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A number of concerns have been voiced from the community about the substantial growth Acquia has achieved since its inception, the number of key contributors who are now employed by Acquia, and the subsequent influence that this allows Acquia to have on the project.
While some of these concerns have validity, I also think there is also a fair share of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) being spread. So, let's clear up a few points.
In terms of growth, Acquia currently employs about 150 people. However, fewer than half of Acquia's employees work directly with Drupal; the majority of Acquians work in sales, marketing, hosting operations, finance, HR, etc. In a way, this makes us smaller than Phase2, Node One, Forum One, Propeople, Capgemini, and dozens of other shops in terms of Drupal staff. We have a different mix than most other Drupal shops.
In terms of influence, Acquia employs fewer than 10% of the contributors to Drupal core. Admittedly, on a "per Drupalist" basis, Acquia probably contributes significantly more code and magnitudes more dollars to the Drupal community than any other organization. We are investing in expanding the Drupal community through major learning initiatives. We sponsor more DrupalCamps, where new people are introduced to Drupal, than anyone. We sponsor more interns than perhaps the rest of the community combined, where high school and university students learn how to build a career in Drupal. Not to mention we contribute a lot of code.
I like to believe that is a great thing for Drupal and that not doing so would be a big loss for all of us.
It certainly helps to have venture capital money when making investments in the community, but it is not a magic bullet either. It is not free money. I've explicitly chosen to give up part of my equity in Acquia in exchange for money so that I can invest it back into the Drupal community to help Drupal advance.
I understand that my involvement with Acquia is tricky because its well-being is intertwined with Drupal's. But I help drive the decision-making process at Acquia, and I set those directions with the best interests of Drupal in mind at all times. Making Drupal successful and Drupal's well-being is my primary concern, regardless of the "hat" that I wear. We want Drupal to power as many sites as possible, both small and large. We want lots of Drupal entrepreneurs to thrive in a growing ecosystem. If you look at Acquia's actions, you'll see tons of contributions here. We sponsor DrupalCamps and DrupalCons, and pay employees to improve Drupal modules and themes.
Recently, our acquisitions of Cyrve and GVS have been a topic of debate. I'd like to point out that acquisitions are a two-way street: they don't happen unless both parties are really excited about it. Contributors come to Acquia for different reasons. Sometimes they would rather hand things like business development, sales, and support off to someone more set up for that, so they can stay focused on doing things they really enjoy. Others thrive more in a larger team of smart people working on interesting things, rather than toiling away on their own. Still others have put in huge amounts of their own personal time over a sustained period to help improve Drupal, often at great personal sacrifice, and are looking for an arrangement that makes this commitment to the project more sustainable. Painting these contributors as "bad guys", or the company who allows them to pursue a career that they love as "bad guys", is not healthy for our community, or the individuals involved.
The clear solution to the influence concern is to grow our community, particularly our contributor community. If more individuals and Drupal shops are contributing in a bigger way, this mitigates the risks of any organization, Acquia or otherwise, from exerting too much influence on the overall project.
So as a community, we need to re-frame this question. We need to be asking ourselves: (1) What can we do to grow the community? (2) Why aren't more people who depend on Drupal contributing to it? and (3) How can we encourage Drupal shops to contribute back?
As followers of this blog, you might have read that Acquia acquired two Drupal companies; security specialist Growing Venture Solutions and migration expert Cyrve. We wanted to do these acquisitions because they create a win-win-win situation; it is beneficial for the Drupal community, our partners and our customers. I personally championed and led those acquisitions so I want to take a moment to explain why.
How do these acquisitions affect Drupal?
I believe these acquisitions benefit Drupal by expanding its reach. Migration from legacy systems (like Vignette, RedDot and Interwoven) and from expensive enterprise solutions (like Jive Software, Adobe CQ5 and Sitecore) represents some of Drupal's biggest opportunities -- if not the biggest. My hope is that by acquiring and expanding Cyrve, we'll be able to bring more projects into Drupal. That leads to more site building work, more contributed module patches, and more people talking about their Drupal successes.
Similarly, Acquia's involvement in GVS gives it the resources it needs to pursue new security initiatives that will make Drupal more attractive to everybody. As always, we'll continue to return many developments to the community.
How do these acquisitions affect Acquia's customers?
Acquia's customer base has been growing rapidly, both in number and size. We plan to use these acquisitions to provide our customers with more product options and more experts. We will:
- Offer automated, self-service security tools as part of the Acquia Network.
- Integrate the services of both companies into our Professional Services group. We'll be expanding our security and migration teams, both by training existing consultants and by bringing new employees into the fold.
- Incorporate their curricula into our existing materials so we can help train many more experts on Drupal security and Drupal migrations.
All of these are good for Acquia's customers. But they're also good for the Drupal community at large: we need more migrations and security experts in the community.
How do these acquisitions affect Acquia's partners?
Many of our partners build Drupal websites, but few have in-house security or migration expertise. With Cyrve and GVS, we can all approach joint customers with more-complete offerings. This enables our partners to go after bigger projects.
In short, I believe these acquisitions are beneficial for Drupal, our partners and our customers. However, some people have expressed concerns that, with these acquisitions, Acquia is sucking up a lot of the Drupal talent. Because that concern is not limited to these acquisitions, I've decided to address that in a separate blog post: Does Acquia suck up all the Drupal talent?.
I'm thrilled to announce that Acquia has received $15 million in its fourth round of funding -- that is about twice as much as any of our earlier rounds (series A, series B, series C). Our previous investors affirmed their confidence by participating in this round; they were joined by Tenaya Capital, which has roots in both the San Francisco Bay Area and our home turf of Boston. Tenaya brings more than money: Tenaya's Brian Paul will join our Board of Directors as well.
This is an incredibly exciting time to be at Acquia. Since the series C last November, our staff size has almost doubled, from 70 to 130. We're bursting out of our office space and will be moving to a bigger, 35,000 square feet office soon. We needed all those people to service our thousand-plus enterprise customers, and to plan for the future with new initiatives, such as Dev Cloud and the newly revised Acquia Network. We broke revenue records in Q1 and Q2 this year, following an extremely successful 2010.
Fundraising rounds usually occur either when a company is doing very well, or when it's doing very badly. When it's doing well, investors want to get in on the action to score big. When it's doing badly, current investors hope to turn it around to avoid losing everything they'd already put into it. By all measures, Acquia is doing very well, and this round of funding only confirms that. This is what is called a "growth round", with the money directed toward two objectives:
- Increase sales and marketing, particularly outside the U.S.. It's clear that there are tremendous opportunities for enterprise Drupal outside of the U.S., as our partners prove every day. We'll start by focusing on Western Europe, but are already planning expansion into Asia.
- Acquire talent and products that complement Acquia's own. These "acquia-sitions" (as we jokingly call them) will continue to beef up our staff, expand our product offerings, and respond to requests we've gotten over our three and a half years in business.
Acquia's growth is a testament to the growth of Drupal; we'll continue to give back to the Drupal community in everything what we do. Acquia wouldn't have made it this far without our customers, our partners, our employees and our friends. Thank you!
I'm tracking my work related activities because people often ask me what my days look like. For one month, I'm posting a weekly summary of my work week (e.g. Monday - Friday, not including weekend work). I'll post four summaries in total as that should give people a good sense. This is the summary of the second week. You can compare it with the summary of the first week, if you like.
|Business development||Acquia||5||Meetings with (potential) partners|
|Human resources||Acquia||2.5||Interviewing potential hires|
|Management meetings||Acquia||2.5||Weekly status meeting with updates from sales, marketing and engineering.|
|Staff meeting||Acquia||2.5||All company update meeting|
|Product / engineering management||Acquia||5||Reviewed marketing, sales and engineering progress of different Acquia products, and brainstormed about resource allocation|
|Transportation||Acquia||12||Driving to work and trip to Washington DC|
|Preparing presentation slides||Acquia||2||Gave 2 presentations that required preparation. Fortunately got some help from marketing.|
|Attending conferences||Acquia||6||Gave one keynote at a cloud event, and gave one presentation at 360info/AIIM in Washington DC|
|Blogging||Drupal||2||Wrote 3 short blog posts|
|Drupal 8 initiatives||Drupal||4||Talked to potential initiative owners for Configuration Management, HTML5 and Design|
|Drupal Association||Drupal||1||Started planning a face-to-face meeting with the Board of Directors in early May|
|Reviewing Drupal core patches||Drupal||2|
|Press interviews||Drupal||1||Did two short interviews about Open Source and online collaboration|
|Mollom||2||Helped close two large new customers|
|Product / engineering management||Mollom||1||Refined our engineering methodology and reviewed some user interface designs|
Every week, people ask me what exactly I do and how I balance my time. As such, I've decided to keep track of my work related activities and to record the time that I spent on them. The next four weeks, I'll try to post a weekly summary of my work week (e.g. Monday - Friday).
|Business development||Acquia||2||Meetings with (potential) Acquia partners|
|Human resources||Acquia||1.5||Career guiding, interviewing potential hires|
|Management meetings||Acquia||5||Strategic planning/brainstorming/review meetings with sales, marketing, engineering, etc|
|Product / engineering management||Acquia||4.5||Roadmap planning for Drupal Gardens, Acquia Cloud, Acquia Network and Drupal Commons|
|Sales meetings||Acquia||2||Meetings with (potential) Acquia customers|
|Transportation||Acquia||6.5||Driving to work and driving to meetings|
|Investor relations||Acquia||0.5||Communicating with investors|
|Attending conferences||Drupal||6||Gave one keynote at Harvard Club and one presentation at the IBM Innovation Center for IEEE/ACM|
|Blogging||Drupal||2||Processed my DrupalCon pictures and wrote 3 short blog posts|
|Drupal 8 initiatives||Drupal||3.5||Talked to potential initiative owners and read up on proposals|
|Drupal Association||Drupal||4||Drupal Association board meeting, phone calls with other Board Members, and working with Executive Director in preparation of the board meeting|
|Preparing presentation slides||Drupal||3||Gave 2 presentations that required preparation|
|Radio interview||Drupal||1||Interview with Federal News Radio to talk about Drupal in government|
|Reviewing Drupal core patches||Drupal||0.5|
|Management meetings||Mollom||1||Weekly planning/review meeting|
|Product / engineering management||Mollom||6||Reviewed the results of the last engineering sprint, and coordinated the next engineering sprint|
This week may have been slightly more busy than normal. Also, most weeks I spent more time reviewing Drupal patches -- this week most of that time went into starting up the Drupal 8 initiatives and catching up with things after DrupalCon. Other than that, this was a pretty common week.
In my Acquia 2010 retrospective, I promised to write a bit more about Acquia's product strategy. This blog post provides a high level view of the vision that we've been working towards for the last 3 years, and explains how Acquia can help simplify your web strategy.
The web: it's currently a mess
Ten years ago, the average organization had one website. Since then, doing business through the web has become more complex and have introduced a diverse set of needs. If you're like most organizations the number of sites you have is large and continues to grow at a rapid clip.
For most organizations, one tool could not historically get the job done, so they kept multiple tools in their toolbox – whether they intended to or not. The situation can be quite a mess, and is unfortunately a common scenario in many enterprises.
Each site has unique needs
Most of these sites are vastly different in terms of scale, functionality, complexity and longevity. Some sites are under continuous development while other sites are only around for a couple of weeks or months. Some of the websites are owned by the company's IT department and hosted internally, while other websites may be owned by their marketing department and hosted externally. As a result, the level of investment and the time to market requirements are usually very different.
Standardize on Drupal to save costs
CIOs – facing cost-cutting pressures and the need to streamline their resources – are now addressing the reality of running twenty different content management systems on twenty different stack configurations as an expensive, unnecessary burden for the organization. They have always known that there were cost savings to be made if they standardize on a single platform, but have never felt the confidence in a single platform to suit all of their needs across their organization.
Drupal has the required features to accomplish this today. This is more than a vision – it is reality. Every day, more organizations are standardizing on Drupal.
By standardizing on Drupal, organizations can reduce training costs, reduce maintenance costs, streamline security, and optimize internal resources – all without sacrificing quality or requirements. Standardizing on Drupal certainly doesn't mean every single system needs to be Drupal. Even going from 20 different systems to 10 or to 5 different systems still translates to dramatic cost savings. It goes without saying that you need to be smart about what makes sense to standardize on Drupal, and what not to standardize on Drupal. With our vast community of contributors, Drupal continues to become better and better and the feasibility for an organization to standardize on Drupal continues to improve over time.
Drupal distributions help adoption
Drupal Commons is a Drupal distribution for social business software; it provides organizations a complete solution for forming collaborative communities. Similarly, Open Publish is a Drupal distribution optimized for news publishing. Acquia sees expansion of distributions as critically important to the future growth of Drupal. With that, we are acting as a software publishers for these and other distributions developed by partners within the Drupal community; supporting the marketing, promotion, support, and ongoing development of distributions to extend the capability of the companies who have incubated these incredible products.
Add the Acquia Network for support and cloud services
To help organizations adopt and standardize on Drupal, we created the Acquia Network to provide a suite of Drupal support, knowledge, and web development and maintenance tools to help build, manage and extend Drupal websites.
The Acquia Network is your connection to a team of Drupal experts, available 24x7, and backed by Acquia's engineering and professional services team. As an Acquia Network subscriber, you can submit help tickets, search our knowledge base and contribute in our subscriber forums.
The Acquia Network also provides you access to a number of cloud-based services. Services like heartbeat monitoring, software update management, and soon to be released integration with New Relic provide visibility into your site's performance and help with site management. Other services, like Acquia Search and Mollom, extend the functional capabilities of your sites.
We are in the middle of a massive redesign of the Acquia Network and many of the services you use through the Acquia Network today (including the Acquia Library, a broad collection of tips, tricks, how-to's, and resources for Drupal developers and site owners). Through the Acquia Network you will soon have the ability to easily access a growing list of third-party services, with many available at no additional charge. We already offer many third-party services (e.g. Mollom for spam filtering, New Relic for application profiling, etc), but we'll soon be opening up the Acquia Network as a ‘service delivery platform' and marketplace for additional services. In the works for release over the next few months are mobile design tools from Mobify, analytics, video services, marketing tools, and more.
Interested in adding your service to the Acquia Network? In the future, we will roll out APIs and infrastructure (e.g. billing) to enable other organizations to deliver their cloud-services to any Drupal site through the Acquia Network.
Add Acquia Hosting, a Drupal Platform-as-a-Service
For large websites that require custom code, high availability, on-demand elasticity or release management tools (i.e. staging and production workflows), we recommend Acquia Hosting, our Drupal-platform-as-a-service (Drupal PaaS).
Acquia Hosting is an extension of the Acquia Network, so if you need help scaling your site or debugging a problem, Acquia Client Advisors are always available to help. Through the Acquia Network, we also provide a number of Acquia Hosting specific e-services, including backups, database rollbacks, staging environments, version control for code management, and more.
Going forward you can expect even more developer tools and self-service tools to be added to Acquia Hosting, as well as more critical features for large scale sites, including improved security and code workflow options.
Add Drupal Gardens for rapid micro-site development
All sites are different. Not all your organization's website need the scale, functionality, complexity or longevity of your most important websites. A lot of times you have smaller sites that you may want to roll-out quickly, preferably without having to involve IT.
For that, we built Drupal Gardens, a Drupal-as-a-service platform that makes building Drupal websites as simple as point and click. Built on Drupal 7, Drupal Gardens brings the freedom and innovation you expect from open source without having to worry about installing, hosting or upgrading your Drupal site.
Our mission for Drupal Gardens is to allow site builders to go from design to online in minutes instead of days or weeks. To help, we provide an ever-growing library of site templates and themes to start from. We believe it will be the best platform for your smaller sites that complement your primary web properties.
For organizations that need to manage tens, if not hundreds, of small websites, we're building ‘Enterprise Drupal Gardens'. It provides site provisioning, site management, single sign-on, multi-site dashboards and organization wide templates and themes to maintain consistent branding.
Host your own sites, if you prefer
One of the biggest advantages of using Open Source software is that there are no limits to how you use the software. Some organizations prefer to host some of their own sites. The Acquia Network is able to plug in into your site, regardless of where it is hosted.
No lock in with "Open SaaS"
Almost all Software as a Service (SaaS) providers employ a proprietary model – they might allow you to export your data, but they usually don't allow you to export the underlying code. Users of Drupal Gardens are able to export their Drupal Gardens site – the code, the theme and data – and move of the platform to any Drupal hosting environment. By doing so, we provide people an easy on-ramp but we allow them to grow beyond the capabilities of Drupal Gardens without locking them in.
We call this "Open SaaS" or Software as a Service done right based on Open Source principles – it offers a much more secure and low-cost alternative to proprietary counterparts.
I've highlighted some of our key products and services in this blog post and will bring you a more detailed white paper focusing on Acquia's vision. Stay tuned!
Things are heating up in the Drupal world as both CommerceGuys and SubHub raised venture capital money. We're still waiting for an official announcement, but word on the street is that CommerceGuys raised around 1 million euros to develop a number of e-commerce products and services for Drupal. SubHub raised more than 1.2 million euros to date to develop SubHubLite, a hosted service for Drupal 7 comparable to Drupal Gardens and Buzzr. In addition to CommerceGuys and SubHub, I know of at least two other Drupal companies that are in the process of raising money from investors ...
Selling a product has more upside potential than selling consulting and professional services which you can only bill by the hour. However, it is difficult to bootstrap a product based business without a major investment of funds -- usually from outside investors. I've seen many try and fail. In almost all cases, it failed because the company was under-capitalized. It takes a lot of resources to create a successful and defensible product. Furthermore, people tend to forget about sales and marketing. It's not enough to build your product -- you have to bring it to market as well. That is not trivial either.
I don't have a rich uncle, so I would not have been able to co-found Acquia without venture capital financing. We decided that we wanted to focus on being a support and software product company with a strong partner eco-system. Starting Acquia wasn't the easiest route for me, but looking back at the past three years of Acquia, I believe that I made the right decision. Based on how much Acquia has contributed to Drupal and what it has enabled me to do, I like to believe it would have been a loss if I had taken a more conventional route -- or had I decided to continue to work on Drupal as a hobby project.
It's refreshing to see that more and more Drupal companies aspire to become successful product companies and that they are seeking venture capital. I always admired the Ruby on Rails community for its seemingly entrepreneurial attitude. I'm glad to see more of it in the Drupal community as well. There is a good deal of fear surrounding venture capitalists but if Drupal is going to grow, we should expect to see more venture-backed companies building Drupal products. Venture capital financing can be good, especially if these companies give back to Drupal and if they build products and services that make our life easier. We all benefit from that.