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Does Acquia suck up all the Drupal talent?

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?

Why Acquia acquired Cyrve and GVS

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?.

Acquia raises $15 million series D

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!

My week in review: week #2

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.

Activity Organization Hours Comments
Business development Acquia 5 Meetings with (potential) partners
E-mail Acquia 5
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
Writing code Acquia 0
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
E-mail Drupal 7
Reviewing Drupal core patches Drupal 2
Press interviews Drupal 1 Did two short interviews about Open Source and online collaboration
Writing code Drupal 0
E-mail Mollom 2 Helped close two large new customers
Product / engineering management Mollom 1 Refined our engineering methodology and reviewed some user interface designs
Writing code Mollom 0

My week in review: week #1

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).

Activity Organization Hours Comments
Business development Acquia 2 Meetings with (potential) Acquia partners
E-mail Acquia 4
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
Research Acquia 2
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
Writing code Acquia 0
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
E-mail Drupal 7.5
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
Transportation Drupal 1.5
Writing code Drupal 0
E-mail Mollom 1
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
Writing code Mollom 0

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.

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