Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg today took the stage at Disrupt NY for a wide-ranging chat with our co-editor Alexia Tsotsis. During the conversation, he touched upon everything from raising the company’s latest funding round to the future of WordPress’ backend interface.
Talking about WordPress’ $160 million funding round — which the company announced earlier this week — Mullenweg noted that even he himself didn’t know what to do with this much money for open source software. When investors asked him, he said, he didn’t really come up with a good answer, either. What he does know, however, is that he wants WordPress to run an even larger chunk of the web going forward.
“We still have 70 percent of the web to go,” he said. “The software could be a lot better,” he admitted. With more users moving to touch, he especially stressed that WordPress needs a better interface for touch.
Mullenweg, who regularly drives through San Francisco in his 1998 Chevy Lumina despite the fact that he owns the majority of Automattic, deflected any questions about him becoming a billionaire. “I don’t think that anybody should count,” he said.
As an investor himself, Mullenweg said that he doesn’t really have a strong investment thesis. Instead, he invests in the products he uses himself and open-source applications and marketplaces. He also seems to have a strong interest in e-commerce and even argued that if he were starting a business today that wasn’t a content-centric company, he would probably look into building an open-source e-commerce platform.
As far as competition like Medium, which is getting quite a bit of mind share lately, Mullenweg doesn’t seem all too concerned. “Their editor interface is great,” he said. “But I think we can do a next version of it.” He also noted that even as many publications now create their own content management systems, those companies are content companies and don’t spend all of their day thinking about how to make their content management systems better. “We think about how to make WordPress better all day,” he told the audience. “We do try to strive for excellency.”
While he wouldn’t say much about what’s next for WordPress specifically, he did point at a project called “new dash,” which is a major rewrite of the WordPress backend and editing interface. He also hinted that the iOS 8 editing tools will allow the company to provide a mobile interface that is “much, much better.” Besides mobile, the company also plans to focus on Jetpack — its tool for bringing cloud-hosted features from WordPress.com to self-hosted WordPress blogs.
Indeed, he believes that as cloud providers get better, more people will host their own WordPress sites. While WordPress.com hosts 50 percent of all WordPress sites today, he believes that number could be as small as 5 percent in a few years.