Matt Mullenweg is the Co-Founder of WordPress, the most popular publishing platform on the web, and the CEO and Founder of Automattic, the Parent Company of WooCommerce, WordPress.com, and Jetpack. He also runs Audrey Capital, a research and investment company. Mullenweg has been recognized for his leadership and success by Bloomberg Businessweek, TechCrunch, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Fortune, and Wired.
Mullenweg was born on 11th January 1984 in Houston, Texas, US. Greatly influenced by his father, he often visited his father’s office to use the internet as a kid. His affection for the internet found its root in those early days. Mullenweg says, “He was pointing me in the right direction, and I was very much like an early O’Reilly book, mastering regular expressions or the Campbell book, that pointed me to read Wired magazine. These were all early introductions into the world of programming, which just seems so incredibly powerful that you could write code on a screen and press a button and then it ran. I know that sounds so simple but to me, it kind of blew my mind. I felt like building something.”
He stuck with this idea and began reading daily blogs written by various professors. He also started blogging on his own using Movable Type, but it was a costly platform. He soon switched to the blogging tool b2/catalogue. b2 was an open-source project. So this learning experience was two-fold; besides blogging, it also helped improve his coding skills.
But, after a while, the lead developer of the platform quit, and the company stopped developing it any further. Mullenweg was devastated and decided to create the b2 codebase blogging platform according to the web standards of that time. He posted this information on his blog and was soon joined by a fellow coder, Mike Little. They made some vital improvements and added more features to the platform, which led to the formation of WordPress in January 2003.
Once the platform gained traction, they were joined by the original b2 developer Michel Valdrighi in the platform’s development. Mullenweg at the time was in his college and had already co-founded Global Multimedia Protocols Group in 2004. Next, Mullenweg launched a hub where one could get notifications about blog updates called Ping-O-Matic.
WordPress was, however, still seeking a large audience to scale the business to a global level. In May 2004, a competitor of WordPress, Movable Type, changed its prices, leading thousands of people to look for an alternate platform. Fortunately, WordPress caught everyone’s attention with its easy user interface.
Given WordPress’ success, Mullenweg was offered a job by CNET to work on the platform for them. He immediately accepted and dropped out of college and moved to San Francisco. In February 2005, WordPress 1.5 ‘Strayhorn’ introduced several top features like themes, moderation features, and redesign of the front and back end.
In October, he left CNET to focus entirely on WordPress. Just within a few days, he announced Akismet – an effort to stop comment and trackback spam. Later, in December, he founded Automattic, the original company behind all his other ventures.
Mullenweg said, “I mean the goal with Automattic was really to create someplace that I want to work. A company that was distributed, that had open source at its core, and that was trying to make the web a better place. And I’m not trying to lock everyone in, but really kind of be true to the web’s ideals of being open distributed and open source.”
In early 2009, WordPress grew at an exponential rate and witnessed 10% growth each month. The platform hosted around 15,000 new blogs daily. The development kept increasing each year, tremendously.
Mullenweg said, “Yes, I was very surprised at the initial success, but as it started to gain some initial traction, our vision for the platform is to democratize publishing, to create a platform for the open web.” He continued, “The web still has so many forces pushing it to be more closed, and so we want to create the best product possible so that we can help the web be more of what its potential can be.”
In 2021, it was reported that WordPress had a 60.8% market share in the CMS market and powers 14.7% of the world’s top websites.WordPress, which began as Matt’s passion for sharing what he loves, has become the world’s most extensive content management system.
Mullenweg has received many awards since then, including the Winner of the TechFellow Award in ‘Product Design and Marketing,’ he was listed in the Forbes 30 under 30, and Business Insider listed Mullenweg as #3 of their 30 Founders under 30 lists for creating WordPress, the power behind many new startups amongst others. Mullenweg also served as a board member for GitLab, Inc. from the year 2017 to 2019.
In conclusion, he says, “the most important thing you can develop, especially if you’re doing code is empathy. Whatever you develop, use empathy and understanding as a guiding tool to really focus on every user. Try to do that as much as possible, and you’ll become the type of developer that everyone loves working with.”