Expect a larger portion of software innovation to come from the world of open source in the future, says Dries Buytaert, original creator of Drupal and co-founder of Acquia. While open source once drew its appeal from being free, now it’s the quality of the software projects — which draw on the skills of huge numbers of contributors — that attracts businesses and developers to use it, he said.
Buytaert created open-source Web content management system Drupal in 1999 and cofounded Burlington-based Acquia in 2007 to provide cloud hosting and related services for Drupal sites.
While Acquia once touted the fact that Drupal is free to use, that’s no longer the focus of the company’s marketing outreach. With 26,000 developers working around the world to improve Drupal, there’s just more innovation happening around it than there is for proprietary CMS software, Buytaert contends.
“Our customers care about the fact that they can use the best technology, and that’s what we try to emphasize. The fact that open source is free is not really the main reason it gets adopted,” he said.
Buytaert said he hopes the growth of Acquia and other companies leveraging open source, such as Cloudera and MongoDB, will serve as proof that open source is gaining wide acceptance — and will encourage other entrepreneurs to seek to build businesses around open source.
Ultimately, he believes open source will “move up the stack” from infrastructure technology to new areas, such as marketing software. “I think there’s a lot of room for disruption higher up the stack,” Buytaert said.
Acquia, which saw nearly $70 million in revenue last year, has been among the local tech companies eyeing an initial public offering of stock in coming years. Buytaert said the firm is now taking steps to prepare for an IPO.
“It doesn’t mean we will actually file, but we want to get to a level of maturity — be an IPO-ready company — and then make a decision whether to file for an IPO independently of that,” he said. “It’s going to depend on capital needs, how much money we need to fulfill our vision, but also the markets — where things are when we’re ready.”
“I would expect we get to the ready state within the next 12 months or so, when we would file,” Buytaert said, adding that filing intentions with the SEC could happen some time this year.
Meanwhile, the new revamped version of Drupal — Drupal 8 — is expected to be released later this year. The project will likely have a beta release within the next two months, Buytaert said.
Read more: Boston’s next 12 tech IPOs?
Kyle Alspach has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since 2005 and was one of the original staff writers at BetaBoston.
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