By now you’ve likely heard today’s announcement that Toni Schneider is stepping down as CEO and Matt Mullenweg is becoming CEO of Automattic. It’s an inspiring example of how one amazing person (Toni) passes the baton to another (Matt). Toni is taking on a product role within Automattic, it’s something he’s talked about for a few years. Matt, who founded Automattic in 2005, is stepping up to take on the role of CEO. Together they’ve quietly done beautiful work, building Automattic into a billion dollar company in which over 20% of the worlds leading websites publish daily.
In events like this so many of us are searching for a newsworthy back story of what happened but in this case, it’s just a deeply talented entrepreneur/ CEO wanting to change their role and a Founder being ready to lead the company he started. It’s something that Toni and Matt have prepared for the past few years. It’s inspiring to see them proactively evolve their roles in a way that makes sense for them personally, for Automattic and for all of us that have been privileged to be a part of a magical partnership – just check out the above photo from the 2008 Crunchies when Automattic was named the Startup Most Likely to Succeed and Toni was named Best Startup CEO.
I first met Toni in Stinson Beach in the summer of 2003. He had just joined the uber hip team at Oddpost as their CEO and a few months later I led their first and only investment round. Oddpost was acquired shortly thereafter by Yahoo! but Toni and I kept exploring new ideas around self publishing that we could work on together. We eventually co-founded Sphere (acquired by AOL a few years later) and we simultaneously joined the founding team of True Ventures. He is an amazing friend, CEO and partner. Without Toni, I never would’ve had the courage to found Sphere but he made me believe I could do it and then we did. There is no one I trust and respect more in our community of entrepreneurs.
Around the same time, I met Matt via an email introduction from Om, he was 19 and living in Houston. He was the key person behind the open source community building WordPress. We had a number of phone calls and when he moved to SF in late 2004, we finally met in person. I was blown away by his intelligence, manner and vision for democratizing the world of publishing. My relationship with Matt is as meaningful as any in my life. In our 10 years of knowing each other, we’ve been each other’s partner, mentor and friend.
Little did I know how much meeting Matt & Toni would impact my life. Thank you fellas and congratulations on taking an important step into the future and for providing us all a powerful example of how to navigate change.