Extended Interview with Forbes

J. J. Colao, who covered Automattic for Forbes Magazine in 2012 and has a long history and experience with WordPress and Automattic, sat down with me for close to three hours in March and somehow managed to distill it down to just a few thousand words of interview. (“13,500 words down to 2,800.”) I’m sheepish to link it because there are a lot of “I” statements and some nuance lost in the distillation, but JJ asks great questions and we cover a lot of ground that anyone who follows Automattic or the WordPress ecosystem I think will find interesting. You can check it out here.

“These big collections of personal data are like radioactive waste. [...] Surveillance limits our ability to be creative with technology. It’s like a tax we all have to pay on innovation.”

Maciej Cegłowski gave a great talk he later wrote out in The Internet With A Human Face.

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Seoul, Jakarta, Singapore, Tokyo, Osaka, Manila, Melbourne, Sydney, Wellington, and Auckland

Later this week I’m heading on a speaking tour of a number of cities in Asia, Australia, and New Zealand talking about the past and future of WordPress and some of the things I’ve learned in the past few years of building WordPress and Automattic. It’s been a number of years since I’ve visited these countries, and I’ve never been to Korea, Singapore, Melbourne, or Auckland before, so really looking forward to meeting the local communities in each of these cities and learning about how we can best set up WordPress for the coming decade of growth, especially in languages other than English.

If you’re near any of these cities and want to come by check out the following links for more information. Even if it says “sold out” already, as many are, put your name on the waitlist anyway because I know some places are already searching for larger venues, and there could always be cancellations or spaces open up at the last minute.

Asia

Australia & New Zealand

The schedule might be a little exhausting, but I wanted to make it as many communities as possible in the short window of time I have before I need to be stateside again.

New Funding for Automattic

I’ll start with the big stuff: Automattic is raising $160M, all primary, and it’s the first investment into the company since 2008. This is obviously a lot of money, especially considering everything we’ve done so far has been built on only about $12M of outside capital over the past 8 years. It was also only a year ago I said “Automattic is healthy, generating cash, and already growing as fast as it can so there’s no need for the company to raise money directly — we’re not capital constrained.”

I was wrong, but I didn’t realize it until I took on the CEO role in January. Things were and are going well, but there was an opportunity cost to how we were managing the company toward break-even, and we realized we could invest more into WordPress and our products to grow faster. Also our cash position wasn’t going to be terribly strong especially after a number of infrastructure and product investments this and last year. So part of my 100-day plan as CEO was to figure out what new funding could look like and we found a great set of partners who believe in our vision for how the web should be and how we can scale into the opportunity ahead of us, though it ended up taking 110 days until the first close. (Our other main areas of focus have been improving mobile, a new version of WP.com, and Jetpack.)

This Series C round was led by Deven Parekh of Insight Venture Partners, and included new investors Chris Sacca, Endurance, and a special vehicle True Ventures created to step up their investment, alongside our existing secondary investors from last year, Tiger and Iconiq. (There is a second close soon so this list might change a bit.) There was interest significantly above what we raised, but we focused in on finding the best partners and scaled it back to be the right amount of capital at the right valuation. Deven and Insight share our long term vision and are focused on building an enduring business, one that will thrive for decades to come.

WordPress is in a market as competitive as it has ever been, especially on the proprietary and closed side. I believe WordPress will win, first and foremost, because of its community — the hundreds of core developers and large commercial companies, the tens of thousands of plugin and theme developers, and the millions of people who build beautiful things with WordPress every day. Automattic is here to support that community and invest the full strength of our resources to making WordPress a better product every day, bringing us closer to our shared mission of democratizing publishing. But a majority of the web isn’t on an open platform yet, and we have a lot of work ahead of us. Back to it!

You can read more about the news by Kara and Liz on Recode: WordPress.com Parent Automattic Has Raised $160 Million, Now Valued at $1.16 Billion Post-Money, on Techmeme, and on the Wall Street Journal.