Thoughts about Automattic – the awesome company behind WordPress


The company Automattic operates the trailblazing WordPress software. It was founded by Matt Mullenweg in 2005. The name itself bears the fingerprints of its visionary founder since the name does not contain a typo rather his shorter name: Matt. By now, Automattic is headquartered in San Francisco, and employs 515 people from 51 countries and 38 US states speaking 70 different languages. They are mostly highly skilled web developers with the aim at contributing to the stable and responsive development of WordPress in a timely bases.

In terms of size, profits, expertise, and influence, no other company can be seen on the horizon close to Automattic. Their ground-breaking approach to decentralised workforce is gaining traction amongst progressive tech startups an expected to be followed by many in the near future.

Central Philosophy of Automattic

Matt Mullenweg is an agile digital entrepreneur with firm beliefs and innovative ideas. There are at least three general building blocks of Automattic’s philosophy:

Experimentator Leadership

The innovative and risk-taking mentality of the organisation must be cultivated, this is why the CEO behaves like a chief experimentator who drives that process (and He does it even beyond the wall of Automattic since He has 37 investments in 34 companies worldwide). It can be exemplified by the fact that Automattic is not only an innovator utilising first-mover advantage, but it has the first-scaler advantage too (e.g. when the Google revealed its Accelerated Mobile Page Project, Automattic was the only technology-based launch partner to scale up).

WordPress creator Mullenweg has been well aware the power of trial and error when also observing and analysing the trend of ICT revolution (e.g. Mullenweg’s Audrey Capital has invested in more than 50 ICT companies since 2008), the spread of the Internet and the opportunities it promises in various domains and imagined the company Automattic to be a big experiment. The company is to reach out full potential by taking into account current technological trends (e.g. as Industry 4.0 or the cyber-physical integrated IT systems in smart factories start to pervade more and more economies, 3D printing technologies gain more dedicated attention, Mullenweg also invested in that field, MakerBot Industries; Cloud technologies are of great demand and Automattic also offers the cloud version of WordPress called VIP).

Long Live Independency

The main aim of the founders is to remain independent which guarantees more flexibility and even more financial resources to obtain. With independence, and by being open source, unbiased and what is even more important: more dynamic progress can be continuously pursued through working with everyone and not for a specific big one.

Automattic has therefore developed organically with a permanent growth. In five rounds, the company has accumulated over 300 million US dollars of venture capital by 2014 and it is currently valued at $1.6 billion. In 2015, the company took over one of the most popular theme provider, WooThemes, including WooCommerce. Since then, Automattic quietly acquired the rights to .blog and as of November 2016, the company offers it to everyone, not exclusively to users (that type of domain costs more or less $30 per year). The organic development has been associated with widening product portfolio as well. By integrating WooCommerce, other cross-platform services came to life (e.g. Gravatar).

According to Automattic, their most important projects are as follows: Jetpack, Vaultpress, Akismet,     Longreads, Simplenote, Cloudup, Polldaddy and Simperium. Automattic always looks below the surface, since the sheer number of websites using Jetpack is approx. 3.5% in the world, but this tiny portion generates a lot traffic. As Mullenweg emphasised: “That’s 15% of WordPress users. We turned off Quantcast but before we turned it off in November that 15% got over 850 million monthly uniques. So the audience there is massive. Growing that from 15% of WordPress to 30% or 60% of WordPress drives a ton of activity.” (Forbes).

Value-congruent Resoluteness

The main objective is to democratise publishing of world population so that anyone with a story can tell it, regardless of income, gender, politics, language, or where they live in the world. This is a real value even if there is a chance to display manipulative, deceptive, fake content and news by using WordPress platform. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg has recently announced that Facebook will track such fake content/news down and eliminate from the social media, however, such controlled version of content sharing bears to a great extent the stamp of autocratic regimes. There are no fool-proof algorithms to filter out such contents with the work of certain experts either – democratic publishing can only be achieved if users have an internal willingness to take efforts to differentiate between fake news and facts. WordPress recognizes this and acts in this spirit by respecting democratic publishing and the freedom of content management.

Democratic mentality pervades the working atmosphere as well. Employees are primarily working in a telework, remote work way with a great deal of personal responsibility about how they balance work-personal life. The decisive step by step growth of Automattic has another advantage: one of the most difficult things to do in WordPress is to select out those projects that are really worth to focus on for a longer period of time. More committed employees are enabling the company to be more flexible and able to precisely choose among those projects.

Just for comparison, Google has 243 million monthly uniques and approx. 66,500 employees, Facebook has 205 million and 14,500 workers. Automattic has approx. 81 million uniques per month and it has only a mere 515 distributed workers worldwide, but the company undoubtedly attracts the best ones because they are awarded by not measuring the time spent on work at a desk in an office, but by their real outcome working whenever and wherever they want.

WordPress as Vitamin C for Our Modern Scurvy

Agile Entrepreneur

Our life is continuously fuelled with make-or-break issues. This is the fundamental mechanism of change, and that of progress. And what keeps alive this mechanism is nothing else, but the agile entrepreneur making new and innovation solutions when others just have a break in doing it. Along this process, new firms emerge and might become global players, while others sink and might go to be disrupted. This is the so-called Schumpeterian creative destruction, or as one of lines of a recent Metallica song Dream No More expressed it: death by creation.

Dreams, Beliefs, Ideas Driving Agility

Importantly, in business, dreaming more is of key importance. Dreams are built on our firm beliefs and ideas that have always played and are still playing an inevitable role in forming our present and future. Of course, beliefs and ideas are not always leading to ‘first best’ outcomes in each cases, but they always provide space for learning after all. Let just think of the case of scurvy when it came to sailing centuries ago: at the beginning, sailors used West Indian limes to dampen scurvy, but because that limes contain far less vitamin C than the Mediterranean lemons, such treatment did not cure scurvy reassuringly by resulting in a belief that lime does not work at all. All limes were discredited and it took time to rediscover the positive effects of the Mediterranean limes. The triumph of trial and error.

The bulwark of our progress is the ability to extensive experimentation, because the best way of effective learning is through trial and error. Trial and error give dynamism into the system and our beliefs and ideas are also triggered by current trends and processes.

Digital Economy is Here to Stay

In our Digital Economy, new business models emerge and the digital aspect of our activities have been appreciating. Talents and creative highly skilled workers have become more and more willing to leave a company for another one having more progress in digital transformation. It is hardly by chance that the most competitive, most innovative European countries are primarily those showing the highest level of business digitalisation (Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Germany are innovation leaders).

Figure 1. Integration of Digital Technology (score at DESI index)


Note: European Innovation Scoreboard is used to classify countries around innovation leaders, strong innovators, moderate innovators and modest innovators. Source: European Commission, DESI index

With a little exaggeration one could say that weak competitiveness is partly due to the lack of digitalised business. This might be called as our modern scurvy, where the vitamin C can manifest in WordPress platform and all of its services.

Do not forget, nowadays WordPress is used by 58.5% of all the websites whose content management system is known. It accounts to 27.2% of all websites in the Internet.

Having all said, Automattic makes people’s life easier when it comes to digital transformation. WordPress, as a Vitamin C can make businesses immune to stuttering starts along digitalisation whether their businesses are concentrating on the most mundane matters or on very complex ones (e.g. nanotechnology, industry 4.0 etc.).