Matthew Charles “Matt” Mullenweg (born January 11, 1984) is an American online social media entrepreneur, web developer and musician living in San Francisco. He is best known for developing the free and open source web software WordPress, now managed by The WordPress Foundation. His professional blog is ma.tt, a domain hack.
After dropping out of college and working at CNET Networks from 2004 to 2005, Mullenweg quit that job and founded Automattic, the business behind WordPress.com (which provides free WordPress blogs and other services), Akismet, Gravatar, VaultPress, IntenseDebate, Polldaddy, and more.
In June 2002, Mullenweg started using the b2/cafelog blogging software to complement the photos he was taking on a trip to Washington D.C. after participating in the National Fed Challenge competition. He contributed some minor code regarding typographic entities and cleaner permalinks.
In January 2003, several months after development of b2 had stopped, he announced on his blog his plan of forking the software to bring it up-to-date with web standards and his needs. He was quickly contacted by Mike Little and together they started WordPress from the b2 codebase. They were soon joined by original b2 developer Michel Valdrighi. Mullenweg was nineteen years old, and a freshman (studying philosophy and political science) at the University of Houston at the time.
He co-founded the Global Multimedia Protocols Group in March 2004 with Eric Meyer and Tantek Çelik. GMPG wrote the first of the Microformats. In April 2004 with fellow WordPress developer Dougal Campbell, they launched Ping-O-Matic which is a hub for notifying blog search engines such as Technorati of blog updates. The following month, the principal WordPress competitor Movable Type announced a radical price change which drove thousands of users to seek alternate solutions. This is widely regarded as the tipping point for WordPress.
In October 2004, he was recruited by CNET to work on WordPress for them and help them with blogs and new media offerings. He dropped out of college and moved to San Francisco from Houston, TX the following month. Mullenweg announced bbPress in December, which he wrote from scratch in a few days over the holidays.
Mullenweg and the WordPress team released WordPress 1.5 “Strayhorn” in February 2005, which had over 900,000 downloads. The release introduced their theme system, moderation features, and a new front end and back end redesign. During late March and early April, Andrew Baio found at least 168,000 hidden articles on the WordPress.org website that were using a technique known as cloaking. Mullenweg admitted accepting the questionable advertisement and removed all articles from the domain.
Mullenweg left CNET in October 2005 to focus on WordPress and related activities full-time, announcing Akismet several days later. Akismet is a distributed effort to stop comment and trackback spam by using the collective input of everyone using the service. In December, he announced Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com and Akismet. Automattic employed people who had contributed to the WordPress project, including lead developer Ryan Boren and WordPress MU creator Donncha O Caoimh. An Akismet licensing deal and WordPress bundling was announced with Yahoo! Small Business web hosting about the same time.
Mullenweg at WordCamp Bulgaria 2011
In January 2006 Mullenweg recruited former Oddpost CEO and Yahoo! executive Toni Schneider to join Automattic as CEO, bringing the size of the company to 5. An April 2007 Regulation D filing showed that Automattic raised approximately 1.1 million dollars in funding, which Mullenweg addressed in his blog. Investors were Polaris Ventures, True Ventures, Radar Partners, and CNET.
Mullenweg gives back to the startup community through his angel investment firm Audrey capital, which has backed nearly 30 companies since 2008. In 2011 he backed Y Combinator startup Earbits.
In January 2008 Automattic raised an additional US$29.5 million for the company from Polaris Venture Partners, True Ventures, Radar Partners, and the New York Times Company. According to Mullenweg’s blog the funding was a result of spurned acquisition offers months before and the decision to keep the company independent. At the time the company had 18 employees. One of the reported plans for the funding was in a forum service called TalkPress.
In July 2008 Mullenweg was featured on the cover of Linux Journal wearing a Fight Club T-shirt.Later that month a San Francisco Chronicle story put him on the cover of the business section and noted he still drove a Chevrolet Lumina and WordPress.com was ranked #31 on Alexa with 90 million monthly page views. In September, Mullenweg was being named to the Top 30 Entrepreneurs Under 30 by Inc. Magazine and one of the 25 Most Influential People on the Web by BusinessWeek, again the youngest on BusinessWeek’s list.
In January 2009, the San Francisco Business Times reported that traffic to WordPress sites were growing faster than for Google’s blogger service and significantly outstripped its nearest competitor, Six Apart. A reporter at eMarketer called Mullenweg “quite an entrepreneur and visionary” when comparing to WordPress’ building momentum over its competitors to Facebook’s growing popularity over MySpace.
In February 2009, an interview with Power Magazine, titling Mullenweg “the Blog Prince,” dispels the myth of blogging being a passing trend revealing that the company has seen a 10% month-on-month organic growth which more than 15,000 new blogs hosted by WordPress each day.
In May 2009, Mullenweg’s unwillingness to comply with Chinese censorship meant WordPress.com was effectively blocked by China’s Golden Shield Project.
A Bloomberg interview in April 2011 described the impressive scalability of the company. Infrastructure costs only 300–$400k a month while powering 12% of the Web with 1350 servers and 80 employees in 62 cities. The management of the global company excludes all internal email but instead communication is rooted in their P2theme.com blog theme.
Mullenweg at WordCamp Europe 2013
n July 2011, WordPress blogs pass the 50 million milestone, powering over 50 million blogs globally.
Mulleweg’s 2011 State of the Word revealed that WordPress has grown to power 14.7% of the top million websites in the world and data shows 22 out of every 100 new active domains in the US are running WordPress. A global survey revealed that 6,800 self-employed respondents were responsible for over 170,000 sites and charged a median hourly rate of $50. Data results demonstrate the power of job creation through open source software.
In April 2012, Pingdom reported that “WordPress completely dominates top 100 blog” and is in use by 49% of the top 100 blogs in the world. This is a huge increase from the 32% that was recorded 3 years ago. In May 2012, All Things D reported that “WordPress now powers 70 million sites… and expects to bring in $45 million in revenue this year.” The company’s success is also reflected in its incredibly low rate of staff attrition – the company currently has 106 employees and has only ever hired 118.
In January 2014 Mullenweg became CEO of Automattic. Toni Schneider moved to work on new projects at Automattic. In the announcement Mullenweg joked “it’s obvious that no one in their twenties should run a company.”, and a few months later in May raised $160M in additional funding for the company, valuing the company at over a billion dollars, and WordPress was cited as powering “22 percent of the world’s top 10 million websites.”
In March 2007, Mullenweg was named #16 of the 50 most important people on the web by PC World, reportedly the youngest on the list. In October, Mullenweg acquired the Gravatar service and was rumored to have turned down a US$200 million offer to buy his company Automattic.
In 2008, Mullenweg received the Information Technology Innovator Award – presented by Temple University’s Fox School of Business and Management to those who have applied Information Technology to create new business opportunities.
In May 2009, Mullenweg was named an honorary patron of the University Philosophical Society for his contributions to information technology and culture. Mullenweg told USA Today that Automattic was profitable, had 35 employees, had gotten an office on Pier 38 in San Francisco, and had landed CNN as a client for WordPress.com.
In November 2009, WordPress was awarded the Overall Best Open Source CMS Award in the 2009 Open Source CMS Awards – marking a shift in the public perception of WordPress, from blog software to full-featured CMS. This award received over 12,000 nominations and more than 23,000 votes across five categories.
In December 2010, Mullenweg was awarded the Winner of the TechFellow Award in “Product Design and Marketing”.
In January 2011, Business Insider listed Mullenweg as #3 of their 30 Founders under 30 list for creating WordPress, the power behind many new startups.
In March 2011, Mullenweg was named one of the top 10 most influential people online for changing the face of the internet by Business Insider.
In October 2011, Mullenweg made Vanity Fair’s Next Establishment prestigious list of rising talents in tech, media, policy, and business.
In December 2011, Mullenweg was listed in Forbes 30 Under 30 for Social/Mobile for the impact he has made on the blogging world through open source.
In May 2012, Mullenweg was listed in Forbes’s Most Influential Angel Investors on AngelList.
In December 2012, Mullenweg was listed in 2012 Forbes’s 30 Under 30 in Media.
Mullenweg is a Dvorak Keyboard user and can type over 120wpm.
Mullenweg supports a number of philanthropic organizations including Archive.org, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Software Foundation, Long Now, and Innocence Project.
Mullenweg is also a member of The Well at the non-profit “Charity: Water” organization (with which he traveled to Ethiopia in February 2012) where he supports providing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. For his 28th birthday he started a campaign which raised over $28,000 for the cause, and then over $44,000 for his 30th.
Mullenweg was a major supporter of The Bay Lights project, both as the first donor and later helping to finish the project with a second $1.5M donation.
He is on the board of Grist.org, the founder/director of the WordPress Foundation, and is the only non-company high level sponsor of the Apache Software Foundation.