WordPress.com parent Automattic raises $300 million from Salesforce at a $3 billion valuation


Automattic, the company best known for WordPress.com and its contributions to the open source, non-hosted WordPress alternative, has raised $300 million in a series D round of funding from Salesforce’s venture capital (VC) arm Salesforce Ventures.

This is Automattic’s first outside investment since its $160 million series C round back in 2014, which valued the company at $1.16 billion. Off the back of its latest investment, Automattic said it now has a valuation of $3 billion.

Founded in 2005, Automattic offers a range of tools and services beyond its core WordPress.com offering, including Tumblr, which it bought a few months back, long-form content platform Longreads, note-taking app Simplenote, a drag-and-drop file-sharing platform called CloudUp, a collaborative translation tool called GlotPress, and a survey-creating platform called Crowdsignal (formerly PollDaddy).

While neither Salesforce nor Automattic have provided details of any planned integrations or product alignment between their respective services, Automattic did confirm that today’s news represents more than funding. “We’ll be working with each other to explore possible opportunities beyond the investment,” a spokesperson told VentureBeat.

Reading between the lines, it’s not hard to see why Salesforce would invest such a gargantuan sum in a company best known for blogging. WordPress currently powers one-third of the web, which includes everything from small-time bloggers to publishers and online retailers. And several products in Automattic’s arsenal hint at the reasons Salesforce has elected to invest in the company.

Customer management

A few months back, Automattic acquired ZBS CRM, which is a customer relationship management (CRM) plugin for WordPress — the duo previously announced plans to integrate ZBS CRM deeper into WordPress. Automattic also operates an ecommerce plugin called WooCommerce, which it acquired four years ago. Online retailers using WordPress and WooCommerce will likely want to use a CRM system to keep track of their customers, which is why ZBS CRM already offers extensions that enable WooCommerce users to connect their online store to a CRM.

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Moreover, several third-party plugins bridge Salesforce and websites built on WordPress software.

It’s clear there is a great deal of value in integrating CRM systems with WordPress websites, and Salesforce is the biggest CRM player in the game. Salesforce also has a track record in the open source realm, most recently open-sourcing its Lightning Web Components JavaScript framework. Given the open and extensible nature of WordPress on the web, the companies seem like a good fit.

“Through Salesforce’s investment and partnership with Automattic, we look forward to deepening our commitment to WordPress and the open web,” said Salesforce president and chief product officer Bret Taylor in a press release.

From Automattic’s perspective, the fresh cash injection will help it “scale its business” and grow its own investments across the WordPress ecosystem, including WordPress.com, WooCommerce, Jetpack, Tumblr, and the premium WordPress VIP offering.

“I met Marc Benioff (Salesforce CEO and cofounder) earlier this year, and it became obvious to both of us that Salesforce and Automattic shared a lot of principles and philosophies,” added Automattic CEO and WordPress co-creator Matt Mullenweg in a personal blog post. “Marc is a mindful leader, and his sensibilities and sense of purpose feel well aligned with our own mission to make the web a better place. He also helped open my eyes to the incredible traction WordPress and WP VIP has seen in the enterprise market, and how much potential there still is there.”

Today’s announcement comes several months after Automattic introduced a new suite of products called Happy Tools, designed for companies with a remote or globally distributed workforce. Indeed, these tools were created in-house for companies that operate much like Automattic, which has no centralized office and claims more than 900 employees working across 71 countries.

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“The Salesforce funding is also a vote of confidence for the future of work,” Mullenweg continued. “Distributed work is going to reshape how we spread opportunity more equitably around the world.”

With its latest round, Automatic has now raised more than $600 million, with previous investors including True Ventures, Tiger Global Management, Insight Partners, and Iconiq Capital.

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