In conversation with parent Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg


See the original story in Japanese.

Matt Mullenweg, the CEO of Automattic and the head of the WordPress project, visited Japan last week. He visited Tokyo on a promotion tour in the APAC region, following Korea, Indonesia, and Singapore.

After attending their meet-up event with the local WordPress community where we spoke with him, he planed to visit Osaka, the Philippines, New Zealand, and Australia. He explained:

We have an office in SoMA, San Francisco, but I’ve not been there in the past four months. When you are in San Francisco, feel free to visit our office. But I may or may not be there when you visit us. Because we can work anywhere in the world. I can tell our headquarters is where I am.

When he visited Japan last time five years ago, he saw many people using i-mode with their feature phone handsets, which is totally different from the current situation where smartphones are well penetrated. When we asked about the state of the WordPress community here in Japan, he said the blogging platform is still only for early adopters, which is very similar to the state of the WordPress community in the US back in 2005 or 2006. He added:

If you compare the state of the community to a baseball game, it’s still one inning. So we want to more penetrate WordPress in Japan. That’s why we want to hire good people from Japan. That’s one of biggest reasons why I visited Japan this time.

Among their 250-person team, about one-third of them are committed to user support while the rest of them are engineers, designers and administration staff. ‘Working from everywhere’ is certainly one of their uniquenesses, so only 15 people are working in their headquarters in San Francisco. They have no Japanese employee other than Naoko Takano, their ‘globalizer‘ personnel based in Tokyo.

English would be one of obstacles when typical Japanese people work with them. However, Matt told us with laughter that “You will need to read English but no need to speak in English.” (since internal communication in his company is entirely web-based.) It is obvious that Matt is eager to hire more people from Japan to better serve the local WordPress community comprising of more than a few WordPress users.

Our readers may recall Automattic raised 160 million dollars from VC firms. In a response to my question that he has no intention to let his company go IPO or be acquired by a big company, he explained:

We raised a larger amount of money than typical IPOs. We want to control our company by ourselves and have no need of an IPO for now. WordPress became eleven years old two months ago. The money raised this time is to prepare for our next ten years.

We understand that the company plans to use the funds to intensify system developments, especially for mobile optimization for iPhone and Android handsets. In a view of that, his intention hiring Japanese engineers is quite natural since Japan is more advanced in mobile than any western countries.

It is told that websites using WordPress as their platform account for over 20% in all sites in the world. With a limited number of 250 employees, they have generated such a big traffic share larger than that from internet giants like Facebook and Google. It will be interesting to see how their future employees from Japan and the rest of the world will bring WordPress beyond a blogging environment or a content management system to an entirely new concept.