Act Two

You’ve probably seen the news on GigaOM, Automattic has raised a new “series B” round of funding. We’re entering what I consider Act II of the Automattic story. I’ll talk about where we’re going, but first some history.

In 2005 Automattic was small. Through some miracle I had convinced Donncha O Caoimh, Andy Skelton, and Ryan Boren to leave their safe jobs, join a company with almost no money in the bank run by someone with no experience, and whose core idea was to give away and open source all our core IP. There were more questions than answers. Would a hosted version of WordPress move beyond the geek appeal the OS project had? How would the virtual company with no office work? Could we develop a service alongside an OS project without screwing both of them up? Should I raise money? Most importantly, would it scale?

In 2006 we developed a series of answers (sometimes hard-learned) to those questions. WordPress was obviously limited by its installation requirements — when it was added as a one-click to web hosts and when WordPress.com (and other MU hosts) made it simple to get a blog the popularity grew beyond what I could have ever imagined. In the WordPress.org world it wasn’t perfect — I consider the long period between versions 2.0 and 2.1 a personal failure — but after that initial bump the development really picked up and the community and usage exploded. There have been 5,880,790 downloads of WordPress.org since Automattic started. (3,852,554 in the past year alone.)

We ended up raising a small amount of money (1.1 million) to allow the company to take some risks without worrying about payroll but we ended up using very little of that capital because revenues grew quickly, allowing us to remain break-even even as the team scaled to 18 full-time folks and a number of contractors. Toni Schneider left Yahoo to join as CEO, a partner I couldn’t imagine getting along better with, and we started to look like a real company despite having no office and some of us never meeting in person.

Fast forward to 2007: many of the seeds planted started to really bloom. On WordPress.com 1.8 million new users joined, they created 25 million posts, we served 3.2 billion dynamic pageviews, and grew to reach over 100 million unique users worldwide. Akismet blocked billions of spams from reaching blogs. Nearly every major media organization, from the NY Times, WSJ, CNN, Fox, Time, People, and more, have embraced WordPress. Finally the approach of serious acquisition or majority-stake investments brought up the biggest question we’d faced so far: should we sell, or build out Automattic to be an independent company for many years to come.

That decision actually wasn’t hard. I couldn’t stop thinking about the opportunities and it became clear that the road ahead was much longer than the road behind us.

That brings us to today. The New York Times, the flagship of media, is joining our existing investors Polaris, True, and Radar in expanding their minority stake in the company. Automattic is now positioned to execute on our vision of a better web not just in blogging, but expanding our investment in anti-spam, identity, wikis, forums, and more — small, open source pieces, loosely joined with the same approach and philosophy that has brought us this far.

See also: GigaOM, Toni Schneider, New York Times, Techcrunch, Wall Street Journal, Mark Jaquith, Jackie Danicki, Mark Evans, Mathew Ingram, Michael Bazeley, Venturebeat, Lloyd Budd, Raanan Bar-Cohen, bu.blicio.us, VC Mike.

P.S. I’ve moved to a new domain, ma.tt, but more on that later. You can subscribe to my feed here.

177 thoughts on “Act Two

  1. Cool news and I’m curious on the “name change.” I can think of a couple of reasons why you did it. And I love the… well size of it. Short domains have been a pain to get.

    I love forward to the update.

  2. Sounds like you and Automattic are really maturing and have “landed on your feet” as they say.

    News like this will continue to garner you support and praise while you continue to nurture the foundation (wordpress.org) that allowed you to be where you are.

    I fully admire the great strides you have made in the years that I have been tagging along – and know that you will continue to impress in the future.

    Interesting domain BTW – looking forward to the rational behind it.

  3. Congratulations to you Matt. This sure is a nice success story, wordpress deserve every ounce of the revenue it is generating for you guys. It simply rocks.

  4. Congrats. Its great to see open source projects showing that they can take on the big boys, and make a better product.

    I personally never thought it would work, I am happy to be proven wrong.

    Congrats again, Lee

  5. Backing from the paper of record … I can’t imagine more instant cred!
    Ohhh, no, I meant for them!!
    ;-p

    the right thing done well … proper thing
    good on ya
    –bentrem

  6. Big ups, Matt! A great round for a great product. Hopefully you took a least a *teensy* bit off the table as well! Always smart to spread your bets a bit, no matter how great the prospects are ahead.

  7. HUGE congrats to you and your team, Matt! I’m very much looking forward to seeing what trails you blaze in the near future.

    The impact of unseen positive forces (things like your mother doing the laundry) can sometimes go unnoticed until they go away. I think Akismet is like that in a lot of ways. I wonder if blogging would have survived if it had been allowed to succumb to the spam that was beginning to plague it. For that, along with many other things, thank you.

    My personal wish for Automattic to take on with this new funding is wikis – I’d love a wiki with the trademark Automattic simple sensibility and Akismet baked in!

  8. Congratulations, Matt! You (and WordPress) are amazing. Keep up the great work!

    I see you’ve copied me on going for a domain name that’s your name, too. ;)

  9. It gives me such a warm fuzzy feeling to think “I knew you when…” It seems like only yesterday when WordPress was just a dream without even a name — those stats are AMAZING. I’m just so proud to say I know you.

    Congratulations!!!

  10. Infinite congratulations to you and your team Matt. Working for Automattic would be my dream job if I had better coding skills…

  11. Congratulations Matt – I’ve been using WP since September 05 for my conference in the UK oursocialworld.com
    Would love to get you to come over to the UK to talk at a WP event!

  12. Well, can’t add much to the flow of congrats! :)
    My first thought was, “Wow, that’s huge!” ;)

    It’s good to know that the team leading WP development will still be free of making their own decisions for the years to come. And getting a major media, of all things, as a new investor can only mean good thing to the future of WP as the blogapp/CMS of choice.

    Kudos!

  13. As a proud WordPress advocate, I’m thrilled to see that you’re being given a new lease of life through investment and hopefully plenty of good business advice.

    Rock on, Matt!

  14. Holy Cow you’ve done well!

    When I first tested a whole range of blog software and CMSs back in 2005 I found a certain ‘rightness’ about WordPress that others didn’t have. It just worked, it was easy to grasp, and it was modern. Since then we started to implement it for client sites and had tremendous satisfaction levels, at lower costs. So we decided to put everything into building up what we do with the system.

    It looks like our faith was well founded, and that the big players are really noticing. So again, well done :)

  15. Truly a wonderful story – very awesome indeed! I’m definitely excited to see where Automattic goes from here.

    And, of course, I’ve updated my links for the new domain. :)

  16. Congratulations Matt! It’s incredible news for you and your great team. I hope you use that money wisely improving the features and the performances of your products.

    What’s the future of the wiki product you have been working?

  17. I do have to say it’s been fun to watch WordPress and where’s it going. Watching WordPress in the baby days of “what’s a single page?” to “are we calling them “folders now?” to “what’s SEO?” all the way up to “oooo we have an API for plugins now!”

    It’s been a long and weird journey, but it’s been fun.

    As distant as I am in the journey, I’m glad I could be part of it and watch the history of WordPress progress.

  18. Does “in the past year alone” mean ‘in the past 365 days alone’, or ‘in 2007 alone’?

  19. You know, people look at me weird when I tell them I blog on sco.tt, so your new name will help me, too. Thanks!

    I blog on a different (gasp) platform because I couldn’t figure out how to get a weird TLD to map on WordPress. Now I’m guessing that’s been fixed? Please let me know, I’d love to switch back to WordPress.

    And way to go on the new round!

    -Sco.tt

  20. Great work, Matt. I bet I speak for most bloggers when I say that WordPress is one of my all time favorite products, and it’s only going to get better.

    I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more from bbPress, too.

  21. Congrats! It’s good to see that with great efforts, come great rewards. Makes me all giddy inside, as I’m about to launch my own company next Monday, which happens to be my birthday. Talk about rebirth! :)

  22. Oh now that has got to be the best news I’ve read about all winter so far. Things have been pretty bleak out there so it’s really great to here about a true success story.

    Congratulations Matt and to your whole team. So tell me, do you subscribe to the Times or just read it online? (sorry about that…couldn’t resist).

  23. you’ve really come a long way, Matt! i still remember you giving me a WordPress certificate for free support on my birthday. LOL congrats on your continued success!

  24. Thanks Matt!

    I have been following the development of WordPress & Automattic during the last few month I am am pretty excited. It seems that Open Source is more than just Linux. For me WordPress is the number one CMS (at least for blogging), because it is easy to install, easy to maintain and the plugin-system actually works. So it is also possible for “newbees” to set up a site that matches a professional one, when it comes to design, funcitonality & SEO.

    I believe that looking, back in a few years, the coming age of the CMS (for everyone) will mark the turning point in the use of the Internet. Ultimately, true freedom of information can only be attained if people can undependently publish their thoughts (okay let’s leave the search engine argument for a while), in a way that they will also be found (thanks to stuff like wpSEO & simpleTagging). WordPress does exactly that and the fact that you can build a business on such a altruistic idea gives me a warm feeling about…well let’s be philosophical…mankind (-:

    So…keep on the good work.
    Greeintx from Germany

    Martin

  25. Congratulations both to you, Matt, and the team at Automattic. Just goes to show you – if you build it, they will come! :)

    Much continued success in 2008 and – as you said – the long road ahead.

    dKaye

  26. Matt, you should seriously consider Automattic buying the LiteSpeed company.

    You know their product rocks and is the key to the high performance of wordpress.org/bbpress.org

    Just a thought ;-)

    ps. I’ll take a free lifetime license as a reward if you like this idea

  27. As a long-time, almost from the beginning, WordPress user, I’m delighted to read this amazing news. Congratulations on your achievements. I’m looking forward to how Automattic can help save the Kingdom of Wikis.

  28. Congratulations, Matt! I’m sorry I wasn’t keeping up on things enough to know about WordCamp happening here in Buenos Aires, or I would have been there (even though I don’t have any WordPress blogs myself). Best of luck! I know venture funding can be challenging to deal with.

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