Managing Insane Growth

with Matt Mullenweg

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Craftsmen should have the best tools and resources possible at their disposal

Matt Mullenweg

Co-Founder of WordPress, Founder of Automattic, Investor with Audrey

Lessons Learned

Receiving an offer can be a life-changing event; approach your offer letter as momentous document.

Knowledge workers need the fastest and best equipment.

Flash Talks are a great way to get to know your teammates on a personal level.


Lesson: Building a Unicorn with Matt Mullenweg

Step #5 Artifacts: Craftsmen should have the best tools and resources possible at their disposal

I don't think that there's anything intrinsically good or bad about an acquisition. It just should be evaluated in the same light of the lens of your mission. Will you be more or less able to democratize publishing and development as part of this other company than you are today? Will you be happier or less happy as an entrepreneur and conversely your entire team?

As acquisitions, I think tech is full of them. They made so much sense, and if you look at the path of YouTube which was seen as crazy when it happened, but I think it's one of those ones where as an independent entity it wouldn't have been able to fight the content providers who pay for the banner and can do all the things that they've been doing. So, in particularly, at that time. Now they could probably raise a couple billion dollars like Facebook or a Dropbox. At the time it wasn't really an option. So being part of Google helped it realize its mission and become, I think, one of the top brands in the world, right around Google itself as it is today.

Automattic, one of the things we're passionate about is building web scale businesses. So things that we feel should exist on the Internet. Blogging and WordPress is certainly one of those. There are lots of other things as well. So a number of our acquisitions over the years have been things that I felt like should exist and perhaps maybe in their independent state wouldn't have continued existing. As to how we make the decision for an acquisition or not, pretty much every time it's a team, and I think we've made one acquisition, it was just a product, and not a team. But by and large we're looking to have people join the company.

So it's not dissimilar from the thought process we go to when we're hiring. It's just it's hiring plus maybe some existing users and product funding.

What is the equipment policy at Automattic? I want craftsmen to have the best tools possible. We're pretty much an all-Mac shop, but occasionally, one every couple dozen, we’ll get someone who wants a Linux box and does something different. We try to get engineers, in particular, the fastest and best laptops that we can. We're very much a laptop culture, because you can pick up and go and it makes you mobile.

And then we encourage them to update it every 18 to 24 months. There is no reason to have an older computer, especially, if that's what you're working on all day. Not having Windows or other things also helps security wise; people aren't getting malware and infected with things.

On your fourth anniversary, the next laptop you get can actually be a special one. We work with a company who actually rebuilds the Apple cases. So instead of the glowing Apple logo, it's got a glowing WordPress logo. So that's kind of an honorary or signatory of people who've been with Automattic for more than four years, they have these WordPress laptops.

It's a little tricky and it's expensive, which is why we don't do it for everyone. I think a lot--because we want people to be here for a long time--what are the things we can do for people at four years, at six years, at eight years, at ten years, that can express our appreciation.

One we've talked about and joked about but haven't implemented yet, is it would be kind of neat at six years, we could reimburse a Lasik surgery because at that point we've had you staring at the computer so much your eyes are probably a little worse than what you started. I know in my own life it's been something that had a huge impact on sort of day-to-day life like not putting in contacts and wearing glasses anymore. Things like that are a little bit tricky though, because not everyone can get Lasik, there are lots of complications, but philosophically, that's the kind of thing that we are aspiring to.

A few years ago, maybe more than a few, five or six years ago, we started to do these grand meet-ups. At the beginning, they had no agenda and I think people felt like it was a waste of time. I just came all this way, and we're just sitting around chatting or arguing, or something.

So next we started doing projects at them. Okay, let's all hack on something like a hack week, and that was pretty good. But what we found is that there wasn't really a way to get to know everyone, and even at like 20 people, sometimes folks would naturally cluster.

I'm a fan of Fight Club, so we decided that there would be something that at every meet-up everyone would present something. It could be on any topic in the world, but the rule is you have to do it. Actually, everyone has to do it, not just if it's your first time like in Fight Club.

So that was how the flash talks started, and topics have ranged from every imaginable thing, from aerobics, some people talk about their kids, some people tell their life stories. It’s something I'm passionate about. I think my flash talk two years ago was about a language philosopher that I'm very into, and so it can be about anything.

Over time how they've evolved is we found this could take a lot of time. Sometimes the talks could be 45 minutes long. So what we do now is they're more flash. I believe our latest was four minutes, like hard exactly four minutes. That's it, and you can only do one.

You can listen to anything for four minutes. So even the folks who were very nervous about going up, talking for four minutes isn't that bad. If a talk is less good for whatever reason, you kind of bear through four minutes, and then there's another one.

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