When you talk about the leaders of the global tech industry, most people will likely think of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and the like. These stalwarts have become household names thanks to innovations that are now seamlessly intertwined in our lives. However, there is another innovator many people often overlook, whose work actually powers more than 26 percent of the world’s websites. We’re talking, of course, about WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg.
Born in 1984, Matt started his career with a job in CNET Networks after dropping out of the University of Houston where he planned to major in political science. In 2003, as a teenager, Matt was a volunteer coder for b2/cafelog, an open-source blogging platform. Its leader quit one day out of the blue, leaving the volunteers with nothing to work on. Matt collaborated with fellow coder Mike Little to create a fork of b2, and this was how WordPress was created.
WordPress’s open-source CMS platform today powers more than 26 percent of the world’s websites, as well as 59 percent of all websites that use a CMS. Matt later founded Automattic, the web development corporation that today runs WordPress and services like Gravatar, Akismet, PollDaddy, and more.
Currently, Matt is also a serial investor with around 39 investments to his name, out of which he has seen at least 15 exits, an unusually high number for any investor. The exits include Summly, SendGrid, Livestar, GroupCard, Tilt, DailyBurn, and BranchOut, among others. Matt is also on the board of seven companies, a Board Member at GitLab Inc, and an Advisor at Stellar, Hike, Daily Burn, Treehouse, jQuery Foundation, and Surphace. Audrey Capital is the name of his Angel Investment and Research Company.
Matt has received numerous awards and been mentioned by multiple publications as among the most influential people of our time. Today on his birthday we look at a few lessons all entrepreneurs can learn from this inspirational innovator:
Matt’s life is a testament to the fact that single-minded dedication to one’s craft, regardless of the outcome, can propel someone to success. His love for technology was what prompted him to start WordPress after his volunteering gig ended abruptly. While initially, he decided to give away his work freely for developers around the world to modify and use, he eventually found a way to monetize it and is currently a multi-millionaire. Throughout his journey, he has had a sharp focus on where he wants to go and what he wants to achieve, and that laser-clear vision continues to propel his amazing success story.
As an entrepreneur, diversification seems like a great idea. There are so many avenues to explore, and the temptation to try your hand at different things can be very great. However, know and identify your strengths, and work towards the achievement and continued success of a single goal. Matt’s success could be yours too.
You can call him a minimalist, as there are a lot of things that Matt likes to keep simple. He remains unplugged for as long as an hour when he wakes up in the morning, which means no computer or email. He is also a huge fan of “getting into the zone” when he works and is known for keeping his desk space as little distracting as possible. He says, “When I am in the flow, my work comes easily, happily, and inspired.”
Having a bunch of different things distracting your attention can play havoc with your productivity. Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise – keep things single, whether it is your daily schedule, your to-do agenda, or your environment. Getting rid of the clutter around you will free up your mind to focus on the things that really matter.
Matt is a believer in ‘creed’, which is a set of beliefs one uses to guide their actions. He thinks that having a creed reflects upon the company and what they will do in the future. He wrote a creed which is now added to every new employee’s contract at Automattic. It reads:
“I will never stop learning. I won’t just work on things that are assigned to me. I know there’s no such thing as a status quo. I will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers. I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything. I am more motivated by impact than money, and I know that Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation. I will communicate as much as possible because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company. I am in a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting one foot in front of another every day. Given time, there is no problem that’s insurmountable.”
Having a creed or overarching set of beliefs driving your company’s vision and growth helps ensure that every employee is working towards the same goal. You could even distill it into smaller mission statements, or ‘mantras’ – the key is to ensure that every member of your organisation is on the same page and aware of the common shared vision driving your growth.
“There are 6.999 billion people who don’t have a blog yet, don’t have a website yet, don’t have WordPress yet,” Matt said in a video interview in January 2014. Not satisfied with "just" a quarter of the world’s websites his customers, Matt says that he constantly thinks about how to bring the rest of the websites to WordPress as well. Too often, entrepreneurs stop chasing bigger visions and dreams once they have a certain amount of success. If you want to become the next Matt Mullenweg or Mark Zuckerberg, you need to constantly be thinking about how you can grow your brand further. There are no limits to what you can achieve if you dream big and then work your hardest towards achieving those dreams.
34-year-old Matt Mullenweg is undoubtedly one of the brightest stars in a galaxy of tech leaders and icons in the world today. His single-mindedness, dedication, and willingness to keep pushing higher are lessons all entrepreneurs and business leaders need to emulate for success.