What’s New at Automattic and WordPress with CEO Matt Mullenweg


Within the newest installment of our What’s New collection the place SaaStr’s very personal CEO and Founder, Jason Lemkin, sits down with the highest CEOs and leaders in SaaS to debate What’s New, what’s high of thoughts, and what each SaaS founder needs to be interested by – Jason sits down with Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Computerized and Co-Founding father of WordPress.

Automattic and WordPress and is the basic, old-school, OG open-source leaders, and enjoyable truth, as SaaStr runs on WordPress, we merely wouldn’t be right here with out Matt and the two,000 people who work with him. 🙂 

SaaStr was created in 2012 to democratize studying and how one can construct B2B firms, and WordPress was began in 2003 to democratize publishing. Matt’s been within the sport for 20 years, and all through that point WordPress and Automattic, and even what it means to publish, have expanded and advanced. 

Proper now, 42% of the market runs on WordPress. However after they began monitoring it, it was .8%. It is a results of the work and never what they work towards. The secret’s serving clients’ wants, and that quantity naturally goes up. 

So with that, let’s dive into what’s new at WordPress:

Is Running a blog on the Decline? 

Matt shares that running a blog did decline for some time, and it does appear to be throughout social how people are quitting running a blog or vlogging nowadays. Why? As a result of distribution acquired fragmented. There was spam, pop-ups, and slow-to-load web sites. “We mounted all that, so it’s cool to see it coming again,” Matt says. 

What individuals love a few weblog is an individual’s voice and their story. It’s an genuine connection to somebody with knowledge they wish to share. That’s timeless and can by no means exit of fashion. Now, it’s thrilling to see the pendulum swing again to individuals doing it. As a core a part of Matt’s philosophy, individuals must have their very own area and run open-source software program as a result of it permits them to manage the whole stack of what they’re placing on-line. 

While you put content material on another person’s platform, as useful as that’s for many individuals, it’s not yours. And should you go lengthy, how that platform runs modifications so much. Talking of the lengthy sport, Matt talks in regards to the launch of the 100-year subscription plan final yr. You’ll be able to subscribe to a 100-year internet hosting plan, so you’ve gotten a spot to place your stuff that you just, your youngsters, and your grandchildren can get pleasure from. “It’s a part of contributing to humanity,” he says. 

Placing Individuals In Cost of What They Need to Devour 

When SaaStr began, about ~95% of our visitors was from running a blog. Individuals would sort into their PC and get a bit of content material. As we speak, the homepage is about 5% of its direct content material. So, in right now’s world, how do individuals get uncovered to content material? 

Matt is considering a world the place customers management what they wish to devour. Many say, “Hey, go to me, and I’ll inform you what to take a look at right now.” However he needs to be in command of that. Discovery is so totally different right now, and people variations are between the passive and lively, the goal-oriented or accepting. 

There are quite a lot of methods designed the place you simply sit and scroll or watch, and what you’re consuming tells you what you need to have — like tv again in its heyday. Matt needs lively, goal-oriented methods: Listed here are the issues I wish to do and the individuals I wish to observe. These are the priorities that I wish to put in entrance of me. It is a higher way of living, the place persons are happier, extra productive, and extra fulfilled. 

The place we go improper in social media is once we sit again scrolling, and the algorithm decides what we’re doing and is optimizing for our lowest base instincts. It’s an optimization curve on our amygdala. Let me present you one thing that will get you mad or excited. What if, as a substitute of doom-scrolling, we ask ourselves what sort of individual we wish to be?

We are saying what we wish to be taught extra about and are provided that to devour. That is the place Matt believes AI is beneficial and can begin to assist.  

What’s the Enterprise Mannequin Behind Automattic and WordPress? 

Matt co-founded WordPress when he was 19. A yr later, they created Automattic as a industrial companies enterprise round WordPress. He by no means thought they’d make any cash from it because it began as an open-source undertaking. 

WordPress is its personal ecosystem, a vibrant neighborhood of lots of of hundreds of people that create add-ons, plugins, and develop websites. Automattic is a member of that ecosystem and has some merchandise throughout the WordPress ecosystem, like, Kismet, WooCommerce, or Jetpack. 

Then they’ve issues like Pocket Forged, the most effective podcasting apps, Day One, a journaling app the place you may share journals which are totally encrypted and synchronized, and now textual content messaging. Automattic was began in 2005 to democratize publishing, and WooCommerce was bought in 2016 to democratize e-commerce. Now, Woo is an open-source type Shopify and their largest enterprise. 

Then, in 2023, they moved into messaging. There have been approach too many messaging apps, so Matt and the staff determined to convey all of it into one, and it’s safe, encrypted, and native to the machine. Automattic is a behind-the-scenes model. It’s not meant to be a client model. These merchandise are a part of a shared philosophy round consumer management of privateness, knowledge, and open-source. They put energy again within the palms of the individuals as a result of know-how ought to allow you. 

Underneath-Monetizing a Platform as a Technique

There’s an idea on the market that isn’t dangerous; it’s a method that held for Matt and Automattic, and it’s under-monetizing a platform. Within the final yr and a half, many firms have over-monetized, ramming via value will increase. 

However when you’ve gotten one thing beloved that’s open-source or free, you may virtually under-monetize it. Some might say that should you personal 43% of the online, you could possibly be pulling in $43B in ARR, however the WordPress ecosystem is doing nearer to ~$10B per yr throughout lots of of firms. While you rank these firms, WordPress doesn’t present up in any Fortune 500 as a result of they’re divided into sub-platforms or ecosystems. They’re not counted as one entity, so whereas it’s not nice for leaderboards, it’s nonetheless worthwhile whereas serving Automattic’s final mission and their day-to-day operations. 

The place do you draw the road on monetization with such a broad base? 

“I at all times return to the shopper and the place they’re getting worth,” Matt shares. They do quite a lot of exhausting, difficult issues, some invisible to customers and others not. He loves subscription fashions the place individuals pay for one thing that offers them worth. 

That direct, one-to-one relationship with the shopper needs to be cherished and hopefully compound over time. 

With a $10B WordPress economic system on the market, a lot of its merchandise compete with companions. What’s the easiest way to deal with it once we all need a vibrant ecosystem and for our merchandise to win?  Most individuals don’t thoughts competitors, however they want transparency. So, state your intentions and your objectives, after which navigate round them. 

You’ll be able to nonetheless assist an entire ecosystem of oldsters who’re opponents and companions. Their clients are your clients, too, so that you wish to give them the very best expertise. 

How Does WooCommerce Match Right into a Platform Firm? 

When WordPress bought WooCommerce in 2016, they believed it could develop into their greatest enterprise. Basically, transactions are the economic system. Publishing is an effective enterprise, and there’s some worth there, however transactions are every part else.  

In 2016, WooCommerce was the primary plug-in. But it surely was attention-grabbing as a result of it was only a plug-in for WordPress designed by an outdoor occasion who created WordPress themes. 

It was difficult as a result of they checked out shopping for it a number of occasions, however the code wasn’t “ok.” However lastly, they agreed that the WooCommerce creators had figured one thing out that resonated with customers, and so Automattic bought it and stuck the code. Flash ahead to now, it’s the #1 income driver for them. 

No One Feels Trapped Investing in WordPress

How does Matt view the general public markets and the way issues are trying in comparison with a yr in the past? Have in mind, that regardless that Automattic doesn’t present up on public leaderboards, it does have the potential to IPO at any time.  

“I didn’t get right here due to my data of the monetary markets,” Matt joked. As an alternative, he focuses on constructing as many subscribers as doable, with the objective of tens of millions of individuals getting worth from the platform after which compounding yr over yr over yr for a lot of many years to return. 

WordPress has had improbable traders, in order that they don’t have quite a lot of the identical pressures as different firms to go public at any given time. As a fiduciary, Matt tells his shareholders that in the event that they wish to promote a share, he might help them. He doesn’t wish to lock anybody up. Automattic is a intently held inventory, with principally workers and some dozen of essentially the most refined traders on this planet. It’s a really small however coveted market. 

They aren’t public, however he feels comfy serving to individuals discover a liquidity path in the event that they aren’t aligned for no matter purpose.  In good product design, you don’t include an answer. You include the issue. So, Matt encourages traders to return to him with the issue, they usually can get inventive with methods to resolve the issue. 

And, What’s New at WordPress!

Throughout all of their merchandise, Day One, Pocket Forged, and Textual content are essentially the most thrilling options for Matt and staff. One of many nice issues of all humankind is making an attempt to unify every part they usually’ve been engaged on that because the ‘90s. 

Why is WordPress targeted on unifying every part now?

As a result of they’ve acquired a extremely genius staff that reverse engineers all protocols and unifies them into one factor, and there’s a regulatory atmosphere and political atmosphere that helps it. For instance, Apple adopted USBC. They in all probability wouldn’t do that on their very own and would have had the lightning cable ceaselessly. However many peoples’ lives are immeasurably higher now that Apple has USBC and interoperability. 

Matt believes that the position governments might and may play is round interoperability as a result of it provides individuals extra freedom. Individuals can set their very own guidelines round knowledge.  If they’d completed this in 2019, all of the tech giants would have been crushed. In 2024, WordPress is an ally of Apple, Google, Meta, and all of the messaging platforms as a result of it’s improbable to have one thing to level to and say it’s open-sourced.


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