One of the best experiences I had this year was visiting colleges with my daughter Sophie. An exercise in bittersweetness, it made me sad with anticipation of her going off to college and excited for her after seeing so many cool places where she might end up. Across a couple of trips we spent time in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and LA (she also went to Boston and New York with Diane). We bumped into a few San Francisco kids almost everywhere we went, and while each school was impressive in its own way, we laughed at how similar some of their pitches were – complete with identical phrases and in some cases identical jokes. Clearly they’ve all been to each other’s info sessions. No word yet on where Sophie will move next year…
When I first met Diane over 20 years ago, she told me that one day she’ll switch from being a designer to being an artist. After many steps along the way – grad school, running her design business, getting married to me :), settling down in San Francisco, raising three awesome kids, overcoming serious illness – she had her first art opening last weekend as part of a group show at the Autobody gallery in Alameda. I’ve always been a huge fan of her work, and her recent pieces are some of her best yet IMHO. The opening was exciting, there was a big crowd with many great friends stopping by, Diane sold a lot of her pieces, and there was something special in the air – a rare warm Bay Area night with lots of people in the streets, Cuban music playing across the way, Giants fans cheering at the pub downstairs, a late dinner afterwards. I wish I’d taken more photos, but here are a few to give you a sense of her work:
PS: This is my first post as part of Om’s 30 days of blogging challenge.
The Renovo Coupe was unveiled today, the world’s fastest electric production vehicle. True is a proud investor in Renovo, and I’ve had the pleasure to sit on their board and witness the last 12 months of this project. The team at Renovo is world class and the car is spectacular – I’ve witnessed its acceleration and it’s totally awesome!
Recode has the official news of a big Automattic fundraise:
The round values the nine-year-old company at $1.16 billion, after the investment, which is its first since it raised $12 million in 2008.
And here’s the official post about it from Matt.
Stay tuned for a lot of exciting news and products coming out of Automattic this year.
After eight years, I’ve decided to hang up my CEO hat and ask Matt to take over the job.
What an amazing ride it’s been! I met Matt, Automattic’s eventual founder, almost ten years ago, in the summer of 2004. We were introduced by Om Malik and immediately hit it off. I forget when the idea of creating a company behind the WordPress open source project first came up, but I think it was early on. When Matt started that company – Automattic – and asked me to be its CEO, it sounded like a great challenge and opportunity. My first day on the job was in January 2006. Automattic was four people strong and a few months old. We were small, but we had big dreams. We wanted to make WordPress huge – #1 in its market and used by millions of people. We wanted to build a thriving software business that could be around for decades while strengthening the WordPress open source project at the same time. We wanted to build a company led by engineering values and open source principles. And for good measure, we wanted to be a distributed organization, able to hire and work with great people from anywhere in the world. Eight years on, we’ve realized many of those early dreams. WordPress is the #1 publishing platform in the world and powers 21% of all web sites on the internet. Automattic’s services reach close to a billion people every month, an audience rivaling that of Google and Facebook. Our flagship product, WordPress.com, is currently the 8th largest site on the internet. At the same time, the WordPress open source project has grown from a handful to thousands of contributors, is available in close to 100 languages, and downloaded well over a hundred thousand times a day. Automattic has grown to a team of 231 people, a group that is as talented as it is diverse, working together in a 100% distributed fashion from 171 cities across the globe. And we are profitable, backed by great investors, in charge of our own destiny, and in strong shape to continue on our mission to democratize publishing for a long time to come. Needless to say, I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished so far.
A few months ago, I started to feel a sense of completion about our early goals, coupled with a growing itch to work on some new product ideas. So I turned to Matt and suggested that now felt like a good time for us to “swap jobs” and have him become Automattic’s next CEO. Matt and I have been working side-by-side, building and running Automattic over the years, and he is without a doubt one of the most talented people in tech today, so I have full confidence that Automattic will continue to thrive after we make this change. And yes, Matt did just turn 30, which makes it a fun moment in time to say that he’s finally old enough to be a CEO! As for me, I will stay at Automattic (and at True), excited to switch my focus to working on new ideas and building new products.
PS: I’d like to take this moment to thank some people who – in addition to Matt and Om – have been close supporters and collaborators on my Automattic journey to date: Phil and Tony for being great friends, partners, and board members from the start, Scott for his sage and level headed advice over the years, the entire team at Automattic for being amazingly talented, passionate, and committed, and most importantly Diane, who has been with me at every step, including a crucial moment in 2001 when I had to shut down a startup (Uplister), the entire economy was tanking, our third child had just been born, and I seriously considered taking a “real” job with a big, safe company. Without hesitation, Diane encouraged me to join another startup (Oddpost) instead. Oddpost ended up being a fantastic experience that led to a successful sale to Yahoo, which led to an article in Business 2.0 by Om, which led to WordPress.
A mom recently asked my opinion about tech internships for her college aged daughter who is interested in Silicon Valley.
I can think of three great options:
1. Go for an internship with a VC firm like True’s TEC program. You’ll work solo with an up and running startup and as a group of interns with True, getting exposed to tech experts and companies from across the Valley. It’s the best of both worlds – hands-on at a startup and learning about the Valley – and perfect for people thinking about making a career somewhere in tech. I’ve seen True’s program hands-on and it’s great, going strong and into its 6th year. Similar programs have started up, for example Kleiner’s Fellows. I’ve no experience with those, but given the caliber of firm behind them I’d definitely check them out. Best for aspiring technologists.
2. Start a company with one of the incubators like Y Combinator. There’s nothing like learning about being an entrepreneur than actually doing it. This is perfect for groups of students who know that they want to focus on being startup founders. Y Combinator originated this idea and is a great program. Others like 500 Startups and Tech Stars have created great reputations as well. There are lots and lots of incubators nowadays (not all of them take student teams). Do your research before applying to one of the lesser known ones. Best for aspiring founders.
3. Join Google’s Summer of Code to get paid for contributing to an open source project. It’s been around for years and continues to attract strong students and mentors. It’s a great hands-on experience in developing real software with the help of someone guiding you through. We’ve participated through WordPress. You can also skip the Google part and just jump directly into an open source project, helping out for a summer and making a name for yourself by contributing real bug fixes and code into a shipping product. Best for aspiring coders.
Please add other suggestions in the comments.
I was at dinner at Patrick Mueller’s, a Swiss friend, when he asked me if I wanted to see his new electric car. “Sure!”, I said, walking to his garage expecting a Tesla or a Prius. Instead he showed me a close to 100 year old Detroit Electric. He’s upgraded it with a new battery, the rest is pretty much all original, including the motor. He gets over 100km on a charge and drives it to work and back every day (well, it being Switzerland, I’m guessing every sunny day). We took a test drive and the car feels much more modern than something from that era. One unusual and somewhat disconcerting detail is the car’s steering wheel – it doesn’t have one, you drive it using a lever instead. Patrick thinks there are fewer than 100 of these left in the world (of about 13,000 built).
Tomorrow marks both the start of another hopefully amazing Automattic company meetup and my return to work after a three month sabbatical. I’ve spent this summer away from work, enjoying lots of free time with my family, reading about twenty books, hovering around inbox zero for weeks at a time, traveling home to Switzerland, and generally enjoying a slower, less connected and less scheduled pace. Now I’m ready to dive back in!
SF Giant Sweep is a project between San Francisco’s Mayor and the Giants baseball team to help keep the city clean and beautiful. They had a contest for students to enter poster designs. Sophie entered a collage she made from recycled plastic and packaging and she won 1st place for the high school category – how awesome is that! #prouddad 🙂 Her poster will be displayed around the city to promote the Giant Sweep project (she won some money for herself and her school as well):
Update (10/13): The poster is now up at various bus stops:
Tiger Global has recently invested over $50M in Automattic secondary stock purchases. After many years of being backed by a great team of investors who have been with Automattic since the early days – Polaris Partners, True Ventures, Radar Partners, and the New York Times Company – Tiger has joined this illustrious group by purchasing shares from early Automattic investors and employees. Along with the on-going growth of WordPress (now powering over 18% of sites on the internet) and the amazing Automattic team (now over 170 employees), this investment is another milestone in our journey towards building a great company.
It’s noteworthy that Tiger has recently invested in companies like SurveyMonkey and Eventbrite, and before that companies like LinkedIn and Facebook. Those names provide a sense of how far Automattic has come and how we’re poised to enter an exclusive circle of successful software companies that are built to last.
Matt has shared his perspective on this deal on Ma.tt.
My daughter made this handy map of the best noodle bowls in the San Francisco Bay Area (via SF Magazine) – I intend to try a bunch of them: