Last night SF Entrepreneur Meetup Group invited Matt Mullenweg to speak at its monthly meeting. For you blogger out there who doesn’t know who Matt Mullenweg is, shame on you. Matt Mullenweg is the founder of WordPress and Automattic.

Edith Yeung, of EdithYeung.com, was the moderator of the meeting. The session was done in a Q&A format with participants got to ask their questions at the end of the Q&A session.

Early Story

Matt talked about how he got started in WordPress. He started blogging with typepad and was frustrated with the user-friendliness of the software. He was still in college then in Houston, TX. During one of his trip to San Francisco, CA, he grew to love the place he would later call home and tried to find a way to move there.

He found a job at CNet which took him to San Francisco and subsequently forced him to drop out of school. At CNet, he was given the freedom to develop WordPress, which was an open-source project from the get-go. After about one year, Matt decided to call it a day at CNet. He shared his view with the audience (most of them are entrepreneurs) that it was his entrepreneur spirit that made him decide to quit CNet. To paraphrase him … There’s only so long you can work for the “man”.

WordPress Business Model

Matt said it didn’t take long for Automattic to be profitable. The business model is made up of Advertising, premium service on WordPress including private domain, and Akismet.

Claim to Fame

When asked about his claim to fame, Matt jokingly said it was when he finished 107 Chicken McNuggets with his favorite Sweet and Sour sauce in his native Houston, but then retracted that by saying WordPress is his actual claim to fame. That piece of software has changed the way we live. It has impacted me personally. I met so many new friends from blogging; people who share similar interest, people who find my writing inspiring, and the list goes on and on.

Reason behind ma.tt

He talked about how he moved his blog from photomatt.net to ma.tt and it was because someone already owned photomatt.com and it was a photography site like his, but just more provocative. He was worried that he might be mistaken for the other site. So in short, he found out about .tt which is domain extension for Trinidad & Tobago, and being the person he is, he simply has to get the ma.tt.

Akismet

If you own a blog, you have akismet plugin installed on your system. It’s a spam-comment filter. It was a funny story how he started developing akismet. He said one day his mum told him that she wanted to start a blog. (She had mentioned she would not use WordPress to avoid the attention as “the mum”.) Matt said he was terrified with the thought of his mum getting exposed to indecent spam comment in her blog. That’s when he decided to develop Akismet. And truth to be told, the mum hasn’t started a blog yet. But it’s a good scare tactic to have Matt developed one of the best (if not the best) plugin ever for WordPress. Way to go mum. :-)

Early Business Venture

Matt said there was not a lot of stories about his earlier business venture. He said he used to own a window cleaning service in Houston. And he compared that to his success with Automattic. His advise were never afraid to fail and the more open you are about your business, the more successful you will be.

Biggest Business Blunder (BBB)

Matt suggested never to buy a server for your site. WordPress grew so fast that it outgrew the server capacity within the first couple of months. He said with so many hosting providers out there, there is no reason for any individuals to ever own their own server. And he also mentioned never to enter into a long term contract with any single providers. He had to buy his way out of the contract because the term was no longer favorable. He recommended a few service providers in Texas but unfortunately I do not remember the name.

Employment

One question from the audience was the hiring process. Matt said the company does not have an office. The address listed for the company is actually his residence. He said his company is not bound by location in hiring the best people. He mentioned if he is only interested in hiring local people in San Francisco, he would have eliminated 99.99% of other very qualified people around the world. He would like to think of his company as a virtual company; a collaboration of the best people around the world he can find.

He received thousands of resume for every position. According to him, automattic hired about 2 new people a quarter. He scanned the resume himself. The traits he looked for in new hire are creativity, curiosity, and taste. According to him, in creativity, people have the will to innovate; in curiosity, people have the hunger for knowledge, and in taste, people have a sense of value you can’t replace.

Business Transition

Matt said his biggest obstacle when transitioning from a one-man show to hiring employees was delegating work. I am sure most of us can relate to that. He likes to do everything by himself. Eventually, he managed to overcome that by hiring people who are better than himself in what they do.

Venture Capital

Matt did touch on the subject on his experience with the VC. He said the VC use the term backable to describe the prospect. His tip is to have a good introduction to the VC. He said being in the room with VC is quite something else. All it takes is to have one VC says a Yes or a No, and the rest of them will follow suit. His advise is “Make your presentation as easier to understand as possible.”

One of the site he recommended for any entrepreneur who is interested in getting funding is Venture Hacks.

Premium WordPress Theme

I will not miss the opportunity to ask Matt in person about this subject. I have to ask him personally about his take on premium WordPress Theme. He is not against people making money with WordPress. In fact, he is thrilled with how the theme has evolved over the last couple of years to where it is now. He just thinks any codes that are derivatives of the WordPress code falls under GPL (General Public License) and therefore should be available for free. He mentioned that Theme Designers should change their business model. They should make the code available to the masses for free and charge anyone who wants customization. He reiterated that he is NOT against anyone who wants to make money.

My take on Matt

Matt is a very good speaker, very articulate, and concise in expressing his idea although he did stumble on one word “discriminate” :-). He is a very nice decent young man. He shows a lot of humility and never let his success get to his head. He is very approachable. At the end of session, he stayed behind to talk to everyone and he was in the last group of people who left the building. Overall, it was an excellent meeting with the WordPress pioneer.

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