Acquia 2009 retrospective

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.

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. :-)