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We need to train more good Drupalistas. Almost every Drupal company I talked to is trying to hire talented Drupal developers, but can't find any. The demand for Drupal talent continues to exceed the supply. It is, in fact, holding back Drupal's adoption.
Some of you might have read that Chapter 3 started to provide Drupal training, that Lullabot is hiring more Drupal teachers, or that OSTraining is rolling out Drupal courses. This makes me happy as it advances the Drupal ecosystem. The training business should be an important aspect of Drupal's ecosystem, and I feel it is still underdeveloped. We should be training thousands of people a month, not hundreds of people.
Why aren't we training more Drupal developers? I'd think there is a real opportunity to make money as a Drupal training business for at least a number of reasons:
- It addresses a real problem. Because of Drupal's continued growth, people are struggling to find the Drupal talent they need.
- Drupal is growing in the enterprise, and one can expect a strong desire to buy Drupal training in the enterprise. I wouldn't be surprised if big players like IBM, Capgemini and Accenture, will start to offer some Drupal training to their enterprise customers. This could even result in a couple of Drupal training companies being acquired.
- A training business can be a more scalable and more lucrative business than a consulting business.
- There is a wide disparity between those that can assemble Drupal sites versus those who truly understand the concepts and principles behind the code. At some point, parts of the market will see value in Drupal certification programs. It is a matter of time, but when it happens, it will enable Drupal training companies to build a stronger brand.
This is a problem that we need to fix. We need more world-class Drupal talent to fulfill the demand and to let Drupal reach its potential. We need a well-rounded ecosystem that provides more Drupal training.
Yesterday I shared my 2009 retrospective on Drupal along with some predictions for 2010. Today, I want to reflect on Acquia's 2009, as for obvious reasons, Acquia has been a big part of my life in 2009.
At the end of 2007, we had convinced ourselves -- and our investors -- that there was a market for Drupal support and Drupal-related products. In 2008, we built a great team and grew from two employees early in the year to thirty people by the end of 2008. After nine months, in October 2008, we finally opened our doors for business and we wrapped up the year with a couple dozen customers. 2009 was really Acquia's first year in business (i.e. revenue-bearing year), making it a very important year for us as a company. Other than delivering great support, we had to demonstrate that there was a market for Drupal support, and prove our business model by discovering many of the unknowns and validating our assumptions (e.g., average sales cycle, conversion rates, operational costs, etc). 2009 was also the year that we had to build a sales and marketing process that is both scalable and efficient.
We kicked of 2009 with a big but important change. When we opened for business at the end of 2008, customers could purchase commercial support for all the modules in Acquia Drupal, our free distribution of Drupal. We learned relatively fast that people wanted support for more than just Acquia Drupal. So, only a couple of months later, in the first week of January 2009, we announced our support for all things Drupal 6, including all modules and themes available on drupal.org as well as custom code.
Next, at a two-day management meeting early in the year, we established some very ambitious goals and shared the details publicly in our 2009 roadmap. With all these new projects, we needed additional management bandwidth in the company so Jay and I hired Tom Erickson as Acquia's new CEO. This has been one of our best decisions to date, as Tom has proven to be phenomenal at his job.
To deliver on the vision outlined in our roadmap, we had to raise more money -- no small thing given the downturn in the economy. Instead of reserving cash, Tom and I went out and raised an additional $8 million dollars in Series B funding, bringing our total funding to date to $15 million USD.
A Series B financing typically happens when the company has proven its core value proposition, has demonstrated its ability to find customers, and has proven its business model. In the first six months of 2009, we grew our customer base to 250 paying customers -- demonstrating the market for Drupal support, validating our business model, and allowing us to raise that Series B funding.
We used part of the new funding to accelerate our support business and grew it to more than 400 customers by the end of 2009. We handled thousands of support requests last year. The size and type of business also grew throughout 2009 -- 2009 was definitely a turning point for enterprise Drupal adoption.
The rest of the new funding was used to build the new products outlined in our 2009 roadmap, including Acquia Hosting, Acquia Search, various Acquia Stack Installers and Drupal Gardens (currently in private alpha). We helped get the Acquia Stack Installers included in Ubuntu, Solaris, and on Microsoft's Web Gallery. Our Windows version was one of the top downloads on the Microsoft Web Gallery.
We also helped Whitehouse.gov to move to Drupal -- an important turning point for Drupal within the government sector.
As a company, we contributed back to the Drupal community by funding much of the usability work carried out by Mark Boulton, by helping with developing the Field API for core, by providing manpower and funding for some of the drupal.org redesign work, by helping with the drupal.org test infrastructure, by contributing to Drupal's Apache Solr integration, by sponsoring local and global Drupal events, by giving away free hosting, and much much more. In short, we tried to help where (I believe) Drupal needed help the most.
For a small company of our size, we had a lot of balls in the air, but we learned to juggle well. Most companies don't share their roadmaps but we did, we stuck with it, and we delivered. I'm proud of Acquia for what we did in 2009 -- it has been a great year.
As for 2010? The launch of Drupal Gardens will be a big blip on our 2010 radar. Later in January, we have another two-day management meeting to finalize our roadmap for 2010. Keep an eye on acquia.com or on my blog if you want to learn more about our plans. A lot of what we'll do will resolve around extending and improving our existing products in support of our customers, but we'll probably launch a few surprises as well. Stay tuned!
Update: Tom posted his perspective on 2009 on the Acquia blog. Good that we're on the same page. :-)
On his very first day in office, President Obama directed all federal agencies to break down barriers to transparency, participation, and collaboration between the federal government and the people it is to serve. Last week, the Obama administration published the Open Government Directive (OGD). The directive, sent to the head of every US federal department and agency, instructs the agencies to take specific actions to open their operations to the public. The three principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration are at the heart of this directive. It could be big for Drupal, and Open Source.
The directive imposes concrete milestones and specific requirements on the federal agencies. In 120 days, each agency needs to publish a detailed Open Government Plan of their own; within 45 days each federal agency must publish at least three new high-value data sets and register those data sets via Data.gov; and within 60 days, each department must set up a page or website at agency.gov/open. The /open-website needs to outline how the agency is going to open its data, but also tools with which the public can comment on it.
Personally, I think /open makes for a brilliant convention -- I hope it will be adopted by governments and organizations all around the world.
While the path to an open government will be a long journey with many challenges beyond just picking a website technology, this could be a great opportunity for Drupal. Within 60 days, every federal agency will need to have an interactive website setup at agency.gov/open. Drupal has all the features required to implement agency.gov/open (e.g. commenting, blogging, forums, aggregation, data mashups, micro-blogging, voting, etc). Drupal is perfect to get these /open-websites up and running quickly, and makes for a great foundation to extend its functionality in the future. Plus, by using an Open Source technology, agencies can share and collaborate on both best practices and code. It is a no-brainer.
At Acquia, we'll continue to build out our government offerings and ecosystem. Although we will be announcing the full set of details of our government offering in January, highlights will include a "starter kit" for government agencies to quickly achieve their /open requirement. In addition, we have already launched a webinar series -- we kicked it off last week with a webinar that included Andrew Hoppin (CIO of the New York State Senate) and how they are using Drupal to achieve their OGD requirements. In January 2010, we will be launching our first webinar with the General Services Administration, and we will be presenting at the OGD workshop that the Department of Transportation is organizing.
The Acquia partner ecosystem will also play a key part in our efforts, from our system integration partners who will help deliver the strategy and implementation, to our technology partners, such as Alfresco, who can deliver critical components related to the OGD such as document and records management.
And while agencies hash things out, Vivek Kundra (US Chief Information Officer) and Aneesh Chopra (US Chief Technology Officer) committed that within 60 days, they will create an Open Government Dashboard on http://www.whitehouse.gov/open. (Remind that Whitehouse.gov is a Drupal site.) This dashboard will publish each agency’s Open Government Plan, together with aggregate statistics and visualizations to track the agencies' progress toward meeting the deadlines for action outlined in the OGD.
Today is a special day at Acquia: customer service day. We grew so quickly that our support team often find themselves working until after midnight to meet customer demands. Everybody in the company, from sales to engineering, including myself, will be helping in support today. Talking to customers, helping them where we can to make sure they are successful with Drupal.
With products like Acquia Hosting, Acquia Search and Drupal Gardens, Acquia is very much a technology start-up. And yet, when we launched the company, the first thing we focused on was building our support organization and releasing a support product, rather than building technology products like Acquia Hosting, Acquia Search or Drupal Gardens. There are a number of reasons for that, but one of them is that we wanted support to be a core part of Acquia's DNA. Support is crucial for everything we do; from supporting Drupal sites that are hosted outside of Acquia, to supporting customers that are hosted on Drupal Gardens or Acquia Hosting. And it is working. Our support business is our main source of revenue, and it has taken off better than expected.
Tom and myself very much want to grow Acquia through a customer-focused culture. It is a lesson that I've learned through Drupal, and a lesson that Tom brings from previous experience. There is a lot of power in fostering the right culture. It manifest itself in the Drupal community. The culture of Drupal is at the heart of why Drupal is winning. It is why so many of us can be fanatical about making Drupal better, and it leads to a lot of word of mouth marketing and recommendations. If you are serious about building something big and changing the game, you better get the culture of the team right. Culture enables passion, and passion can even make the impossible, possible.
So today we have an all-company customer service day at Acquia because we grew so quickly, but also because we want our whole team to be absolutely committed to making our customers successful with Drupal. And in doing so, we build the right culture -- a culture that is built on supporting the customer.
I've posted a good bit about Acquia lately, because we had a lot of exciting things happening, and because I'm proud of the body of work that the Acquia team is producing, often in close cooperation with the Drupal community.
Still, a lot of people ask me how Acquia is doing and whether the support business model is working. In this post, and in an accompanying press release, I want to provide some additional insight in the state of Acquia's support business model.
As you might remember, Acquia opened for business in October 2008, less than one year ago. In less than one year, Acquia now supports over 250 enterprise customers across a wide variety of markets. In the last six months, we've quadrupled our customer base and now help support open-source solutions in places where proprietary software once predominated. Places like The Economist, Intuit, WEEI, Sony Music, Adobe and more.
The reality is that with less than one year into the Drupal support business, it is too early for us to tell if the support business model will be viable for Drupal. We need many more customers before we've built a scalable business; however, the early signs are good and beat our expectations.
Acquia has grown substantially from its beginnings less than two years ago, and since opening its doors for business less than one year ago. The road to making Acquia a successful company is still long but I'm very excited about what we have accomplished to date, and where Acquia is heading with its new products and services.
I'm very pleased to announce that Acquia has raised an additional 8 million USD in a Series B round of funding. As explained in our press release, the investment was led by our existing investors, North Bridge Venture Partners and Sigma Partners. Combined with our Series A funding, this brings our total funding to 15 million USD.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) published our filing faster than expected and as a result, some of you may have already heard this news. That will teach us to coordinate things better -- not a big deal, but another lesson learned. Interestingly, there is nothing like a scoop to generate coverage and the funding news was picked up by TechCrunch, Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Mass High Tech, Venture Beat, CMS Wire, Xconomy and many others.
Raising this additional money is no small thing, especially in the current global economy. It is a testament to the hard work and dedication of all the Acquians and the momentum we have achieved.
Pitching our investors over Skype. Tom was attending the meeting in person but I couldn't travel because my wife was about to give birth to our son, Stan. Taken with my iPhone.
But how will the money of our series B funding be used, you ask?
First, this new funding lets us accelerate our existing support business. Our support business is performing better than we expected but, of course, there is still a lot of work to do. We'll use the money to grow our support business and to expand the market for Drupal in the enterprise world.
Second, the new funding allows us to complete the strategy that we laid out early in 2009, directly leading to new products like Acquia Hosting, Acquia Gardens and Acquia Training. We'll also be looking to add some new products and services to the Acquia Network as part of our subscription offerings.
My vision for Acquia has always been to offer a unique combination of products, services, and technical leadership that complement and help fuel the Drupal project, and that help Drupal reach its full potential. It is why I started Acquia to begin with, and our Series B investment doesn't change that vision. Expect us to continue to give back to the Drupal community through code, by organizing sprints, through attending and sponsoring events, and more.
Last, the new funding means that I can continue to follow my heart, directing my time, resources and passion toward Drupal and the many people it touches. I have found a joy in participating in Open Source and doing start-ups that I have not found in academia, and that I likely wouldn't have found as a programmer at a local bank. ;)
I'm writing this blog post in San Jose where I'm attending the annual OSCON conference to meet and work with people in the Drupal community, and to educate people about Drupal. It is on days like today that I am reminded of how lucky I am, and of what both Drupal and Acquia enable me to do.
Drupal.org recently featured a detailed use case about InterMedia Outdoors switching to Drupal. InterMedia Outdoors boasts a network of 16 websites, a portfolio of 15 magazines, 25 market-leading television productions, 2 syndicated radio shows, and more.
What the use case didn't mention is that they are migrating off of FatWire, a proprietary web content management system (WCMS) that is Forrester's current poster child in the Q2 2009 Forrester Wave for "Web Content Management For External Sites". To me, that is the most interesting part because it means that Drupal is starting to disrupt traditional web content management systems, including the leading ones.
In other words: CIOs are starting to take notice of Drupal.
Many of the proprietary content management systems are difficult to customize, expensive, hard to set up, and slow to adopt new trends. Contrast that to an Open Source solution like Drupal and you get the exact opposite: all the code is made available, anyone can change it, it is very extensible, well documented, and massively adopted. Developers are plentiful, it is bleeding edge, and best of all, there is no license fee -- which matters a great deal in today's economy.
Furthermore, on the business side, Open Source companies get a ton of sales and marketing for free while proprietary vendors presumably have to put more resources into sales and marketing. In other words, Open Source companies should be able to win on all fronts: technology, sales, and marketing. And we do -- I see it in the Drupal community every day.
But no matter how many times we've whacked proprietary vendors over the head with a foam clue bat, some still think that open source is a fad. That is why it is good to see organizations move from proprietary systems to Open Source solutions.
Excited about this event, I reached out to Howard Stevens, the CIO of InterMedia Outdoors. In an e-mail conversation, he asserted the following:
"The primary reason that we selected Drupal is the extensive flexibility that it provides us to enhance our sites over time. While we are very excited about the launch of In-Fisherman, we also recognize that it is a work in progress--the digital media landscape is evolving so quickly it was important for us to implement a content management system that enables us to continually improve our sites without the constraint of vendor roadmaps and proprietary code. The transparency of Drupal’s source code and engaged developer community ensures that any deficiencies in the code are quickly discovered and remedied, new features can be developed as necessary, and we will always retain the flexibility to keep our sites on the cutting-edge."
While use cases like InterMedia Outdoors are really helpful in convincing CIOs, we need to think about more and different ways to encourage CIOs to abandon their proprietary web content management systems. A common misconception among CIOs is that Open Source solutions require a lot more customization and development than proprietary CMS solutions. Howard Stevens wrote:
"One of the hurdles that dissuaded us from implementing Drupal originally was our very small in-house development team. The promise of an out-of-the-box proprietary solution was appealing as it seemingly mitigated the majority of the development risk and complexity. In reality, Drupal was much more effective at helping us manage those risks ..."
The reality is that with 4000+ contributed modules, Drupal has access to a lot more pre-built functionality than any proprietary CMS. Additionally, the number of developers who actively develop in Drupal combined with the number of developers who possess the prerequisite skills (and the plethora of published materials on developing in Drupal) greatly outnumbers the skilled resources with knowledge of nearly every proprietary CMS.
The point here, is that CIOs often look at Drupal differently than developers do. It is less about the technology, and more about finding ways to save time and money and to mitigate risks. Personally, I think the combination of commercial-grade support, Drupal distributions, electronic services and a healthy ecosystem of expert Drupal shops are key in removing barriers for CIOs. Other barriers to overcome include lack of a roadmap (I don't want to fix that), licensing issues (increasingly better understood), training and certification, and of course, functional gaps.
Personally, I'm most interested in identifying the functional gaps because closing those is what the Drupal community excels at. Whatever the functionality gaps, I'm confident we'll close them over time. If you're a proprietary vendor, you can't say we didn't gave you an advance warning. ;-)