Matt Mullenweg – Leading a distributed company

matt mullenweg speech

I think anyone who knows a little bit about web technologies will not argue that WordPress is a massively disruptive technology – in a good way of course.

I have recently listened to Tim Ferris’ latest podcast that he made with Matt Mullenweg – the founder and current CEO of the company Automattic that is behind WP.

One of he most fascinating things that his company achieved is that the entire organization consists of only 500 people. Compare that to facebook or Google with their xxx and xxx staff count [add figures here] – Given the influence and importance of WordPress on the web this number is incredibly low considering that WP is now powering more than 26% of the whole internet.

At Automattic employees work in a distributed workforce system meaning that they work remotely – mostly from home at their convenience.
The company holds a 1 week long Grand meetup every year. Last time this event was in Whistler, British Columbia (Canada) where 460 of the 500 employees attended from all over the world.
Apart from this annual meet-up there are normal group meeting as well where a smaller group come together maybe 5-10 people to discuss something.

Matt says that although web tools got better over the years meeting in person is still the best way to connect with someone and get to know each other. Virtual has gotten better but in-person engagement with your colleague is still vital in order to forge a stronger company culture.

Tools that allow a non co-located workforce to succeed

Being “distributed” can get a bit lonely but luckily the logistics and tactics to run a distributed company are getting better and better nowadays.

To keep in touch with the team and manage projects Automattic uses the latest tools that are mostly freely available on the web such as:

  • zoom for video conferencing
  • slack for chat
  • p2s on WordPress instead of email
  • all sorts of Google apps
  • Google fi – kind of a global mobile service that works in over a 100 countries and cost $10/GB

Don’t be a loner

When you work from home it’s easy to get isolated. To become that “weird-hermit” who just stairs at screens and has no social life apart from virtual connections.

If you don’t go to an office every day where a normal employee meet colleagues and engage is real life socializing outside work (assuming you like your colleagues) you really need to make sure you build up and maintain a healthy real world social life.

Connectivity = freedom

Matt shares the content of his backpack (which is constantly changing as new gadgets appear), that contains gear that makes it possible for him to be the CEO of a revolutionary company from anywhere around the world with an internet connection. What’s in his gadget inventory – check it out here.