On a recent swing through Boston’s revitalized startup zone, I got to visit Acquia, a startup that has lots of IPO potential for 2014. Acquia has ridden success of the open-source platform Drupal to become a more powerful player in the Content Management System (CMS) business.
There are several factors behind the growth, including demand for more integrated content and Web marketing platforms, as well as the need for speed and agility in building Web CMSes. For my detailed profile of Acquia, read the story on CMSWire.com.
For a quick recap, here’s what’s going on with Acquia:
Open Source: Acquia provides services and support for Drupal, and open-source platform for Content Management Systems (CMS). Many companies are drawn to Drupal for speed and flexibility of open-source in building their Websites.
Revenue: It’s estimated, based on prior company projections and several sources I talked to, that Acquia will have $75-$80 million in revenue in 2013. That’s up from about $45 in 2012.
Pedigree and Culture: Acquia’s got great pedigree in its CTO Dries Buytaert, who was the inventor of Drupal, an open-source Web platform to which Acquia is tightly tied, suppying services, support and other applications. Drupal now has about 1 million users in the community worldwide. Their CEO is Thomas Erickson, a 25-year veteran of the software industyr.
In researching Acquia, I exchanged an email Q&A with Michael Skok, a former software entrepreneur and executive who is now an investor in Acquia as a partner with North Bridge Venture Partners. Parts of Skok’s thoughts were included in the CMSWire.com profile, but I thought it would be useful to publish the whole exchange.
Rayno Report: What is the key to Drupal’s success?
Skok: The strength of Drupal is in its community, without it, it’s just another piece of code. No other content management solution has as vibrant a community. Drupal has become the largest open source project on the planet. Today the Drupal community numbers more than 1 million people in 228 countries speaking 181 languages. It’s incredibly flexible, reliable and robust. It’s well known for its meticulously crafted and well-designed code. But above all it’s an amazing group of people that keep it growing.
Rayno Report: What did you spot in Acquia that you thought made it a solid investment?
Michael Skok: Long before Acquia, I saw how open source was beginning to disrupt the software world. I saw this in my operating career and this was only reinforced when I became a VC. It dramatically reduces waste, by commoditizing low-value functionality that could be reused rather than replicated thereby saving time, money and speeding time-to-market. Naturally, this is a big advantage for startups, enabling them to compete on an even playing field against large incumbents by allowing them to specifically focus on how to differentiate and innovate on top of open source projects rather than build from scratch. With that as context, back in about 2006 one of the sectors I focused on was content management –as it appeared ripe for disruption. I knew this from my experience working in the domain as a CEO. Several projects caught my attention and indeed we passed on one of the apparent open source leaders at the time, Joomla. Why? We could see it lacked leadership in the community, and had IP challenges. As we did the diligence on that project we saw another project, Drupal, come up again and again. I was amazed at how its founder, Dries Buytaert, kept innovating and growing the community. It was this together with the growth, excitement and engagement by the community around Drupal that got us excited to start Acquia with Dries.
As Acquia commercializes Drupal, one of the major themes that we see them leveraging and poised to address is the need everyone has to represent themselves across all audiences as a media company. Not only that but to connect with those audiences across all channels and all devices – whether web, print, laptop or mobile. This is a major challenge today because traditional content management was built for the old model of print, with a single format, a linear workflow and it didn’t scale to meet the challenges of social and new media. As the world moved online – people needed to deliver engaging content via multiple media types and channels online, to various devices including mobile, and distribute it to all their constituents. As a result of these shifts, the content management marketplace has grown to a $10B social publishing opportunity.
As everyone needs a presence in this new always on, always connected world. Riding this wave Acquia has shown phenomenal execution enabling some of the world’s most well known brands to deliver sites that integrate content, community and commerce. It’s these great digital experiences are the hallmark of Acquia and Drupal and no other solution is as agile, scalable and versatile let alone cost effective.
RR: When’s the IPO?
[Editor’s Note — Skok declined to address direct quesitons about an IPO, but he did provide the following statement.]
Skok: We as investors, Tom Erickson [Acquia’s CEO] and the team at Acquia are all committed to building an enduring business for the long-term. The company recently earned the fastest-growing private company on Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500, a ranking of the 500 fastest-growing technology, media, telecommunications, life sciences, and clean technology companies in North America. And they continue to build a strong foundation for future growth fueled by massive digital disruption as organizations of all sizes scramble to keep up with the speed of the web.