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Tumblr the Day After

It is not surprising that the news about Automattic buying Tumblr has picked up a lot of coverage. I especially appreciated the notes of support from Tumblr founder David Karp, former CTO Marco Arment, and investor Bijan Sabet. I am beyond excited to see what the Tumblr team creates next, and I will definitely be connecting with alumni to hear their perspective.

There has also been a lot of speculation on the purchase price, which I think is missing the real story. I would like to take this opportunity to express my respect for Verizon and how they approached this entire process. They inherited Tumblr through an acquisition of a merger, a few steps removed from its initial sale; it’s probably not a company they would have bought on its own, but they nonetheless recognized that there is a very special community and team behind the product. It’s also worth noting at this point that Verizon is a company that will do over $130B in revenue this year and has over 139,000 employees.

First, they chose to find a new home for Tumblr instead of shutting it down. Second, they considered not just how much cash they would get on day one, but also — and especially — what would happen to the team afterward, and how the product and the team would be invested in going forward. Third, they thought about the sort of steward of the community the new owner would be. They didn’t have to do any of that, and I commend them for making all three points a priority.

Automattic is still a startup — I’m sure there are deep-pocketed private equity firms that could have outbid us, but the most likely outcome then would have been an “asset” getting chopped up and sold for parts. (This is a caricature and there are PE firms I like, but it’s not a terrible stretch of the imagination.) Instead, Tumblr has a new chance to redefine itself in 2019 and beyond. Its community is joining with WordPress’ 16-year commitment to open source and the open web.

27 replies on “Tumblr the Day After”

Thank you Matt, couldn’t be a more perfect fit. I’ve been waiting to see what happens over there, now I can’t wait to see it take off and build community. With your interest in photography, I suspect you’ll give Tumblr some juice to be more like Flickr, Ipernity, and Instagram.

Great to hear about the acquisition. Excited for what’s to come. I’d love to see some life back on Tumblr – it was a vibrant place with lots of unique creation. The work the team did on the logged in dashboard was really fantastic and made for an amazing community.

This is wonderful news. I’ve been a member of Tumblr and WordPress since the beginning, and have come to know quite a few of the community at Tumblr over the years – and although their number has dwindled during the Yahoo/Verizon/Oath story, they are still there, and have been clinging to the hope that something like this might happen.

Congrats on the purchase and on keeping the gang together at Tumblr. I’ve always been a fan but honestly I forgot about them until their acquisition.

But my primary question was how / why you would label Automattic as a startup? Per Wikipedia you have around 900 employees and have been in business for almost 15 years. Seems like its thats beyond the startup business

Again I was just curious. And i’m a long time WordPress user (circa 2005 )

Matt, so glad that you guys are adding this community in your ecosystem … a few years back I led digital for Coca-Cola and we were looking at moving 2000 plus sites to WP VIP – I wish we could have made it work… really like that Automattic – still startup minded – has stayed true to it’s core beliefs and supporting an internet I want to be part of.

Automattic is still a startup — I’m sure there are deep-pocketed private equity firms that could have outbid us, but the most likely outcome then would have been an “asset” getting chopped up and sold for parts.

Hear, hear.

First, they chose to find a new home for Tumblr instead of shutting it down. Second, they considered not just how much cash they would get on day one, but also — and especially — what would happen to the team afterward, and how the product and the team would be invested in going forward. Third, they thought about the sort of steward of the community the new owner would be. They didn’t have to do any of that, and I commend them for making all three points a priority.

Yes. Unusual for such a huge firm to take such a thoughtful approach. You reached the right people inside Verizon and must have made a hell of a persuasive case. Companies this huge don’t take actions this thoughtful on their own.

I have been sad to see Tumblr style content keep moving off people’s blogs and the open web in general.

Hoping you find a solution to this.

Is community and the social aspects of Tumblr an important part of the acquisition or is that not a compelling aspect of Tumblr nowadays?

Great that Tumblr will keep Tumbling.

A 1000-person company isn’t really a startup by the standard definition, but it’s easy to see that Automattic is a company that sticks to the founding principles of a startup: employees wear many hats, knowledge sharing and collaboration across departments is high, bootstrap and then formalize your processes, etc.

I think what makes Automattic still a “startup” is that the company’s vision (and Matt’s) is still one geared towards “doing good.” It’s a throwback to the culture that created the foundation and technologies that power the Internet. That culture is alive and well within Automattic.

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