I spent half my career building content management systems that competed with WordPress. The first half of my career WordPress didn’t exist.
I met Matt Mullenweg in 2004 at SxSW when WordPress was less than a year old. In 2009, I was thrilled that one of my software platforms was used to run 14% of the top 100 blogs. I thought that was a big deal. Today, WordPress powers 43% of the top 10 million websites. And it’s growing.
When people ask me about Matt, I say that we have a lot in common. We both make software for creators. We both have been running distributed teams for decades. But business-wise? I’ve built two dozen publishing platforms that have generated tens of millions of dollars in value. My last platform raised $100M during the pandemic. Matt has built one publishing platform. He has always given it away for free. And his company is worth billions. Maybe I was pricing mine wrong?
At the end of last year, I showed Matt what we were doing with Clipisode. We had launched two native apps that had thousands of users and we were working on a big web dashboard for our brand customers — another CMS. But it could still be a few years before the business fully took off and we’d already pivoted a couple of times. We had patient investors, but we were starting to talk to bigger companies about an acquisition. One was our biggest competitor in the celeb+fans video space. Matt and I talked about his company Automattic. They own Tumblr. They own WooCommerce. They have a platform called WordPress VIP for high profile, high traffic sites like NBC, CBS, Al Jazeera, Capgemini, Salesforce, the White House, TechCrunch and News Corp. All of these divisions had challenges, but the ones VIP was going though mirrored a lot of the work I did with Crowd Fusion.
Running a startup, I wore a lot of hats. At VIP, it’s like I suddenly hired a killer sales team and a big customer success organization — an explosion of talent. I don’t have to do accounting or marketing. I talk to customers, but I’m not pitching anyone or closing deals. I’ve got a global team, so my calls often start at 6am, but I was already working with people in Taiwan, Singapore and Pakistan when I ran Clipisode.
And my commute is exactly the same.
“Taking on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse, isn’t it? If you’re comfortable while you’re doing it, you’re probably doing it wrong.”— Ted Lasso
I tell people that I’m the Ted Lasso of WordPress. I’ve spent so long competing with WordPress and so little time using it that when someone mentions a plugin conflict I feel as lost as Ted Lasso when people talk about “offsides,” “relegation” or “the pitch.”
But running a big global engineering team and scaling websites for creative people at big companies is pretty universal.