Mullenweg and Little initially developed WordPress by forking the b2 codebase using both PHP and MySQL languages as a personal blogging system. It was released publicly on May 27, 2003, and enjoyed a slow but steady stream of downloads initially. However, the popularity of WordPress as a viable blogging platform soared due to the radical licensing changes of its competitor Movable Type.
In 2004, Mullenweg joined CNET to work on WordPress as a way to publish media content for the network. In 2005, the WordPress team released the WordPress v1.5 “Strayhorn” which offered a significantly upgraded themes facility and quickly posted over 900,000 downloads. Mullenweg left CNET in 2005 to work on WordPress full-time.
After leaving CNET, Mullenweg began developing Akismet – a spam filtration tool to address the rising cases of spam blogs on WordPress. In August of the same year, he also founded Automattic which he announced would be the principal company that would work on Akismet and WordPress. In April 2007, the company raised approximately $1.1 million in its first round of funding led by Polaris Venture Partners, True Ventures, Radar Partners, and CNET. In January 2008, the company raised an additional $29.5 million in a second venture capital round led again by Polaris Venture Partners, True Ventures, Radar Partners, and the New York Times.
By 2009, WordPress was one of the most popular blogging sites in the world hosting over 15,000 new blog posts daily, second only to Google’s Blogger service. In July 2011, the TNW reported that it had hosted over 50 million blogs and was powering over 14 % of websites globally. In May 2014, WordPress raised another $160 million in a third funding round led by Insight Venture Partners, thus valuing the company at nearly $1.6 billion.
In September 2019, Automattic raised nearly $300 million in its Series D Venture Capital round led by Salesforce Ventures, soaring its valuation past $3 billion. By then, WordPress was the most popular content management system in the world, powering over 40% of websites globally.
Automattic’s current valuation stands at nearly $7.5 billion after raising approximately $288 million in its latest round of funding in August 2021.