Automattic is celebrating its 10th year in business this week. WordPress.com opened its doors in the summer of 2005 and is now closing in on a globally distributed team of 400 employees. Against all odds, CEO Matt Mullenweg, a college dropout with no initial startup funding, built a company that is now valued at $1.2 billion dollars, while successfully maintaining the free, open source WordPress project alongside it.
Mullenweg took to his blog to reminisce about hiring employee #1 in the early days of the company.
When you think about it, Donncha was incredibly brave. WordPress had far less than 1% market share. I hadn’t joined Automattic yet — I was still working for CNET, paying Donncha with my salary, savings, and credit cards. He was leaving a Real Job for a Barely a Job; I hardly knew how to wire money to an international account to pay him.
Fast forward ten years and Automattic has grown to become the most successful WordPress-based business on the books, without compromising its open source principles or users’ freedoms.
It also seemed like the decks were stacked against us. We were going to try and build an open source business model different from what we had seen before, a hybrid of a downloadable open source project combined with a web service that ran the exact same software. Up to that point companies built on open source projects had usually suffocated the communities that spawned them.
The open source community continues to thrive, thanks in part to the many contributions from Automattic.
With 17 acquisitions under its belt, including the recent WooCommerce deal, Automattic has judiciously added to its numbers and expanded its horizons to include a number of non-WordPress technologies. Mullenweg strives to maintain a spirit of experimentation at the company, rather than simply focusing on their successful products.
WordPress.com was recently recognized in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Who Has Your Back report, for achieving a perfect score in protecting users’ rights against government requests. The company’s unwavering commitment to push back against unlawful censorship is one of the things that sets it apart from others and helps to further democratize publishing across the globe.
As of 2015, WordPress.com stats show 137 languages have been used to publish more than 2.5 billion posts. Automattic is digging in its heels, as WordPress’ global marketshare continues to grow beyond 24%. For Mullenweg, these past 10 years are just the beginning:
“We’re building something that gives people all over the world a voice and that people can trust to be thriving a century from now, and that’s huge.”