April 13, 2006
We just announced leading a small round of funding with Automattic, a San Francisco based startup whose team is most known for its leading role in creating the open source personal publishing (ie, blog) platform WordPress, blog spam blocker Akismet, and blog pinging service Ping-o-Matic. I am also really happy to have the chance to be partnering on this venture with Phil Black from Blacksmith Capital and Doug Mackenzie from Radar Partners.
Although a relatively small investment, we believe this will be a very exciting project to be involved with.
In fact, the truth of the matter is that we fairly quickly came to the decision that we were highly interested in funding and partnering with Automattic — the real decision was Matt's very deliberate and, shall we say, unhurried, choice to take on some VC partners. I'll leave it to Matt to explain that decision.
Our interest in this opportunity was pretty straightforward.
First and foremost, this is the kind of team VCs like us love to work with. For those of you who don't know Matt Mullenweg, I'll sum it up by saying that he is a truly extraordinary young (just celebrated his release 2.2 a bit back!) innovator and entrepreneur.
I've had the privilege of actually getting to know Matt really well over the last 18 months, and in addition to being someone I now consider a friend, I have to say this guy is amazing. During this time, I've been able to watch WordPress go from its first genuinely commercial grade release (I was at the release party where they had the laptop on the counter ticking off the number of downloads) to over 1 million downloads, a pretty phenomenal thing for an unfunded band of hard core coders with not an iota of time or money dedicated to marketing. I've also seen Matt and his crew pull off things like banging out Akismet, the world's best blog spam blocker, in a shockingly short time. His vision is two steps ahead and he goes from vision to product ten times faster…
It has not taken a lot of imagination to conclude that Matt (along with his small team of the best and brightest contributors to WordPress) is going to be an important innovator in the emerging field of personal publishing, social media, "Web 2.0," or whatever buzzword you prefer for all this stuff.
Lest Matt get all the credit and attention here, I should also point out two other folks who helped us conclude this is a great team to be backing. First, Automattic CEO Toni Schneider is one of those rare entrepreneurs who is really strong technically, has been a successful startup CEO (he ran Oddpost and then made the cover of Business 2.0 when it was acquired by Yahoo!), played a senior role at a large Internet company (he lead much of Yahoo's Web 2.0 efforts), but yet whose real passion is the very early stage startup.
Toni and Matt are a great duo.
We also were eager to get involved in no small part because Tony Conrad, a trusted, good friend of Polaris over the years, has been involved with Matt and Automattic from the very beginning. In many ways, Tony (who was the VC who backed Toni S at Oddpost) is the Oz behind the curtain who quietly helped bring together the group that is now Automattic.
Two other points in addition to the team.
First is the product. On the one hand, any consumer facing technology service that is so easy someone like me can use has really accomplished something. At the same time, an impressive list of people whose jobs and careers require the best love WordPress, so much so that they have switched from other popular blog platforms. Just to name a few, the list includes the likes of Robert Scoble, Rafat Ali (PaidContent.org), Om Malik (GigaOm), About.com, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and, of course, CNET, who is also investing in Automattic.
In sum, if you believe that blogging, personal publishing, and social media are important market trends which will give birth to important new technologies and businesses, which I and Polaris do, then backing the team that created WordPress and Aksimet seems like a great bet.
Look forward to tracking Automattic's progress and seeing if we are right!
And, I'd love to hear from any wordpress users out there who have stumbled upon this blog.