I was introduced to WordPress in the summer of 2004. Yahoo had just acquired Oddpost, a startup where I had been CEO, and Om Malik was writing an article about the acquisition. As we talked about Oddpost, Om mentioned that he was running his personal blog on a new open source project called WordPress. He thought that my Oddpost experience of building a web startup and blogging about it along the way could mesh well with the project, so Om offered to introduce me to Matt Mullenweg, the co-founder and lead developer behind WordPress. I met Matt that summer and we clicked right away. We spent several hours talking about startups, San Francisco, technology, and his ideas for building a software movement that could last for decades. I started using WordPress and stayed in touch with Matt. We talked about ways to build a company based on WordPress that would be separate from, but highly supportive of the open source project. When Matt decided to start that company in late 2005 and asked me if I wanted to be part of it, I didn’t need much convincing. I joined Automattic in January 2006 as CEO.
The first years of Automattic were focused on building a great company – embracing of open source, focused on making the web a better place, putting product development first, creating a distributed company with great people from all over the world – and creating a series of cloud services for WordPress users, including Akismet, a collaborative spam filter that has protected blogs from billions of spam comments, WordPress.com, a free version of WordPress that lets anyone start a blog in seconds, and VIP, which offers WordPress for large companies and enterprise users. Our services were a big success. We signed up our first million users in 16 months, the second million took 8 months, and the third million took 4 (we are currently adding another million every month). Many of the world’s best bloggers flocked to WordPress and they started attracting bigger and bigger audiences.
By 2010, the combined WordPress.com audience had grown to over half a billion readers and WordPress.com had become one of the top 10 sites on the internet. True to our original desire to build a great company and support a great open source project at the same time, the community of volunteers and companies that contribute to the WordPress project grew from a handful to thousands.
By the end of 2012, over 17% of all the web sites on the internet were powered by WordPress. In addition to blogs, WordPress started getting used by all kinds of sites – news sites, stores, schools, restaurants, politicians, bands, more every day. Automattic had grown to 140 employees (spread across 24 countries) and the business became profitable.
In 2014, Automattic had grown to over 250 people and WordPress was powering 23% of the internet. I decided to step down as CEO and work on new product ideas with a skunkworks team called Tinker.
In 2015 and beyond, the journey continues towards building a great company for the ages and a software platform that truly democratizes publishing for everyone on the internet.