I’m in SF for the LAUNCH Mobile conference and my hotel is just a block away from the Automattic office, the headquarters of WordPress. I visited the old WordPress HQ at The Embarcadero on the waterfront the day after I pitched Crowd Fusion at TechCrunch 50 back in 2009, but they had to give that space up. I’d heard it was being condemned. The new HQ is great.
Everyone at WordPress works from home, just like we did at Weblogs, Inc. and Crowd Fusion. I love running virtual teams, distributed workforces. It lets you hire for talent and passion — not location. This weekend the whole Automattic team was in town for some kind of company meetup — working together for a few days in SF, then taking buses to Santa Cruz for outdoor activities which they said may or may not include typing.
It was great to see Chris Finke, who figured out I was only a block away and invited me to crash their party. Matt Mullenweg and one of his designers showed me some amazing new CMS interfaces that they’re working on and I got to show them a mini demo of Ceros.
And then I saw Nick Bradbury. I don’t think he realizes it, even when I tell him to his face, but he’s one of my tech heroes. We met briefly back in 2004 at SxSW, the same event where I first met Matt.
Nick created HomeSite, HTML authoring software for Windows, back in 1995. I started using it a few years later when I learned Microsoft Active Server Pages and it was one of three applications which kept me using Windows long after my friends were all on Macs. The other two were Microsoft apps: Outlook and Access. HomeSite was acquired by Allaire which was acquired by Macromedia which was acquired by Adobe, but Nick was long gone by then building the popular Windows RSS feed reader FeedDemon in 1998.
I talked to Nick in 2002 and found out that he worked from home in Tennessee. I’d always told Niki that I could work from anywhere, we didn’t have to live in a particular city, but here was a guy who was doing it. He had a son and he worked from home. In 2003, we had our first son and, while I’ve had some office space in NYC, I have pretty much worked from home ever since.
Nick and I talked about how he has turned down acquisition offers from companies that would require him to move and work in their office. He has often found himself to be the only remote employee at the company he’s working for, so he really loves being on Automattic’s 100% virtual team. We’ve both gotten the “There’s pizza for everyone in the kitchen!” email, knowing that the kitchen was hundreds of miles away and the pizza would be gone long before we could get there.
I told him about the payroll service we used for Crowd Fusion. We used them for nearly five years and in all that time I could never get them to stop sending me two FedEx packs of payroll checks each month. They sent them to my house, our official HQ. Our whole team used direct deposit, so these were just envelopes full of checks with “This is not a check” printed on them. I think the payroll people imagined that I was handing these out to my employees as they left the office to head home at the end of a day — even when I’d never met many of those employees in person. So twice a month I had to shred and recycle a stack of non-checks.