Influence in open-source development communities is earned through years of writing and sharing great code. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, influence in the business side of open source is also gained through sharing expertise, and not necessarily from making mountains of cash.
At least, that's the lesson I take away from MindTouch's inaugural survey of 50 open-source business executives. MindTouch, an open-source collaboration company, has spent the last few months surveying executives within the commercial open-source community, asking them to name the most influential people within the commercial open-source ecosystem.
The result is effectively an all-star list of open-source business executives. The top five are as follows:
- Larry Augustin, CEO, SugarCRM
- Matt Asay, vice president of business development, Alfresco (and fellow CNET blogger)
- Mårten Mickos, entrepreneur-in-residence, Benchmark Capital, and former CEO, MySQL
- Jim Whitehurst, CEO, Red Hat
- Dries Buytaert, co-founder and CTO, Acquia
As part of MindTouch’s 2009 open source best practices research, we asked C and VP level Open Source Executives who they thought are the most influential people in the industry today. Over 50 votes from Executives in Europe and North America were cast to determine the 2009 edition (note: they could not vote for anyone in their own company). What makes this list remarkable is that industry insiders were the judges.
There were a few surprises from outside of the open source industry. For instance, Steve Ballmer was voted in because of his negative remarks on the open source industry and its subsequent positive impact. Vivek Kundra was voted in because of his contributions to the industry inside the US Federal Government (in fact the Whitehouse.gov site was revamped with open source software). Notably absent however are any influential women.
This list of the top influential Executives of the 2009 is ranked by the effect these individuals have had on the open source industry. Not all are recognizable, but these leaders are the movers, shakers and thought leaders of the open source industry. Want to know the future direction of open source? Just ask a few of the people on this list.
|Larry Augustin is CEO of SugarCRM. One of the group who coined the term “Open Source”, he has written and spoken extensively on Open Source worldwide. In 1993 he founded VA Linux (now SourceForge, NASDAQ:LNUX), where he served as CEO until August 2002. While CEO he launched SourceForge.net and led the company through an IPO in 1999.|
|Matt Asay has been involved with open source since 1998, and is one of the industry’s leading open source business strategists. Asay currently manages sales and business development activities in the Americas for Alfresco. Asay also writes a very influential open source blog on CNET.|
|Mårten Gustaf Mickos was chief executive officer (CEO) of MySQL AB. He served as chief executive officer from January 2001 to February 2008, when Sun bought MySQL AB. He served as senior vice president of the database group at Sun Microsystems until February 2009. In February 2008 he was announced as member of the board of Mozilla Messaging, in May 2009, he also joined the board of directors at RightScale. In September 2009 venture capital firm Benchmark Capital hired Mickos as their Entrepreneur In Residence.|
|Jim Whitehurst was named President and Chief Executive Officer of Red Hat in December 2007. Whitehurst joined Delta Air Lines in 2002, serving in various roles, most recently as Chief Operating Officer, responsible for Operations, Sales and Customer Service, Network and Revenue Management, Marketing and Corporate Strategy. Prior to joining Delta, Whitehurst served as Vice President and Director of The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and held various leadership roles in their Chicago, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Atlanta offices.|
|Dries Buytaert created Drupal in 2001 and has led the software project ever since. He has guided it through rapid growth and to widespread acclaim. Dries is able to motivate the burgeoning community of users and developers by communicating ‘the big picture’ while paying careful and measured attention to the technical details essential to good software development. These two factors have been crucial to Drupal’s popularity and success to date.|
|Mark Radcliffe||DLA Piper||Mark Shuttleworth||Ubuntu Project|
|Andrew Aitken||Olliance Group||Rod Johnson||SpringSource|
|Marc Fleury||Retired (JBoss)||Scott Mcnealy||Sun Microsystems|
The full list is available here.
The common theme running through these top-five vote getters is how open they've been with their peers. Larry Augustin sits on several boards of open-source companies, but he also frequently speaks at industry events and has been involved in open source from its inception.
Matt Asay, my friend and fellow CNET blogger, sits on more than 10 open-source advisory boards, chairs the Open Source Business Conference, hosts an informal get-together every year (called Open Source Goat Rodeo--don't ask why), blogs at an unhealthy rate for CNET on open source, and has actively helped a range of aspiring open-source entrepreneurs understand the mechanics of running an open-source business.
Mårten Mickos made the world safe for the $1 billion open-source acquisition, but he has also traveled the globe speaking at open-source events and is very generous with his time, sharing know-how and best practices with other open-source executives.
Jim Whitehurst, breaking the typical Red Hat mold, has been active in industry events, has hosted a range of dinners and other small-scale, intimate events with open-source executives. He is amazingly accessible, given that he has a fast-growing open-source company to run. It's unfortunate that Whitehurst is the only Red Hat executive to make the list; Red Hat should follow his lead and be more permeable to its peers. Its influence would grow accordingly, just as Whitehurst's has.
Finally, there's Dries Buytaert, who blogs frequently on his project, Drupal, but also regularly attends and speaks at industry events. He has also been active behind the scenes, working with other open-source companies to share information on how to optimize community development.
Open-source code becomes valuable when you give it away. The same holds true for open-source business expertise. There are individuals who have made more money than these with open-source software, but in terms of influence, the more you share, the more influential you become.
What do you think? Who else should be on the list? Who influences you?