Drupal Founder Earns $7 Million in VC Funding

AcquiaFinally it looks like we may have an answer to the question I posed last year: can Joomla or Drupal produce a RedHat?

Drupal’s founder Dries Buytaert has launched a new company called Acquia that has picked up $7 million in venture capital funding. (Apparently the new name is meant to refer to “aqua” and Drupal’s original meaning of “drop of water”).

What Will the New Company Do?

In short their aim is to:

build a company that develops a number of Drupal distributions and that offers electronic services that make Drupal easier to use and manage.

The longer version is that they have four goals:

  • First, to increase the number of people using Drupal by a factor of at least 10, if not more, in the next several years.
  • Second, to invest focused attention on the software to make sure it fulfills its potential.
  • Third, to build a company that respects the community, the Drupal way of doing things, and that (at the same time) can be a big commercial success.
  • And finally, to build products and services that lots and lots of Drupal users will want – in order to build a successful company. We can only continue to do more and more for Drupal if we’re making money. If we build stuff you want, we’ll grow, which will help us invest more in Drupal. We hope it becomes a virtuous cycle.

In practical terms, the company will do things such as open a Drupal technical assistance center and build its own equivalent of Red Hat’s Linux network, which the older company uses for jobs like distributing automatic updates and upgrades.

Is This Good News for Drupal?

Quite possibly. A move like this is far from unusual in the CMS world. In fact, its almost the norm nowadays for Open Source projects to be backed by a commercial company. Moodle, Open Ads and Open CMS are just three examples. Could Joomla go down the same route? With the project’s current legal setup its unlikely, but theres nothing stop a company close related to the project, manned by core team members or prominent developers, moving into similar V.C. territory. Watch this space …

However, not everyone is convinced that this is a move without major risks. A long thread has thrashed out the issues on the Drupal forums and CMSWatch commented that:

“large raucous communities don’t always cotton to even the hint of one of their members assuming a leadership mantle (or oversized share of profits) out of the blue. It’s one thing when a commercial company founds a project (c.f., Zope or Alfresco) and then has to negotiate the reins with the community they fervently hoped would join the project. It’s quite another for a highly distributed community to ingest a sizable commercial firm without feathers getting ruffled. I won’t go out on a limb and predict the kind of turmoil and forks that befell Mambo and threaten Joomla! even today. But if you have staked your website, or even your start-up, on Drupal, you’ll want to watch your interests very closely as this unfolds.”

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