There is a funny thing about commercial open source software companies as much as they like talking about their community-driven open source heritage they end up doing a lot of things their proprietary counterparts do. Spout off about being enterprise-ready, boast, offer TCO studies, and all manner of other things that make them look like a typical proprietary software company. A lot of them neglect the transparent open source traits that makes them truly disruptive and interesting (see yesterday’s post on SourceFire).
Open source software is a disruptive technology it’s about changing the status quo. Open source is rock and roll while proprietary software is easy listening. That’s why I always admired JBoss’ Marc Fleury. Marc was and is a bad boy, a rebel, and he played the part to a successful $350 million dollar acquisition of JBoss by Red Hat. Beyond that he was a professional who built a company that was professional and respected grew his customer base and created an iconic software brand. All things that are consistent with open source software, he also seemed to have a good time doing it.
Earlier this spring Ben Sabrin (a JBoss alum) from Appcelerator told me a story about Marc. Apparently Ben was ribbing Marc because Larry Augustin had made this list of the Who’s Who of Open Source that I had put together for LinuxWorld. Marc wasn’t on the list, simply because he had retired. I guess they gave him a hard time of about being forgotten and he got Marc pretty fired up. Larry Augustin piled on and they all had a good laugh at Marc’s expense. Ironically I always thought Marc Fleury was a great open source leader because you never had to wonder what he was thinking he was always quick with a colorful quote and the Java community loved him. He was smart and really nailed what it meant to do Professional Open Source (this was/is the JBoss tagline). Anyhow maybe Marc isn’t really my hero but here’s why I admire him and belongs on the all-time Who’s Who of Open Source list.
- He Built a Community and then Built A Company
There’s a huge lesson to be learned here for open source companies. Before JBoss took any venture capital they had over 6 million downloads and a thriving community which helped him grow his company quickly.
- He Didn’t Do It in the Valley
I have nothing against Silicon Valley but there are so many talented people all over the world it amazes me how much credibility people get from being in that small overcrowded strip of northern California. Fleury built JBoss in Hotlanta, the city the damn yankees burnt down, the home of the world’s most sugar-laden sweet tea, a NASCAR hotbed and the home of the three syllable Ya’aa’llll.
- Returned Value to his Stakeholders
As an entrepreneur the sign of success is return value to his shareholders. When JBoss was acquired by Red Hat for $350 million investors and employees a like made money.
- He Fostered a Legacy I think one of the biggest contributions Marc made to open source was that he infected a bunch of guys with the bug to go make it on their own. Many of them walked away with more than a little pocket cash and they started their own open source companies. Here’s a list of JBoss alumns and what they are up to now.
Appcelerator – Rich Internet Applications
JBoss alumni: Jeff Haynie, Ben Sabrin, Matt Quinlin
LoopFuse – Marketing and Sales Automation
JBoss Alumni – Roy Russo, Tom Elrod
RingSide Networks – Social Networking Server
Jboss Alumni – Bob Bickel, Rich Friedman, Mark Lugert, Shaun Connolly
Besides the people the JBoss brand continues to grow.
- Marc Fleury is was and will always be a Rockstar
More so than any other open source leader Marc Fleury has been colorful and had fun. He was probably one of the most quotable open source leaders of all time. Here’s the proof. At JavaPolis 2006 he showed up dressed as Public Enemy’s Flava Flav and gave a great professional intelligent speech on professional open source.
I only met Marc once at Red Hat Summit in Nashville a few years back when Rich Friedman introduced us. We only talked a few minutes but I was happy to see you could be a company executive without being a stuffed shirt, in fact he was wearing camouflage cargo pants and a beret at the time. Bottom line I’ll party with Marc anytime, maybe he’ll even given me ride in his new Tesla someday.
[Updated: Larry brought up a good point. While the Appcelerator team and the Bluestone have JBoss DNA ,Bob and the Ringside team first got together at Bluestone (sold to HP). The Appcelerator guys also worked together at Vocalcity. Perhaps the real genius of Marc Fleury was to attract great talent and give them an opportunity to thrive.]