other plugins in the portfolio including AffiliateWP, a powerful affiliate management solution without the middle-man fees, WP Simple Pay, a simple payment solution that lets you accept credit cards on your site, and Sugar Calendar, a powerful event calendar plugin for WordPress.
In 2022, I acquired WP Charitable, the top-rated WordPress donation plugin.
In 2022, I launched SendLayer, a reliable email delivery service for transactional emails. Simply put, it helps your website emails get in your customer’s inbox.
In 2022, I rebranded my free Insert Headers and Footer plugin to WPCode and turned it into the most powerful Code Snippets plugin for WordPress. It simply future-proof your website customizations.
In 2022, I acquired WP Tasty and Nutrifox under our portfolio company Strategy11 which is the company behind Formidable Forms, Business Directory plugin, and more.
In 2023, I announced our acquisition of Duplicator, the popular WordPress backup and website migration plugin that’s used by over 1.5 million websites.
In 2023, I also announced our acquisition of Thrive Themes, the company behind some of the most powerful growth tools for WordPress. Over 200,000+ smart website owners use the Thrive premium plugin suite to easily convert website visitors into email subscribers, paying customers, and raving fans.
Through my entrepreneurial journey, I had several failures (not-listed above). I simply learned from those and kept moving forward.
I am happily married to my beautiful wife, Amanda Balkhi. She is super smart and has a PhD in Clinical and Health Psychology.
We currently live in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
We have one kiddo, Solomon Balkhi. He has been a true blessing, and I’m definitely learning a lot. As they say, parenthood isn’t always easy, but its lots of fun.
We also have two loving and sometimes annoying dogs. Want to see their picture? Head over to my article: 6 important business lessons I learned from my dog.
In my free time, I enjoy traveling and hanging out with my family.
You can keep up with my travels through the yearly recaps (2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015) or by following me on Instagram for real-time updates!
I believe that the only sustainable way to fight inequality is through education. That’s why I created the Balkhi Foundation through which we support communities by building schools as well as offering higher-education grants.
Schools I helped Build:
Chuche Primary School
Syed Balkhi Center of Learning
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Vijolom II Primary School
Vijolom II, Guatemala
Villa Hortencia Antigua Primary School
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I know I have an inspiring story, but I want to inspire you in the right way.
Everything I say is from my personal experience. None of the things I share on this blog will make you “get rich quick” — far from it.
Building an online business takes a lot of time, hard work, patience, and a little bit of luck.
My goal is to share my experiences, lessons I learned, case-studies, and resources to help you build a successful online business.
I hope that you enjoyed the story of my life.
Once again, thanks a lot for taking the time to read this. I look forward to connecting with you.