As Venturebeat has picked up, Mark Davies will be leaving Vivint and joining the merry band. Automattic is creating the operating system for the web, from websites to ecommerce to social networks. As we zoom past 1,100 employees in over 70 countries, we wanted a financial leader with experience taking businesses from hundreds of millions in revenue to billions (Vivint) and even tens of billions (Alcoa and Dell), as Mark has. I’m excited about working alongside such an experienced leader day-to-day to build what I hope will become one of the defining technology companies of the open web era.
The other week I ended up going back and forth in tweets with David Heinemeier Hansson, it wasn’t going anywhere but he graciously invited me to their podcast and we were able to expand the discussion in a way I found really refreshing and mind-opening.
DHH and I have philosophies around work and open source that I believe overlap 95% or more, so that makes where we have differences all that more interesting to mine. Although we would see each other logged into the same server 15 years ago, we haven’t actually spoken directly until this podcast started, but the conversation flowed so naturally you’d think we have been talking since then.
Check out the episode on Open Source and Power on the Rework Podcast, hopefully you enjoy listening as much as we enjoyed recording it.
Today Automattic announced it has closed a new $300 million Series D, with Salesforce Ventures taking the entire round. This puts us at a post-round valuation of $3 billion, three times what it was after our last fundraising round in 2014. It’s a tremendous vote of confidence for Automattic and for the open web.
I met Marc Benioff earlier this year, and it became obvious to both of us that Salesforce and Automattic shared a lot of principles and philosophies. Marc is a mindful leader and his sensibilities and sense of purpose feel well aligned with our own mission to make the web a better place. He also helped open my eyes to the incredible traction WordPress and WP VIP has seen in the enterprise market, and how much potential there still is there. I’ve also loved re-connecting with Bret Taylor who is now Salesforce’s President and Chief Product Officer. Bret’s experience across Google Maps, Friendfeed, Facebook, Quip, and now transforming Salesforce makes him one of the singular product thinkers out there and our discussion of Automattic’s portfolio of services have been very helpful already.
For Automattic, the funding will allow us to accelerate our roadmap (perhaps by double) and scale up our existing products—including WordPress.com, WordPress VIP, WooCommerce, Jetpack, and (in a few days when it closes) Tumblr. It will also allow us to increase investing our time and energy into the future of the open source WordPress and Gutenberg.
The Salesforce funding is also a vote of confidence for the future of work. Automattic has grown to more than 950 employees working from 71 countries, with no central office for several years now. Distributed work is going to reshape how we spread opportunity more equitably around the world. There continue to be new heights shown of what can be achieved in a distributed fashion, with Gitlab announcing a round at $2.75B earlier this week.
Next year Automattic celebrates 15 years as a company! The timing is fortuitous as we’ve all just returned from Automattic’s annual Grand Meetup, where more than 800 of us got together in person to share our experiences, explore new ideas, and have some fun. I am giddy to work alongside these wonderful people for another 15 years and beyond.
If you’re curious my previous posts on our fundraising, here’s our 2006 Series A, 2008 Series B, 2013 secondary, and 2014 Series C. As before, happy to answer questions in the comments here. I also did an exclusive interview with Romain Dillet on (WP-powered) Techcrunch.
If you’d like some more background and context on Tumblr and Automattic coming together I had a chance to have a short but nuanced conversation with Nilay Patel and Julia Alexander on The Verge’s podcast, Vergecast. I love how great journalists are able to really dive into the heart of issues, and I really enjoyed the conversation.
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.
I didn’t realize this, but apparently macOS has a built-in ability to show really stunning animated wallpapers, like this one created by Folletto that subtly changes colors throughout the day in an incredibly engaging well:
Check out Folletto’s blog for another dynamic wallpaper and some of process behind creating it. This would be awesome to have for iPhones as well.
I had an interesting conversation with David Perell on his North Star Podcast that I recommend checking out. He’s also leading a really interesting program called Write of Passage which is an online course which helps people grow their career by writing and sharing online, which I think is brilliant and a big source of my career growth over the years. I’ve heard he has another coming soon around information organization. David is someone to watch and follow.
Writing novels is hard, and requires vast, unbroken slabs of time. Four quiet hours is a resource that I can put to good use. Two slabs of time, each two hours long, might add up to the same four hours, but are not nearly as productive as an unbroken four.Neil Stephenson on Why I’m a Bad Correspondent
WordPress is about democratizing publishing, removing barriers to getting your words on the web. There’s a cool effort underway right now to remove some barriers that people from groups underrepresented in tech might face when becoming a WordCamp speaker. Automattic is supporting this by sponsoring Jill Binder’s work on the WordPress Diverse Speakers Training Group.
I would love to see the WordPress contributor base become more diverse, and training people from marginalized communities to speak at WordCamps is a great way to help that along. Check out that effort if you’d like to get involved.
As you may have read on the WooCommerce blog, Prospress blog, WP Tavern, Post Status, or Techcrunch, the team at Prospress is joining forces with WooCommerce at Automattic to help accelerate the adoption and democratization of ecommerce across the web. Whew that’s a lot of links! Prospress was best known for their extension that allowed many types of Subscriptions on top of WooCommerce, but also has some cool marketing automation and automated testing tools as well. I love that Prospress was already a Five for the Future company, which aligns really well with Automattic’s long-term goals and contributions to the wider community.
Here’s what I read in 2018, in chronological order of when I finished it, as promised in my birthday post. I’ve highlighted a few in bold but in general I was pretty satisfied with almost all of my book choices this year. I’ve put a lot more time into the “deciding what to read” phase of things, and have also had some great help from friends there, and have been trying to balance and alternate titles that have stood the test of time and newer au courant books.
- Hot Seat: The Startup CEO Guidebook by Dan Shapiro
- The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (audio)
- A Higher Standard by Ann E. Dunwoody
- Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin (audio)
- The Boat by Nam Le
- Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
- Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg
- How to Say Goodbye by Wendy Macnaughton
- When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön
- Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery
- Poor Charlie’s Almanack by Charlie Munger and Peter Kaufman
- Sam the Cat by Matthew Klam
- The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
- The Vegetarian by Han Kang
- The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu
- After On: A Novel of Silicon Valley by Rob Reid
- The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell
- How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee
- Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
- Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed
- Darkness Visible by William Styron
- Tin Man by Sarah Winman
- Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
- Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard
- Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
- Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari
- The Lessons of History by Will & Ariel Durant
- Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu
- How to Fix a Broken Heart by Guy Winch
- Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman
- Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
- Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
- Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter the Most by Steven Johnson
- Severance: A Novel by Ling Ma
- On the Shortness of Life by Seneca
- It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
- Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin
Julie Sugar has a beautiful piece in Lilith Magazine about miscarriage and faith.
What a year.
First, it feels amazing to write this inside of the new Gutenberg block editor in WordPress 5.0. It was a labor of love for so many and the next chapters are going to be even more exciting.
The best part of the last year was growing closer to my friends and loved ones — I don’t know if it’s externally perceptible but my heart feels a lot more open.
I’ve found a good balance with meditation, work, sleep, fasting, eating, and reading that gives me a lot of joy, energy, and feels like a combination I could sustain the rest of my life.
Reading in particular was a highlight as I finished 38 books, which is the most in a year since I started tracking, and so many of them were truly excellent I’m going to do another post just on books. I will give a special call out to The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu. Leaving my Kindle Oasis at an airport ended up being a blessing in disguise as I started using the Kindle app on my iPhone a lot more and that’s become my new favorite habit. (And the physical Kindle was returned!)
It was a strong travel year, covering 126 cities, 20 countries, and 377k miles. I especially enjoyed visits to Tulum, Iceland, Bodrum, Tonga, Kauai, Lanai, and Courchevel. I finally checked off my bucket list item to become scuba certified and had an amazing opportunity to swim with humpback whales.
I also had lots of opportunities to practice patience, weathered a torrent of personally-directed criticism across every medium, and had a few months that were the hardest I’ve worked in my career. With the benefit of a little distance, though, those things don’t loom as large. I learned a ton — often the hard way but often that’s what it takes — and discovered I had some additional gears that can kick in when needed.
As I pass solidly into my mid-thirties, I don’t have any drastic shifts on the horizon but I am looking forward to continuing to strengthen the habits I’ve been able to develop this past year.
During my State of the Word Q&A I received some blogging homework from Toru Miki, a WordPress contributor based in Tokyo. He asked me to revisit the WordPress mission, “Democratize Publishing,” and reflect on what that mission means to me today. So here you go, Toru:
For many years, my definition of “Democratize Publishing” has been simply to help make the web a more open place. That foundation begins with the software itself, as outlined by the Four Freedoms:
0. The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
1. The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish.
2. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
3. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions, giving the community a chance to benefit from your changes.
In 2018, the mission of “Democratize Publishing” to me means that people of all backgrounds, interests, and abilities should be able to access Free-as-in-speech software that empowers them to express themselves on the open web and to own their content.
But as Toru noted in the original question, “Democratize Publishing” has come to mean many things to many people in the WordPress community. That’s one reason I like it. The WordPress mission is not just for one person to define.
So I’d like to ask everyone: What does “Democratize Publishing” mean to you?
But nothing delights the mind so much as fond and loyal friendship. What a blessing it is to have hearts that are ready and willing to receive all your secrets in safety, with whom you are less afraid to share knowledge of something than keep it to yourself, whose conversation soothes your distress, whose advice helps you make up your mind, whose cheerfulness dissolves your sorrow, whose very appearance cheers you up!
Over the weekend I was in Nashville with over a thousand other WordPress enthusiasts. I met a ton of people, learned a lot, and was able to share the annual State of the Word address with the audience, which is a big summary of what WordPress has been up to and where it’s going. This year we covered user testing, Gutenberg, 5.0, the future phases of Gutenberg, all the latest and greatest blocks, new minimum PHP requirements, the adoption of 5.0, and some event and community updates. You can also see just the slides. The Q&A is here in a separate video.
Yesterday I was able to have a great conversation with Adam from WP Crafter, a popular Youtube channel with over five million views. Adam said it was his first interview but you can’t tell, we had an excellent conversation that covered Gutenberg, the 5.0 release, why WordPress has done well so far, and what’s coming in the future. If you’d like more context than text or tweets can give for what’s happening in WordPress today, check it out.
Of course Friday and Saturday are WordCamp US, which returns to Nashville this year. Everything will be live-streamed for free, including my State of the Word presentation on Saturday, you just need to pick up a free streaming ticket.
I’ve had the opportunity to talk about Gutenberg at two great venues recently. The first was at WordCamp Portland which graciously allowed me to join for a Q&A at the end of the event. The questions were great and covered a lot of the latest and greatest about Gutenberg and WordPress 5.0:
Last week I also joined Episode 101 of the WP Builds podcast, where as Nathan put it: “We talk about Gutenberg, why Matt thinks that we need it, and why we need it now. We go on to chat about how it’s divided the WordPress community, especially from the perspective of users with accessibility needs.”
They may be out of seats already, but I’ll be on the other coast to do a small meetup in Portland, Maine this week. As we lead up to release and WordCamp US I’m really enjoying the opportunity to hear from WordPress users of all levels all over the country.