Automattic, the WordPress parent, acquires Maine's BruteProtect

Automattic has acquired Maine’s BruteProtect for an undisclosed sum

Automattic, owner of the popular WordPress website platform, has acquired a Bath-based web development startup that’s been around less than two years.

It was in April 2013 that Sam Hotchkiss, a web developer who lives in Brunswick, locked himself in his basement with an idea for a security plug-in for the WordPress platform, which is used by millions of website owners around the world (including this one). After 18 hours of coding, he emerged with a plug-in he named BruteProtect and the API to support it, according to a blog post he published Tuesday.

Sixteen months later, Hotchkiss and his team (five, including himself, are in Maine) had grown BruteProtect into a popular plug-in that protects websites from brute-force attacks, a method designed to crack a victim’s password by trying every possible combination of characters one by one. To date, BruteProtect has been installed on 110,000 websites around the world and has defended against nearly 140.3 million brute-force attacks. In February, he formed Parka LLC as the parent company of BruteProtect. Its office is in Bath, but its employees are spread around New England, with one employee in Portland, two in Westbrook and a couple in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Hotchkiss said.

Parka’s acquisition by Automattic closed on Friday, Hotchkiss told me Tuesday afternoon. Details of the acquisition are not being released.

“It has been a whirlwind to say the least,” said Hotchkiss, who moved to Maine in 2012.

Automattic will fold the BruteProtect plug-in into its existing Jetpack product, which bundles WordPress plug-ins for users.

Matt Mullenweg, a founding developer of WordPress and CEO of Automattic, announced the acquisition in a separate post on the Jetpack blog.

“The BruteProtect team … (are) long-time contributors to the WordPress community,” Mullenweg wrote. “We’re excited to see them join forces with the Jetpack team and up the level of security, protection, and peace of mind we’ll be able to bring to the millions of sites already using Jetpack.”

Hotchkiss initially approached Mullenweg about investing in the company. That conversation apparently led to more than an investment.

“We were looking to raise our second round of capital,” Hotchkiss said. “We’d done a seed round and were looking to do a larger angel round and reached out to Matt.”

The initial seed round Hotchkiss mentioned consisted of a single investor in San Diego, whom Hotchkiss declined to name.

Hotchkiss didn’t hesitate when Mullenweg offered to buy the company.

“From the beginning, we felt this was a plug-in that belonged on as many sites as possible. There’s no company out there that could give us that level of reach,” he said, referring to Automattic.

All seven of Parka’s employees are joining Automattic, Hotchkiss said. Besides Hotchkiss, the Maine team includes his wife Becky, Stephen Quirk, Rocco Tripaldi and Derek Smart.

Here’s something interesting: Automattic, an office-less company, already has three employees in Maine, enough to give the Pine Tree State the distinction of having the highest number of Automattic employees per capita in the country, Hotchkiss said. The addition of Parka will grow the number of Automattic employees in Maine to eight.

Hotchkiss, a relative newcomer to the state, was pleasantly surprised by Maine’s startup community.

“We’ve been so impressed with the tech community here in Maine,” Hotchkiss said. “It’s been a pretty cool experience over the last couple years, and the ability to find talent here locally as well has been pretty awesome.”