Arsenal using Drupal

As a Belgian sports fan, I will always be a loyal to the Belgium National Football Team. However, I am willing to extend my allegiance to Arsenal F.C. because they recently launched their new site in Drupal 8! As one of the most successful teams of England's Premier League, Arsenal has been lacing up for over 130 years. On the new Drupal 8 site, Arsenal fans can access news, club history, ticket services, and live match results. This is also a great example of collaboration with two Drupal companies working together - Inviqa in the UK and Phase2 in the US. If you want to see Drupal 8 on Arsenal's roster, check out https://www.arsenal.com!

Arsenal

The reason why Acquia supports Net Neutrality

If you visit Acquia's homepage today, you will be greeted by this banner:

Acquia supports net neutrality

We've published this banner in solidarity with the hundreds of companies who are voicing their support of net neutrality.

Net neutrality regulations ensure that web users are free to enjoy whatever sites they choose without interference from Internet Service Providers (ISPs). These protections establish an open web where people can explore and express their ideas. Under the current administration, the U.S. Federal Communications Commision favors less-strict regulation of net neutrality, which could drastically alter the way that people experience and access the web. Today, Acquia is joining the ranks of companies like Amazon, Atlassian, Netflix and Vimeo to advocate for strong net neutrality regulations.

Why the FCC wants to soften net neutrality regulations

In 2015, the United States implemented strong protections favoring net neutrality after ISPs were classified as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. This classification catalogs broadband as an "essential communication service", which means that services are to be delivered equitably and costs kept reasonable. Title II was the same classification granted to telcos decades ago to ensure consumers had fair access to phone service. Today, the Title II classification of ISPs protects the open internet by making paid prioritization, blocking or throttling of traffic unlawful.

The issue of net neutrality is coming under scrutiny since to the appointment of Ajit Pai as the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Pai favors less regulation and has suggested that the net neutrality laws of 2015 impede the ISP market. He argues that while people may support net neutrality, the market requires more competition to establish faster and cheaper access to the Internet. Pai believes that net neutrality regulations have the potential to curb investment in innovation and could heighten the digital divide. As FCC Chairman, Pai wants to reclassify broadband services under less-restrictive regulations and to eliminate definitive protections for the open internet.

In May 2017, the three members of the Federal Communications Commission voted 2-1 to advance a plan to remove Title II classification from broadband services. That vote launched a public comment period, which is open until mid August. After this period the commission will take a final vote.

Why net neutrality protections are good

I strongly disagree with Pai's proposed reclassification of net neutrality. Without net neutrality, ISPs can determine how users access websites, applications and other digital content. Today, both the free flow of information, and exchange of ideas benefit from 'open highways'. Net neutrality regulations ensure equal access at the point of delivery, and promote what I believe to be the fairest competition for content and service providers.

If the FCC rolls back net neutrality protections, ISPs would be free to charge site owners for priority service. This goes directly against the idea of an open web, which guarantees a unfettered and decentralized platform to share and access information. There are many challenges in maintaining an open web, including "walled gardens" like Facebook and Google. We call them "walled gardens" because they control the applications, content and media on their platform. While these closed web providers have accelerated access and adoption of the web, they also raise concerns around content control and privacy. Issues of net neutrality contribute a similar challenge.

When certain websites have degraded performance because they can't afford the premiums asked by ISPs, it affects how we explore and express ideas online. Not only does it drive up the cost of maintaining a website, but it undermines the internet as an open space where people can explore and express their ideas. It creates a class system that puts smaller sites or less funded organizations at a disadvantage. Dismantling net neutrality regulations raises the barrier for entry when sharing information on the web as ISPs would control what we see and do online. Congruent with the challenge of "walled gardens", when too few organizations control the media and flow of information, we must be concerned.

In the end, net neutrality affects how people, including you and me, experience the web. The internet's vast growth is largely a result of its openness. Contrary to Pai's reasoning, the open web has cultivated creativity, spawned new industries, and protects the free expression of ideas. At Acquia, we believe in supporting choice, competition and free speech on the internet. The "light touch" regulations now proposed by the FCC may threaten that very foundation.

What you can do today

If you're also concerned about the future of net neutrality, you can share your comments with the FCC and the U.S. Congress (it will only take you a minute!). You can do so through Fight for the Future, who organized today's day of action. The 2015 ruling that classified broadband service under Title II came after the FCC received more than 4 million comments on the topic, so let your voice be heard.

Acquia's first decade: the founding story

This week marked Acquia's 10th anniversary. In 2007, Jay Batson and I set out to build a software company based on open source and Drupal that we would come to call Acquia. In honor of our tenth anniversary, I wanted to share some of the milestones and lessons that have helped shape Acquia into the company it is today. I haven't shared these details before so I hope that my record of Acquia's founding not only pays homage to our incredible colleagues, customers and partners that have made this journey worthwhile, but that it offers honest insight into the challenges and rewards of building a company from the ground up. If you like this story, I also encourage you to read Jay's side of story.

A Red Hat for Drupal

In 2007, I was attending the University of Ghent working on my PhD dissertation. At the same time, Drupal was gaining momentum; I will never forget when MTV called me seeking support for their new Drupal site. I remember being amazed that a brand like MTV, an institution I had grown up with, had selected Drupal for their website. I was determined to make Drupal successful and helped MTV free of charge.

It became clear that for Drupal to grow, it needed a company focused on helping large organizations like MTV be successful with the software. A "Red Hat for Drupal", as it were. I also noticed that other open source projects, such as Linux had benefitted from well-capitalized backers like Red Hat and IBM. While I knew I wanted to start such a company, I had not yet figured out how. I wanted to complete my PhD first before pursuing business. Due to the limited time and resources afforded to a graduate student, Drupal remained a hobby.

Little did I know that at the same time, over 3,000 miles away, Jay Batson was skimming through a WWII Navajo Code Talker Dictionary. Jay was stationed as an Entrepreneur in Residence at North Bridge Venture Partners, a venture capital firm based in Boston. Passionate about open source, Jay realized there was an opportunity to build a company that provided customers with the services necessary to scale and succeed with open source software. We were fortunate that Michael Skok, a Venture Partner at North Bridge and Jay's sponsor, was working closely with Jay to evaluate hundreds of open source software projects. In the end, Jay narrowed his efforts to Drupal and Apache Solr.

If you're curious as to how the Navajo Code Talker Dictionary fits into all of this, it's how Jay stumbled upon the name Acquia. Roughly translating as "to spot or locate", Acquia was the closest concept in the dictionary that reinforced the ideals of information and content that are intrinsic to Drupal (it also didn't hurt that the letter A would rank first in alphabetical listings). Finally, the similarity to the world "Aqua" paid homage to the Drupal Drop; this would eventually provide direction for Acquia's logo.

Breakfast in Sunnyvale

In March of 2007, I flew from Belgium to California to attend Yahoo's Open Source CMS Summit, where I also helped host DrupalCon Sunnyvale. It was at DrupalCon Sunnyvale where Jay first introduced himself to me. He explained that he was interested in building a company that could provide enterprise organizations supplementary services and support for a number of open source projects, including Drupal and Apache Solr. Initially, I was hesitant to meet with Jay. I was focused on getting Drupal 5 released, and I wasn't ready to start a company until I finished my PhD. Eventually I agreed to breakfast.

Over a baguette and jelly, I discovered that there was overlap between Jay's ideas and my desire to start a "Red Hat for Drupal". While I wasn't convinced that it made sense to bring Apache Solr into the equation, I liked that Jay believed in open source and that he recognized that open source projects were more likely to make a big impact when they were supported by companies that had strong commercial backing.

We spent the next few months talking about a vision for the business, eliminated Apache Solr from the plan, talked about how we could elevate the Drupal community, and how we would make money. In many ways, finding a business partner is like dating. You have to get to know each other, build trust, and see if there is a match; it's a process that doesn't happen overnight.

On June 25th, 2007, Jay filed the paperwork to incorporate Acquia and officially register the company name. We had no prospective customers, no employees, and no formal product to sell. In the summer of 2007, we received a convertible note from North Bridge. This initial seed investment gave us the capital to create a business plan, travel to pitch to other investors, and hire our first employees. Since meeting Jay in Sunnyvale, I had gotten to know Michael Skok who also became an influential mentor for me.

Wired interview
Jay and me on one of our early fundraising trips to San Francisco.

Throughout this period, I remained hesitant about committing to Acquia as I was devoted to completing my PhD. Eventually, Jay and Michael convinced me to get on board while finishing my PhD, rather than doing things sequentially.

Acquia, my Drupal startup

Soon thereafter, Acquia received a Series A term sheet from North Bridge, with Michael Skok leading the investment. We also selected Sigma Partners and Tim O'Reilly's OATV from all of the interested funds as co-investors with North Bridge; Tim had become both a friend and an advisor to me.

In many ways we were an unusual startup. Acquia itself didn't have a product to sell when we received our Series A funding. We knew our product would likely be support for Drupal, and evolve into an Acquia-equivalent of the Red Hat Network. However, neither of those things existed, and we were raising money purely on a PowerPoint deck. North Bridge, Sigma and OATV mostly invested in Jay and I, and the belief that Drupal could become a billion dollar company that would disrupt the web content management market. I'm incredibly thankful for Jay, North Bridge, Sigma and OATV for making a huge bet on me.

Receiving our Series A funding was an incredible vote of confidence in Drupal, but it was also a milestone with lots of mixed emotions. We had raised $7 million, which is not a trivial amount. While I was excited, it was also a big step into the unknown. I was convinced that Acquia would be good for Drupal and open source, but I also understood that this would have a transformative impact on my life. In the end, I felt comfortable making the jump because I found strong mentors to help translate my vision for Drupal into a business plan; Jay and Michael's tenure as entrepreneurs and business builders complimented my technical strength and enabled me to fine-tune my own business building skills.

In November 2007, we officially announced Acquia to the world. We weren't ready but a reporter had caught wind of our stealth startup, and forced us to unveil Acquia's existence to the Drupal community with only 24 hours notice. We scrambled and worked through the night on a blog post. Reactions were mixed, but generally very supportive. I shared in that first post my hopes that Acquia would accomplish two things: (i) form a company that supported me in providing leadership to the Drupal community and achieving my vision for Drupal and (ii) establish a company that would be to Drupal what Ubuntu or Red Hat were to Linux.

Acquia com march
An early version of Acquia.com, with our original logo and tagline. March 2008.

The importance of enduring values

It was at an offsite in late 2007 where we determined our corporate values. I'm proud to say that we've held true to those values that were scribbled onto our whiteboard 10 years ago. The leading tenant of our mission was to build a company that would "empower everyone to rapidly assemble killer websites".

Acquia vision

In January 2008, we had six people on staff: Gábor Hojtsy (Principal Acquia engineer, Drupal 6 branch maintainer), Kieran Lal (Acquia product manager, key Drupal contributor), Barry Jaspan (Principal Acquia engineer, Drupal core developer) and Jeff Whatcott (Vice President of Marketing). Because I was still living in Belgium at the time, many of our meetings took place screen-to-screen:

Typical work day

Opening our doors for business

We spent a majority of the first year building our first products. Finally, in September of 2008, we officially opened our doors for business. We publicly announced commercial availability of the Acquia Drupal distribution and the Acquia Network. The Acquia Network would offer subscription-based access to commercial support for all of the modules in Acquia Drupal, our free distribution of Drupal. This first product launched closely mirrored the Red Hat business model by prioritizing enterprise support.

We quickly learned that in order to truly embrace Drupal, customers would need support for far more than just Acquia Drupal. In the first week of January 2009, we relaunched our support offering and announced that we would support all things related to Drupal 6, including all modules and themes available on drupal.org as well as custom code.

This was our first major turning point; supporting "everything Drupal" was a big shift at the time. Selling support for Acquia Drupal exclusively was not appealing to customers, however, we were unsure that we could financially sustain support for every Drupal module. As a startup, you have to be open to modifying and revising your plans, and to failing fast. It was a scary transition, but we knew it was the right thing to do.

Building a new business model for open source

Exiting 2008, we had launched Acquia Drupal, the Acquia Network, and had committed to supporting all things Drupal. While we had generated a respectable pipeline for Acquia Network subscriptions, we were not addressing Drupal's biggest adoption challenges; usability and scalability.

In October of 2008, our team gathered for a strategic offsite. Tom Erickson, who was on our board of directors, facilitated the offsite. Red Hat's operational model, which primarily offered support, had laid the foundation for how companies could monetize open source, but we were convinced that the emergence of the cloud gave us a bigger opportunity and helped us address Drupal's adoption challenges. Coming out of that seminal offsite we formalized the ambitious decision to build "Acquia Gardens" and "Acquia Fields". Here is why these two products were so important:

Solving for scalability: In 2008, scaling Drupal was a challenge for many organizations. Drupal scaled well, but the infrastructure companies required to make Drupal scale well was expensive and hard to find. We determined that the best way to help enterprise companies scale was by shifting the paradigm for web hosting from traditional rack models to the then emerging promise of the Cloud.

Solving for usability: In 2008, Wordpress and Ning made it really easy for people to start blogging or to set up a social network. At the time, Drupal didn't encourage this same level of adoption for non-technical audiences. Acquia Gardens was created to offer an easy on-ramp for people to experience the power of Drupal, without worrying about installation, hosting, and upgrading. It was one of the first times we developed an operational model that would offer "Drupal-as-a-service".

Acquia roadmap

Fast forward to today, and Acquia Fields was renamed Acquia Hosting and later Acquia Cloud. Acquia Gardens became Drupal Gardens and later evolved into Acquia Cloud Site Factory. In 2008, this product roadmap to move Drupal into the cloud was a bold move. Today, the Cloud is the starting point for any modern digital architecture. By adopting the Cloud into our product offering, I believe Acquia helped establish a new business model to commercialize open source. Today, I can't think of many open source companies that don't have a cloud offering.

Tom Erickson takes a chance on Acquia

Tom joined Acquia as an advisor and a member of our Board of Directors when Acquia was founded. Since the first time I met Tom, I always wanted him to be an integral part of Acquia. It took some convincing, but Tom eventually agreed to join us full time as our CEO in 2009. Jay Batson, Acquia's founding CEO, continued on as the Vice President at Acquia responsible for incubating new products and partnerships.

Moving from Europe to the United States

In 2010, after spending my entire life in Antwerp, I decided to move to Boston. The move would allow me to be closer to the team. A majority of the company was in Massachusetts, and at the pace we were growing, it was getting harder to help execute our vision all the way from Belgium. I was also hoping to cut down on travel time; in 2009 flew 100,000 miles in just one year (little did I know that come 2016, I'd be flying 250,00 miles!).

This is a challenge that many entrepreneurs face when they commit to starting their own company. Initially, I was only planning on staying on the East Coast for two years. Moving 3,500 miles away from your home town, most of your relatives, and many of your best friends is not an easy choice. However, it was important to increase our chances of success, and relocating to Boston felt essential. My experience of moving to the US had a big impact on my life.

Building the universal platform for the world's greatest digital experiences

Entering 2010, I remember feeling that Acquia was really 3 startups in one; our support business (Acquia Network, which was very similar to Red Hat's business model), our managed cloud hosting business (Acquia Cloud) and Drupal Gardens (a WordPress.com based on Drupal). Welcoming Tom as our CEO would allow us to best execute on this offering, and moving to Boston enabled me to partner with Tom directly. It was during this transformational time that I think we truly transitioned out of our "founding period" and began to emulate the company I know today.

The decisions we made early in the company's life, have proven to be correct. The world has embraced open source and cloud without reservation, and our long-term commitment to this disruptive combination has put us at the right place at the right time. Acquia has grown into a company with over 800 employees around the world; in total, we have 14 offices around the globe, including our headquarters in Boston. We also support an incredible roster of customers, including 16 of the Fortune 100 companies. Our work continues to be endorsed by industry analysts, as we have emerged as a true leader in our market. Over the past ten years I've had the privilege of watching Acquia grow from a small startup to a company that has crossed the chasm.

With a decade behind us, and many lessons learned, we are on the cusp of yet another big shift that is as important as the decision we made to launch Acquia Field and Gardens in 2008. In 2016, I led the project to update Acquia's mission to "build the universal platform for the world's greatest digital experiences". This means expanding our focus, and becoming the leader in building digital customer experiences. Just like I openly shared our roadmap and strategy in 2009, I plan to share our next 10 year plan in the near future. It's time for Acquia to lay down the ambitious foundation that will enable us to be at the forefront of innovation and digital experience in 2027.

A big thank you

Of course, none of these results and milestones would be possible without the hard work of the Acquia team, our customers, partners, the Drupal community, and our many friends. Thank you for all your hard work. After 10 years, I continue to love the work I do at Acquia each day — and that is because of you.

Our quest to see the Northern Lights

In February we spent a weekend in the Arctic Circle hoping to see the northern lights. I've been so busy, I only now got around to writing about it.

We decided to travel to Nellim for an action-packed weekend with outdoor adventure, wood fires, reindeer and no WiFi. Nellim, is a small Finnish village, close to the Russian border and in the middle of nowhere. This place is a true winter wonderland with untouched and natural forests. On our way to the property we saw a wild reindeer eating on the side of the road. It was all very magical.

Beautiful log cabin bed

The trip was my gift to Vanessa for her 40th birthday! I reserved a private, small log cabin instead of the main lodge. The log cabin itself was really nice; even the bed was made of logs with two bear heads carved into it. Vanessa called them Charcoal and Smokey. To stay warm we made fires and enjoyed our sauna.

Dog sledding
Dog sledding
Dog sledding

One day we went dog sledding. As with all animals it seems, Vanessa quickly named them all; Marshmallow, Brownie, Snickers, Midnight, Blondie and Foxy. The dogs were so excited to run! After 3 hours of dog sledding in -30 C (-22 F) weather we stopped to warm up and eat; we made salmon soup in a small make-shift shelter that was similar to a tepee. The tepee had a small opening at the top and there was no heat or electricity.

The salmon soup was made over a fire, and we were skeptical at first how this would taste. The soup turned out to be delicious and even reminded us of the clam chowder that we have come to enjoy in Boston. We've since remade this soup at home and the boys also enjoy it. Not that this blog will turn into a recipe blog, but I plan to publish the recipe with photos at some point.

Tippy by night
Campfire in the snow

At night we would go out on "aurora hunts". The first night by reindeer sled, the second night using snowshoes, and the third night by snowmobile. To stay warm, we built fires either in tepees or in the snow and drank warm berry juice.

Reindeer sledding
Reindeer sledding

While the untouched land is beautiful, they definitely try to live off the land. The Fins have an abundance of berries, mushrooms, reindeer and fish. We gladly admit we enjoyed our reindeer sled rides, as well as eating reindeer. We had fresh mushroom soup made out of hand-picked mushrooms. And every evening there was an abundance of fresh fish and reindeer offered for dinner. We also discovered a new gin, Napue, made from cranberries and birch leaves.

In the end, we didn't see the Northern Lights. We had a great trip, and seeing them would have been the icing on the cake. It just means that we'll have to come back another time.

From imagination to (augmented) reality in 48 hours

Every spring, members of Acquia's Product, Engineering and DevOps teams gather at our Boston headquarters for "Build Week". Build Week gives our global team the opportunity to meet face-to-face, to discuss our product strategy and roadmap, to make plans, and to collaborate on projects.

One of the highlights of Build Week is our annual Hackathon; more than 20 teams of 4-8 people are given 48 hours to develop any project of their choosing. There are no restrictions on the technology or solutions that a team can utilize. Projects ranged from an Amazon Dash Button that spins up a new Acquia Cloud environment with one click, to a Drupal module that allows users to visually build page layouts, or a proposed security solution that would automate pen testing against Drupal sites.

This year's projects were judged on innovation, ship-ability, technical accomplishment and flair. The winning project, Lift HoloDeck, was particularly exciting because it showcases an ambitious digital experience that is possible with Acquia and Drupal today. The Lift Holodeck takes a physical experience and amplifies it with a digital one using augmented reality. The team built a mobile application that superimposes product information and smart notifications over real-life objects that are detected on a user's smartphone screen. It enables customers to interact with brands in new ways that improve a customer's experience.

Lift holodeck banner

At the hackathon, the Lift HoloDeck Team showed how augmented reality can change how both online and physical storefronts interact with their consumers. In their presentation, they followed a customer, Neil, as he used the mobile application to inform his purchases in a coffee shop and clothing store. When Neil entered his favorite coffee shop, he held up his phone to the posted “deal of the day”. The Lift HoloDeck application superimposes nutrition facts, directions on how to order, and product information on top of the beverage. Neil contemplated the nutrition facts before ordering his preferred drink through the Lift HoloDeck application. Shortly after, he received a notification that his order was ready for pick up. Because Acquia Lift is able to track Neil's click and purchase behavior, it is also possible for Acquia Lift to push personalized product information and offerings through the Lift HoloDeck application.

Check out the demo video, which showcases the Lift HoloDeck prototype:

The Lift HoloDeck prototype is exciting because it was built in less than 48 hours and uses technology that is commercially available today. The Lift HoloDeck experience was powered by Unity (a 3D game engine), Vuforia (an augmented reality library), Acquia Lift (a personalization engine) and Drupal as a content store.

The Lift HoloDeck prototype is a great example of how an organization can use Acquia and Drupal to support new user experiences and distribution platforms that engage customers in captivating ways. It's incredible to see our talented teams at Acquia develop such an innovative project in under 48 hours; especially one that could help reshape how customers interact with their favorite brands.

Congratulations to the entire Lift HoloDeck team; Ted Ottey, Robert Burden, Chris Nagy, Emily Feng, Neil O'Donnell, Stephen Smith, Roderik Muit, Rob Marchetti and Yuan Xie.