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

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