WordCamp Asia 2024 Recap: More Commercial, Less Investment, but Still a Blast 💥

Freemius
10 min readMar 14, 2024

Phew! I’m finally back home from Taiwan. I made meaningful new connections at WordCamp Asia 2024 and caught up with old friends. Our Makers’ Meetup was the biggest success so far 🚀 and exploring the sights and sounds of Taipei was an experience I’ll never forget.

To put it bluntly, this WordCamp was different. It seemed more business-driven (with a commercial flavor), at least for me, it felt like there was a lack of WP users, and most companies decided to play it safe with their budgets and not splash out. I’ll expand on these points further down.

Event-related experience aside — what made this trip extra cool for me was that two of our newest members were along for the ride:

  • Hadas Golzaker — our first-ever Head of Brand. She brings a wealth of experience from her time as a Senior Brand Manager at Elementor.
  • Nathan B. Weller — our first Head of Community. He has great experience in WordPress and community building thanks to his time as a Content Manager at Elegant Themes.
Hadas Golzaker, Nathan B. Weller, and Vova Feldman posing for a selfie.

Ready to board? Let’s retrace the adventure 😉

Halfway Across the World in Two Days 😵‍💫

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from attending WordCamps, it’s that flying is by far the most hectic part… but as they say, getting there is half the fun 🛬

Hadas and I met up at the airport in Tel Aviv for a quick bite before catching the first (eleven-hour) flight to Bangkok.

Hadas Golzaker and Vova Feldman taking a selfie at the airport in Tel Aviv.

Meanwhile, Nathan was getting ready to make his way from snowy Seattle to balmy Taipei.

After arriving in Bangkok — and reminiscing about the fantastic WordCamp Asia 2023 with the rest of the Freemius team — Hadas and I caught our connecting flight to Taipei 😎

Fatigued but brimming with excitement, we finally arrived and shuttled to the Grand Hyatt Hotel with the Elementor crew in tow for some well-deserved sleep before getting the party started.

Day 1: Contributor Day and Ningxia Night Market

We kicked off the morning with a team breakfast at the hotel to prepare for Contributor Day. The spread was awesome — there were even three different kinds of water to choose from 💦

My WC Asia journey began with a healthy dose of conversations with old friends and new connections, followed by volunteering at the registration desk. I joined Hadas later in the day to inspect A Beach, the venue where we’d be hosting our Makers’ Meetup event the next night — more about this under Day 2.

Vova Feldman volunteering at the registration desk at WordCamp Asia 2024 in Taiwan.

With the inspection out of the way and the venue shaping up nicely, Nathan, Hadas, and I wrapped up the day with dinner at the Ningxia Night Market — a vibrant, cool place where Taipeians and tourists alike gather to savor the country’s celebrated cuisine.

Various foods at Ningxia Night Market in Taipei.
People eating at Ningxia Night Market in Taipei.
Vova Feldman, Hadas Golzaker, and Nathan B. Weller at Ningxia Night Market in Taipei.

We left the market with happy hearts and full bellies, pleased with our contributions and ready for some well-deserved shuteye.

Back at the hotel, as I turned in for the night, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that volunteers weren’t invited to the welcome dinner. It’s one of the big perks of attending WordCamps.

Day 2: WordCamp Asia 2024 Kicked Off and Freemius Makers’ Meetup Kicked Ass

WordCamp Asia 2024 kicked off with navigating the maze that was this year’s venue. The building is three floors high but is divided into two sides. Last year, WordCamp US in Maryland was also spread across multiple floors, which got quite messy. Is this the layout scheme WordCamps are taking now? Many attendees complained about this in Maryland, so it’s strange to see the same mistake being repeated.

I’ll leave it to you to figure out how much walking we had to do 🤣

The International Trade Administration where WordCamp Asia 2024 was hosted
The International Trade Administration where WordCamp Asia 2024 was hosted

Day 2 of WordCamp is always when it gets real for the Freemius team (and everyone else):

  1. The conference kicks off with various talks, networking opportunities, and SWAG collection. You need to be on top of your game to ensure you get around to everything you intend to.
  2. Our Makers’ Meetup — an invite-only event to discuss all things WordPress and Freemius while enjoying complimentary food and drinks — is typically scheduled right after the 1st conference day ends. In other words, we need to leave enough room to get from the conference center to the Makers’ Meetup venue on time to ensure everything goes smoothly. No pressure!

Freemius Makers’ Meetup

The day culminated with the Makers’ Meetup at A Beach. As Nathan and Hadas were busy setting up the venue, attendees began arriving ten minutes early 😬. Luckily, they were gracious enough to wait at the entrance and admire the venue before entering.

When 18:30 rolled around, the sign-up was pretty seamless and attendees seemed to really like the stickers we handed out to display their ‘maker superpower’. The stickers no doubt helped software founders with similar interests/skill sets connect and chat.

During the event, I deepened my connections with several Freemius partners and community members by engaging in enriching conversations. I was really glad to see people talking throughout the whole event — no one was sitting aside doing nothing.

Conversation prompts card at Freemius Makers' Meetup in Taipei.
No cats got any tongues at Makers’ Meetup Taipei

While many of the makers knew each other, it was fantastic to see people who didn’t know the crowd easily joining in the convos and camaraderie. A lot of makers commented that the event was the perfect place to meet other like-minded peeps and gain insights on how to level up their businesses.

The food and drinks were delicious and we received enthusiastic feedback about the strange-looking cocktails. These creative concoctions actually became conversation starters because of how weird and wonderful they were!

Freemius Makers' Meetup guests enjoying cocktails.
“Is this safe to drink?”
Food at Freemius Makers' Meetup.
Food at Freemius Makers' Meetup.

Oh — we also had a competition 😁

We placed coasters on the tables asking guests to share pics of the good vibes on Instagram or X with #MakersMeetup and tag @Freemius. The most creative/fun image would win a fresh new pair of third-generation AirPods.

Freemius Makers' Meetup competition to win AirPods

With a wacky cocktail in hand, Jack Arturo was the winner:

I’m happy to say that the event was packed! 66 out of 79 attendees showed up — in other words, 83%. That’s an A for the Makers’ Meetup, Taipei 🧑‍🎓 Our guests only started leaving at around 20:30, which I think crowned the success of the night on a high note.

Entrance of Freemius Makers' Meetup.
Freemius Makers' Meetup sign on table.
Guests at Freemius Makers' Meetup.
Vova Feldman with guests at Freemius Makers' Meetup.
Hadas Golzaker taking a selfie with guests at Freemius Makers' Meetup.
Hadas Golzaker with guests at Freemius Makers' Meetup.
Guests at Freemius Makers' Meetup.

Makers’ Meetup in Taipei was honestly yet another epic event that I’m super proud of. To all the attendees — thanks for popping in, you all rock. To see how much, click play:

Day 3: WordCamp Asia 2024 Comes to an End and We Show Off Our Killer Dance Moves

I think the final day of the conference was pretty successful. Hadas and I did some work to ensure attendees received the post-Makers’ Meetup follow-up email thanking them for attending.

We then went to the conference venue and handed the AirPods to our Makers’ Meetup competition winner, Jack Arturo. His reaction was priceless!

We connected with a diverse mix of software product founders, media personalities, and influential figures in the sponsors’ area. Throughout the rest of the day, I had awesome discussions with software creators, exchanging ideas and experiences over lunch and beyond.

Then we headed back to the hotel for a well-deserved hour-long nap before the afterparty. We arrived at the venue but decided to opt for dinner at a BBQ restaurant before we put on our dancing shoes.

The afterparty was at Maji Maji and it looked pretty hip. It had restaurants, bars, small shops, etc. The afterparty officially started at 19h00, but, when we got there, it didn’t have much of a party vibe. We got meal and drink tokens from participating vendors, but the choices were limited, and the food that was for free was pretty low-quality.

There was some live music played by cover singers (who were pretty good) but the venue was too big, scattered, and cold — the energy just wasn’t there. Hadas and Nathan decided to call it a night early on.

The party only really started at midnight, when DJs started playing in the bars and they filled up with locals and tourists who weren’t afterparty attendees.

While this was fun, it was hard to have conversations with people as the bars were crowded and the music was loud.

I think the main problem with the venue is that it was too open… too scattered — it didn’t feel like an exclusive gathering space for the WordPress community where we could all party together. I’m not trying to be overly negative or anything — I did have fun 😅 It just wasn’t ideal.

Recession and ‘Going Corporate’: A Few Thoughts on WordPress and WC Asia

Compared to other WordCamps, there wasn’t much swag on offer and it looked like sponsors had cut back spending on their booths. Very few side events happened, and if they did, they were either very targeted (e.g., team-building activities) or conservative on budget. Some examples:

  • I’ve mentioned that the WordCamp welcome dinner is usually for speakers, sponsors, and volunteers. This time, it was only open to volunteer leads which — I’m guessing — cuts out around 100+ people.
  • The Pride event by Codeable was self-pay.

Previously, every hosting company was throwing a big party, but this was not the case in WC Asia. While I’m still on the fence, there is definitely some indication that we may be witnessing a recession in WordPress.

That said, another possibility is that companies were tightening their spending to allocate bigger budgets elsewhere (more on that later 😉).

I also felt that there was a higher concentration of business-driven people and their team members, but fewer WordPress ‘users’. This sentiment was echoed by others I spoke with.

Perhaps it’s because the event was so far away? Either way, the event had a business/commercial flavor for me. Leaves you wondering if this is the shape of things to come.

Anyway — onto more exciting things.

Day 4: ‘We’re Authentically Tired’ — Some Sightseeing Before Disembarking

I think the above video sums it up pretty well 😂 WordCamps are a lot of fun, but they’re also hard work and take a lot out of you. You better pace yourself to make sure you manage to meet all your goals for the conference and factor in events that are simply outside of your control.

[For a guide on how to get the most out of WordCamps and related industry events, check out Talk the Talk: The Solopreneur’s Guide to Building a WordPress Network]

But exhaustion aside, Taipei is an amazing city with fantastic food, stunning sights, beautiful temples, and excellent infrastructure. Here are images of some of the beautiful sights we saw before making our way back home:

Vova Feldman, Hadas Golzaker, and Nathan B. Weller sightseeing in Taipei.
Fountain in Taipei.
Man kneeling at a shrine in Taipei.
Hadas Golzaker, Vova Feldman, and Nathan B. Weller taking a selfie at a temple in Taipei.

WordCamp Asia 2024: Some Final Thoughts

So, what were the team’s main takeaways from WordCamp Asia 2024?

As always, the main highlights were getting to spend time with old friends and forging new, meaningful connections. Nathan was pretty enthusiastic about his experience at his first WordCamp in years:

We met many developers from Nepal who all invited us to visit their country (Freemius is pretty big there, as it turns out). We are strongly considering doing a meetup there, which will be organized by the community.

It’s also going to be interesting to see if the ‘business-driven’ mentality I mentioned carries over to WCEU. About the recession concerns — maybe there’s a silver lining. Myself and Hadas have a hunch that many companies were saving their budgets to splash out in Europe later this year 🤔 Are we right? Time will tell.

While a few niggles (and sleep deprivation) are part and parcel of any WordCamp, I think that WordCamp Asia 2024 was a big success for Freemius and I’m glad the ecosystem continues to champion efforts to bring more WP events to the East.

Thanks for your hospitality, Taipei/Taiwan — until we meet again 😉

Taipei 101 Observatory

Originally published on the Freemius blog on March 14, 2024.

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