The TriAgency Story

By Phil Graci

In the beginning…

The TriAgency story has been a long and interesting journey.  In 1998, my high school friend, Duane Clemmer, and I, decided to launch a small graphic design and web development firm. With music and art being a shared passion, we focused on the Entertainment industry and started designing flyers, posters, and mix tape covers for DJ and artist friends.  In fact, our first official office was in Old City, Philadelphia in the upstairs of Rich Medina‘s hip hop boutique record store, Bobbito’s Footwork.  We provided in-house graphic and web development for Rich and Footwork, in exchange for a space to grow our dream.

From there we were also an integral part of the second phase of that record store dream, and built alongside Lee MayJahs, Jack Boogi, and Ari Saxe.  We developed the backend of an online store that offered over 100,000 Vinyl records for sale to customers all over the world.

Our client base grew to include some of Philadelphia’s most popular artists, DJs and bands, such as DJ Jazzy Jeff and his label A Touch of Jazz, Rob Paine‘s Worship Recordings, Tim Motzer‘s 1k Recordings, Kenny Meez & Max Glazer‘s Federation Sound, and Rob Daly‘s Plastic Eaters, to name a few.  As the business grew, we added artists from all over the world to our portfolio.

The UPL1NK era

To help save time and money, we were  looking for ways to allow our clients to update their own websites.  Early content management systems were clumsy and difficult to use, so we decided that we should build our own.  Our customers liked that they now had the ability to make simple changes themselves, and we saw a huge market opportunity.  So in 2003, we started out to develop our own closed source CMS.  We used it as a value added service to help close website sales, and bring users to our hosting service.

In 2008, we redesigned our UI and officially launched our own service, called UPL1NK.  This was invite only, and for a time showed great promise.  We had blogging, photo galleries, custom CSS, e-commerce, digital downloads, podcasting, and e-newsletters features all rolled into one simple interface.  We prided ourselves on being easier to use than WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla.  Even novice users were making updates and sending their news blasts with ease, and we were no longer getting late night support requests to update our client’s websites.

iPhone apps were developed for Rich Medina, Cocoa Tea, and Rootz Underground using the UPL1NK API.

Funding for all of this development was from our own pockets when times were good, and during lean times we were bailed out with loans from family and friends.  Attempts were made to bring in investors, but unfortunately our lack of CMS development experience led to mistakes being made along the way.

Our patched legacy ASP and PHP codebase lacked scalability without a major rewrite.   A port to Ruby on Rails was started in 2013, but was still an overwhelming task that required stepping back and asking ourselves, “WTF are we doing?“. Continued development was costing us more than we were now making.  The true cost of maintaining a closed source project had finally shown it’s face, and we had to make some big decisions.

WordPress wins… 

So finally, in the summer of 2014, we faced reality, and accepted that WordPress had passed us on the race track a long time ago.  The fully matured open source ecosystem of themes, plugins, and hosting was offering a better end product to our customers — many of who we considered our family.  It was time to put pride and ego aside, and provide a better solution to that family.

The last 6 months of 2014 has been both painful and liberating.  We were sad to see the old code go, but glad to see the sites live on and look better than they ever did.  We can now focus on pushing content and creating the best websites possible.  We have also been developing some custom plugins to enhance our sites, and plan to share them with the world in the future.

Looking forward to a brighter tomorrow, and what the future may bring!

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