Dubai: Just months following Tiger Global Management paid $50 million for a secondary stake in Automattic, the creator of WordPress.com, the investment management firm has done it again. We learned that Tiger had made another $60 million investment in the company.
Tiger bought the shares from Polaris Partners, who also sold $15 million in shares to Iconiq Capital. Polaris, which has spent in Automattic since its $1.1 million Series A round in 2005, maintains about one third of its shares.
“Their [Tiger's] deep resources, market experience, and long-term outlook make them a perfect partner for the next phase of Automattic and the sustained growth of the WordPress ecosystem,” Automattic founder and President Matt Mullenweg wrote in a blog post. “What we’re building will take time and it won’t be easy, but things worth doing seldom are.”
When Mullenweg speaks about growth, he means growth. First he wants to develop Automattic from a 200-person company to one that takes up thousands. He also desires to see WordPress.com powering the bulk of all websites on the Internet.
WordPress.com has had great acceptance so far, he said, but it still isn’t a tenth of what the team expects it can develop into.
It’s a big order, and Mullenweg admitted that they have a long way to go. WordPress.com is presently the platform of choice for 19.9% of websites, compared to 17% at the close of 2012 and 14.9% in 2011. Automattic can only date WordPress.com’s market share back to 2010, when it stood at 12.3%.
In that assessment of CMS market shares, WordPress.com is second only to “None” — i.e. the lack of a content management system. Today 65.9% of websites do not use a particular CMS, down from 78.1% in 2010. WordPress.com is well prior to Joomla, at 3.3%.
Dave Barrett of Polaris Partners stated his confidence in WordPress.com’s capability to take the lead in the market. Barrett, who is stepping off the board of Automattic now that Polaris has sold two-thirds of its shares, will remain lively with the company as a consultant.
“If you ask anyone five years ago if 20 percent were possible, they would say that’s a stretch… I do believe that it’s entirely possible and that they can be the absolute dominant [party] in website creation,” Barrett said.
Mobile will be essential to the next phase of WordPress’s growth, Barrett said, as will social association and building virality into the platform’s usage. The platform’s freemium model is also a key factor in its capacity to take up a larger part of the market.
“I think in the last couple of years they’ve turned into a great software and SaaS company. They were always a great product company,” Barrett said.
Mullenweg said he has no future projections for WordPress.com’s market share growth rate at the moment, nor did he give a schedule for hiring those “thousands.” At present, Automattic employs just fewer than 200 people, with about 70 joining so far this year.
“We’re hiring as fast as we find great people. We don’t have quotas or explicit goals, but I expect that if we fulfill the opportunity in front of us someday Automattic will comprise thousands of people,” Mullenweg said.
WordPress will be releasing its 3.7 and 3.8 soon in 2013. Mullenweg said that the former will center on developing WordPress.com as a platform, while the latter will iterate on the interface of the dashboard to make it friendlier for knowledgeable users and make it more intuitive for new users.
Read more: WordPress Web Development