Young Guns: Democratizing the Web

A photographer, a foodie, a musician: Matt Mullenweg is all these things, and those qualities come across when you meet him.

But you can also get a sense of that online, on his own personal blog. And that, Mullenweg said, is the point of WordPress, the open-source publishing platform he co-created in 2003.

“You want someone to be able to say, ‘I made this, this is me online.' And so you need a ton of flexibility since you need a Web site to be as unique as people are,” he said.

The WordPress software, which is used by everyone from The New York Times to mommy bloggers, is free. So in an effort to complement and expand his business, Mullenweg built Automattic in 2005, which offers paid ad-ons for your blog like anti-spam and security services.

He concedes that his business model is harder to get your arms around than most because its leading software--which now numbers almost 20 million users--doesn’t generate revenue.

But Mullenweg is optimistic.

“We are profitable and growing the business in a sustainable way,” he said.

So far, Automattic has raised $31 million in funding, and Mullenweg has no plans to slow down.

“You’ve created a situation where you’re working with people you love and you’re working on something that has a real impact on the world,” he said. “Fundamentally, there are still 5.99 billion people not on the Web yet; I want to figure out how to reach them."

Six Shooter with Matt Mullenweg

1. When times get tough, what inspires you?

I get inspired by seeing the endless variety of ways people use WordPress to tell their story.

2. What is your favorite quote and why?

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it." -- Alan Kay

3. Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

I hope that over the next 10 years the WordPress community will be able to bring its vision of how the Web should work to a majority of the new Web sites out there.

4. What is your biggest tip to other entrepreneurs?

To take the time to hire the best people you can imagine for every role, no matter how small.

5. What is the biggest perk to being an entrepreneur?

That when you get mad at your boss (yourself) you can do something about it.

6. What are three words that define you and why?

Hungry. Photographer. Minimalist.

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