Sax and the City: How WordPress Got Its Start



Startup Grind NYC conducted its November session with Derek Anderson as its moderator.  The guest of the evening: Matt Mullenweg, founder of Automattic and co-founder of WordPress.

“This is my first time ever doing this,” a laughing Mullenweg said, warning the packed room that he would be whispering into the microphone. “I apologize to all.”

For someone who had lost his voice, he discussed his unconventional background with ease.

The Texas native attended the University of Houston and studied Political Science, Philosophy and software development. In 2002, Mullenweg visited Washington, DC and began documenting his trip with photographs. It quickly turned into a blog about the experience. He began supporting himself playing the saxophone at local venues, abandoning classes, until CNet caught wind of his blog, which dismantled HTML and SEO.

Employed by CNET for a year, he continued to build his company, Automattic.

Formed in 2003 with Matt Little, the two men created a platform for bloggers.  It was initially called, b2 and cafelog, before they struck upon the now ubiquitous name, WordPress, an engine offering a web template system, which operates on a template processor.

BusinessWeek named Mullenweg as one of its 25 top Influential People On The Web, Inc.com’s dubbing him one of their 30 under 30, and PC World’s declared him one their Top Fifty People on the Web

It is obvious his drive revolutionizes how we utilize and share information through a free online service that is largely built and maintained by volunteers across the globe.  The New York Times, New York Post, Wall Street Journal, CNN, Forbes, and other headliners all operate on this content management system, which is translated into 73 languages.

WordPress generates revenue from its VIP hosting, administering a fee of at least $15,000 a month. They also receive revenue from Akismet, a feature that prevents scam and charges $50 a month, and from WordPress Support, and Premium Accounts.

When Anderson asked Mullegweg where the best concepts for business and technological platforms derive from, he was humble.  “I am a terrible judge on what is the best idea,”  he answered.

Word Press 3.8, the latest upgrade, is expected to be unveiled in December, and will include an updated version of MP6 and a new default theme, which will increase security and stability.

When he isn’t at helm of his empire, the avid photographer and rap enthusiast is also a philanthropist, donating resources and time to a variety of environmental and educational foundations and charities.

“I believe in paying it forward,” he said.

Mullenweg, who owns homes in San Francisco and Houston, recently included a New York City apartment to his real estate holdings, making positive references to the Big Apple.  “ I love the people and culture of this town.  Amazing.”

With an international empire, celebrating its 10th year of business and operating on 50% of the sites that use CMS, Mullenweg is the one that is amazing.

Startup Grind is a global startup community designed to educate, inspire, and connect entrepreneurs. They host monthly events in more than 50 cities and 20 countries featuring successful local founders, innovators, educators and investors who share personal stories and lessons learned on the road to building great companies. In the last year alone they hosted events featuring an impressive line up including Steve Blank, Chet Kanojia, Esther Dyson, and Jon Steinberg.

Learn more and sign up for the Startup Grind NYC newsletter.

Image credit: MK Think Tank on Twitter @MKThinkTank

For full coverage of tech events in New York, visit The Watch.

About the author: Mark Michael Stephens

Mark Michael Stephens is a professional writer specializing in pop culture, technology, human rights, and trends.  Mark has contributed to numerous publications and is honing a novel on growing up in Nevada.  He has a BA with Honors from The New School and lives in Manhattan.

You are seconds away from signing up for the hottest list in New York Tech!

Join the millions and keep up with the stories shaping entrepreneurship. Sign up today.