Acquia - 2009 in Review

I was so proud of what our team accomplished in 2009 that I wrote a couple of different versions of our accomplishments. I posted one last week. However, after thinking about it some more, I was so excited by specific achievements, that I decided to post this version as well, which lists many of them. As Acquia is deeply involved in the Drupal community, I’ll sprinkle in some key milestones for Drupal that we were involved in, but as always, the credit for Drupal achievements goes to the broader Drupal community, of which Acquia is but one part.

Without stealing too much from a momentum press release that I’m sure our marketing group will want to do, I am proudest of the number of customers we added, and more importantly, helped be successful with Drupal. After only about a year of offering support subscriptions coupled with the Acquia Network, we have over 400 subscribers. The majority are large government, university and business organizations. Drupal’s adoption by whitehouse.gov was certainly a highlight during the year, but also very exciting to me were sites deployed by the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Nike and the Economist, to name just a few.


Engineering

Acquia released our Lucene/Solr based faceted search service in 2009, which is included in an Acquia subscription. We also launched our Remote Administration product, just after we annnounced our cloud based hosting, targeted at scalable, high availability Drupal installations. In a short period of time, we’ve had dozens of organizations adopt the Acquia “triple play” of support, remote administration and hosting. The triple play ensures a single point of contact and assistance for Drupal sites, minimizing risk and increasing time to resolution of issues.

In our efforts to make Drupal adoption easier, we built 3 flavors of Drupal stack installers, which we nicknamed “DAMP” installers. They proved very popular. Despite our best efforts, though, not everyone understood that the DAMP installers and the included Acquia Drupal are completely free. Our Windows version was one of the top downloads on the Microsoft Web Gallery.

Speaking of Acquia Drupal, we released 21 versions of Acquia Drupal as we integrated and tested new versions of the modules it includes. We also added SVN developer access to Acquia Drupal, a highly requested capability.

In late 2009, we embarked on our biggest project to date, Drupal Gardens. The product entered alpha testing in December and has received high marks from the initial users. Drupal Gardens is essentially a SaaS version of Drupal 7 with additional usability improvements, all designed to making Drupal easier to adopt.

While our engineers were working on these projects, they also contributed hundreds of patches to Drupal. Most of that work went towards Drupal 7, especially focusing on usability improvements key to the broader adoption of Drupal. We financed the design consulting team working on Drupal 7 as well. As we have several members of the Drupal security team on our staff, their work also included several key patches to earlier Drupal versions.


Partners

Our partner network expanded to more than 140 companies in 2009. We subcontracted major projects to partners, provided the partners with hundreds of implementation and teamed on many proposals.

Services and Support

The Acquia consulting group mentored several enterprises new to Drupal, offering architecture, scalability, reliability and security advice. Our consultants did significant work on various Drupal modules as a part of our projects, particularly the Solr search module. For customers and major government contractors, we also provided oversight of implementations done by our partners, a service especially useful for organizations just getting introduced to Drupal.

Our core business, offering commercial support for Drupal, expanded substantially in 2009. We entered the year providing the Acquia Network and subscription support for Acquia Drupal. By the end of the year, we offered support for all of Drupal 6, and all of the new products mentioned above – hosting, remote administration and search. Our support team handled thousands of customer support tickets, receiving great feedback from our customers.

Phew! That’s a lot already, and I’m just getting to the non-technical stuff! When we started Acquia, the key strategy we chose to pursue was to accelerate Drupal adoption by focusing on eliminating barriers to adoption, specifically for the enterprise. We knew that one of the biggest issues is awareness. While Drupal is very popular, it is still relatively unknown outside of its primary markets. Acquia made large investments in sales and marketing in 2009 to expand awareness of Drupal and Acquia.


Marketing

One of the biggest highlights was the placement of Drupal in the visionary quadrant of the Gartner magic quadrant for Social Software. Though the Drupal community deserves the credit, Acquia marketing spent a significant amount of time briefing Gartner and other analysts during the year on Drupal’s capabilities and success stories.

We sponsored dozens of Drupal Camps globally, sending speakers to many of them. Acquia also sponsored and had many speakers at both Paris and Washington DC Drupalcon events. We spread the Drupal word at several tradeshows, from South by Southwest to the Open Source Business Conference.

Acquia, together with many of our partners, hosted more than 20 webinars in 2009, on a wide variety of topics. The webinars generally fall into one of two types, increasing business awareness or providing technical education. Thousands of attendees attended and thousands more have watched the recordings. We also created many podcasts and authored dozens of content pieces describing Drupal’s capabilities and success stories.


Financing

Managing all of these activities for a startup is a difficult task, not only organizationally, but of course financially as well. Raising money in the economic environment of 2009 was certainly challenging, but with our momentum and the support of our investors, we successfully raised an additional $8M in mid-2009 that is fueling the tanks well as we blast into 2010.

Despite this long list of accomplishments during 2009, a few goals proved elusive and as such were lowlights. Hiring sufficient great talent heads the list. While we added several great team members in 2009, expanding our company four-fold, we enter 2010 with a number of openings that we wanted to have filled by now. While we had a successful intern program during the summer, our ongoing intern programs lacked sufficient candidates.

With everything else going on, Acquia also failed to finalize our offerings on Drupal training. I’m optimistic that we’ll see significant progress early next year, however. More on that in my 2010 preview.

Having said that, my philosophy on being part of a startup is that we wouldn’t be aiming high enough if we didn’t fail to make some of our ambitious goals. All in all, despite the macro environment, or perhaps because of it, 2009 was a great year for Acquia and Drupal. 2010 bodes even better.

Update: Dries was clearly excited too, and posted his thoughts on Acquia's achievements here.