Spurning purchase offers, Automattic raises round and partners with NYT

wordpresscomlogo0122081.pngAutomattic, the company that owns the popular WordPress blogging software platform, has raised $29.5 million from existing investors and a new partner, the New York Times. Some companies had offered to buy it, founder Matt Mullenweg writes.

The San Francisco company started out as an open source code project at WordPress.org, which provided software that anyone could download and then host on their own server (what VentureBeat currently uses). More recently, it also began offering free blog hosting at WordPress.com (which VentureBeat is planning to switch to), where it also sells a set of premium web services, such as Akismet, its spam-blocking software.

Om Malik has the scoop, including more details on the San Francisco company’s growth over the years.

Today, WordPress hosts 2.2 million blogs today. Paying WordPress customers include CNN, Fortune, Fox and the New York Times.

Automattic had a big year in 2007: 1.8 million new registered users joined WordPress.com, 25 million posts were created, and it grew to reach over 100 million unique users worldwide. Meanwhile, the open source WordPress.com code has been downloaded 5,880,790 since Automattic started, with 3,852,554 downloads in the past year alone, Mullenweg writes.

The New York Times partnership, besides the investment, includes a plan for the Times to expand its “existing blogging infrastructure” and “create new ways of connecting WordPress bloggers with the New York Times and its readers,” Automattic chief executive Toni Schneider writes.

The company plans to continue improving its anti-spam service and build out its wiki and forum features.

Automattic also won two Crunchies on Friday — awards that a few other blogs and ourselves gave to startups: They included “most likely to succeed” as well as “Best startup CEO” for Schneider.

The financing was led by existing investors Polaris Venture Partners, True Ventures, and Radar Partners.