The Self-Made Man: Matt Mullenweg

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Since what I’m doing here for TSB could be considered blogging, it makes sense to put Matt Mullenweg—the co-founder of WordPress—in the hot seat, so to speak, as this week’s Self Made Man.

markmull3Mullenweg was 19 when he created WordPress, and like many 19-year-olds, his plan to “democratize the web” was vague and hubristic and kind of insane when you really stop and think about it. It also hit a major stumbling block recently due to matters beyond his control, but nevertheless, 18.9% of the Internet uses WordPress to build their websites, which is pretty impressive.

The first version of WordPress used the source code from b2, an early blogging tool that Mullenweg liked, and was developed independently to keep up with then-current Web standards, which were changing practically every day. Mullenweg was studying political science at the University of Houston at the time, but he dropped out to focus on WordPress full-time, and was recruited by CNET to guide them into what was becoming online media.

Now, TSB doesn’t advocate dropping out of college; in fact, we think that an entrepreneur’s greatest asset is his education. That said, the world is way better off with Mullenweg doing what he’s doing now than it would have been if he’d gotten that Poli-Sci degree. Way, way better off.

In any case, Mullenweg and his small team developed ways for WordPress to communicate with search engines, and kept developing WordPress to keep up with ever-changing online standards, while keeping it free and (mostly) easy for people to use as a blogging tool and/or content management system. Because of their relentlessness, which can be largely attributed to Mullenweg’s passion, they outdid their competitors and are now one of the most widely-used things on the Internet, as well as a major contributor to open source culture.

Like many entrepreneurs, Mullenweg is a confident and driven perfectionist, so it was hard for him to collaborate with other people at first. He told SEOBook that he relented somewhat when he “eventually met folks who were as passionate as I was about the product and were clearly more competent. I think you have to know someone is better than you at something before you can truly let go.” Out of all the interviews he’s given over the years, that’s one of the most memorable quotes, and it’s a good lesson for all the entrepreneurs in TSB’s readership. It’s okay to not do everything yourself, and it’s also okay to work with people who have skills you lack, or who are better than you at certain things. Sometimes it’s even optimal, and the worst thing an entrepreneur can do is let his ego interfere with his projects and goals.

Matt Mullenweg was also brave enough to do an AMA on Reddit a few months ago, and it’s a pretty good read. Redditors are an odd bunch, but some of them asked really good questions and Mullenweg always gave really good answers. Check it out.


About Dave Kiefaber

Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.

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