I first met Dries Buytaert in the summer of 2007. Michael Skok, who was incubating the company, persuaded me to take a board seat at a new company in the process of being formed by Jay Batson and Dries. Dries was 29 years old, living and working in Belgium, and passionate about bringing his open source content management system -- Drupal -- to the world.
I turned down Jay and Dries’ initial offer to join them at the company they were creating and be the CEO - opting to join the board and focus on helping the company strategically. Later in 2008 they repeated their request for me to be the CEO. I had gotten to know Dries much better in the meantime and realized that he was much more than just the talented technical creator of Drupal. He was thirsty for knowledge about how to build a business; his curiosity ran from business strategy to customer success, from product positioning to financial planning. I asked Dries what he hoped from me if I were to join. He told me:
- He never wanted to feel like he had a boss - he wanted to have a partner
- He wanted to make a difference and have fun doing it
- He only ever wanted to work for this company, and someday he wanted to run it.
Well, I wasn’t exactly perfect on the first point, but I can confidently say that we built a tremendous partnership. Dries and I have accomplished a lot in the past nine years together. Throughout this time I always kept the third point in mind -- it is a personal passion of mine to pass along the leadership lessons I was fortunate to gain from my mentors early in my career -- and after growing the company to more than 750 people and $150MM+ in revenue the time has come for Dries to realize his vision of running the company he founded.
Together, Dries and I have celebrated Acquia’s being named the fastest growing private software company in Deloitte’s 2013 Fast 500, and being the highest ranked software company in the 2012 Inc. 500 rankings. We introduced thousands of companies to the cloud, to open source, to Drupal ... most for the first time. We grew from our first small office in Andover, Massachusetts to having sales offices in seven countries around the world and customers in more than 40. We built a “follow the sun” support team that spans five time zones around the world, supporting the most demanding and ambitious digital experiences that exist.
As measured and judged by the leading industry analysts, Acquia’s success has been rapid and undeniable. Forrester Research gave Acquia the highest score for strategy this year, naming us a “leader” in their 2017 Web Content Management wave. Gartner named us a leader for the second year in a row in their 2016 WCM Magic Quadrant.
In a recent meeting with us, an analyst stated the “Symbiosis that Drupal has achieved with the business community is phenomenal”.
The road hasn’t always been clear nor smooth. We haven’t always gotten it right but we learned to to pivot after our first ideas did not work out as planned, For example: in 2008, we had a strategic offsite meeting where we came up with the ideas for two new products, codenamed “Fields” and “Gardens.” I regard that strategy session as where the key seeds were sown for the company’s future. Shortly, we began to acquire customers and the revenue we needed to realize that vision set forth in that first offsite.