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Interview With IntenseDebate Marketing Director Michael Koenig Regarding Automattic Acquisition
Earlier today, Automattic announced that they acquired blog commenting service IntenseDebate. We’ve covered IntenseDebate a number of times including a technical interview on HTMLCenter. I was able to grab a couple of minutes with marketing director Michael Koenig and he agreed to answer some questions regarding the acquisition. The conversation is below.
Allen: Were you shopping for an acquisition when Automattic came calling?
Michael: We were not actively shopping for a sale. We believe that IntenseDebate has a very solid value proposition and were quite optimistic about our chances of success in the market. The opportunity to join the Automattic team, however, clearly accelerated our ability to put IntenseDebate in front of a much wider audience. It’s not everyday that you’re given such a great opportunity for quick, large-scale growth!
Allen: What synergies do you see with being part of the Automattic family?
Michael: Our goals have always been to enhance the commenting experience and provide the tools for blog publishers to benefit from insightful comments made around their posts. Joining the Automattic team gives us the chance to quickly integrate our value with all the Automattic products like Gravatar, Akismet, and of course WordPress. We’re pumped to hop onboard and help improve life in the blogosphere on a much, much larger scale. In addition, having access to the Automattic team’s expertise in scaling is invaluable as we look to improve IntenseDebate.
Michael: All around it’s exciting times here at IntenseDebate. Joining Automattic provides us with the opportunity to put IntenseDebate in front of more eyes than ever before. You can expect more blog readers to have IntenseDebate accounts and you will be able to comment on more blogs with IntenseDebate than you can imagine! It’s the perfect time to give us a try on your blog or website.
Allen: Can you share any financial details of the transaction?
Michael: Currently we’re not disclosing this information.
Allen: Will IntenseDebate remain in Colorado or will ya’all move to the Valley?
Michael: What’s amazing about the Automattic team is that they’ve got incredible talent spread across the globe. With that in mind, pull out the push-pins and add two more to the Automattic map. Co-founder and design wizard, Isaac Keyet, will be representin’ IntenseDebate out in Sweden for the time being, while we’ll be hanging out in Boulder, Colorado. We’re extremely proud to be part of the Boulder tech community and can’t imagine being away from TechStars and the great friends we’ve made.
Allen: How do you think this positions you against competitors Disqus and JS-Kit?
Michael: Our market is moving very quickly, as are our competitors. We firmly believe IntenseDebate is a comment system that brings valuable and insightful comments out of the muck of comment spam and into the light. The Automattic deal clearly gives us the opportunity to continue this on a much larger stage and at an accelerated rate. It’s about to get even more interesting!
Allen: How long do you expect this new private beta period to last?
Michael: IntenseDebate has been put back into a private beta while we ramp up our hardware and get ready for the main stage. While it’s always tough to give an ETA on something like this, the really irritating but necessary answer is; “as long as it takes to make sure the experience is a beneficial as possible for all our users.”
Michael: While, we don’t expect it to be too long – a week, two weeks…again, our goal is to make sure the value of the user experience is paramount and superior. We will be extending a limited but growing number of invitations as we proceed. I wouldn’t be surprised if we launch our shiny new WordPress plugin when we go live!
Allen: Will IntenseDebate become integrated into the installation of self-hosted WordPress?
Michael: Certain elements of IntenseDebate will be rolled into WordPress Core, and WordPress.com. I recommend checking out Matt Mullenweg’s post IntenseDebate Goes Automattic for further details.
[My response aside, Matt comments: Going forward, the plan is to keep Intense Debate available as a platform-agnostic independent service, much like Akismet. We’ll start to integrate its features into WordPress core, WordPress.com, and Gravatar as appropriate. For example, comment threading is going to be in WordPress 2.7, but reply by email is a lot easier to implement on a hosted service like WordPress.com. We’re also going to be able to lend our expertise in scaling to the ID team to make sure their users enjoy the same hassle-free speed and bulletproof availability as users of other Automattic services.]
Allen: What’s next now that you are part of the Automattic family?
Michael: For all of us here, IntenseDebate is clearly our baby. We’ve always dreamt of an opportunity like this. Our goal now at IntenseDebate is clearly to maximise the value that we can provide across the entire spectrum of the Automattic offerings. I know that Jon and Isaac are blown away by the thought that something they created and worked on tirelessly now has the potential to reach millions of people – as are Tom, Austin and I. It’s pretty wild!
So what’s next? This is just the beginning. IntenseDebate is about to get way more intense!