Automattic ALMOST Acquired At One Point

Now we’re heading into the summer of 2007, and the company found itself at a crossroads. Says Hirshland, “During this period, WordPress really hit that point in the curve where growth was very noticeably accelerated.” Major media firms noticed as well, and “all of a sudden took a whole bunch of strategic interest in the company,” he adds. “So Matt had some decisions to make. They were hard decisions.”

One suitor was particularly serious—a major company wanting to acquire Automattic. (The name of the firm has not been released, but I can’t help but guess that with CNET being an early investor, it would be logical for it to take an interest: the NYT is also a possibility, but somehow I get the feeling it was waiting for another way in, hence the small investment). After a lot of discussion, Mullenweg decided to sell.

Hirshland, the supposedly conservative East Coast VC, calls the decision frustrating. “I said to Matt I felt very strongly he shouldn’t take the offer, and we should invest and build,” he recalls. Mullenweg resisted, arguing that it would be good to be part of a larger business and not worry about funding and other resources. So he accepted the offer, and the two sides began negotiating the details, a process that lasted until early last fall.

But as the negotiations continued, the doubts apparently grew in Mullenweg’s mind. Says Hirshland, “I think Matt did some really hard soul searching, thinking of the value of what was being built.” He remembers a poignant meeting last fall where Mullenweg told the group that he had come around to the idea that the right thing to do was to stay independent and go for it.

Hmm, where do you think we would be now if the acquisition actually occurred? Quote taken from the excellent piece by Xconomy in early 2008: Automattic Connection: How an East Coast VC Got Behind WordPress, the West Coast’s Hottest Blog Platform

4 Comments


  1. That could have been very, very scary. It’s hard to resist selling rights to your ideas when you’re struggling in the early stages. I’m glad Matt decided to stick it out to continue on his path that’s given us the WordPress software and community we know and love.

    Michael Torbert’s last blog post..Twitter Updates for 2009-03-31

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  2. @Michael Torbert – Yeah, I find it interesting that WordPress.com or the WordPress project could be an entirely different beast by now had Matt really gone through with the acquisition. I’m pretty happy myself that he decided to stick with it as now, he is on a missing to let WordPress thrive well after he is not involved anymore.

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  3. Well the day will come when Matt will be more of an executive (Bill Gates, etc) and not be involved in the daily goings on of WordPress. We’ve already seen his role start to change in some ways, as WordPress continues to grow. Hopefully, no matter what role he has, WordPress will always continue on the path that he’s envisioned.

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  4. The IBM PC was open architecture and it spawned thousands of new companies and it directly or indirectly changed the lives of every single man woman and child on this planet. The original IBM hardware group at Boca Raton made the mistake of allowing the rights to the operating system go to a young guy named Bill Gates, so they scored on the hardware and fumbled on the operating system. But in any case the PC became the revolution that it was primarily because the open architecture of the design allowed other developers to freely build on it. The Apple was closed architecture. They got what they wanted, applications are still much more expensive to consumers, there are far fewer apps available, and a tiny fraction of the users. Mr. Mullenweg took the higher road at a critical stage and thousands of developers and consumers all around the world will benefit. In the end, it will be a win-win situation for the people on the WP team and the rest of us as well.

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