Acquia won't rush IPO: Dries

Drupal's creator reflects on open source CMS's humble beginnings

Boston-based Web technology company Acquia is heading towards an IPO but it's in no rush to go public according to Dries Buytaert, Acquia's co-founder and the creator of the open source CMS Drupal.

"For us [an IPO] is something that we're working on but it's not front and centre right now," Buytaert, the CTO of the Drupal services firm, said.

"We think it's a key milestone, but it's only just that as well: It's a milestone in a much longer path to building a significant independent company. So that's the reason I say we're not obsessed with it."

Earlier this year, the company hired Dennis Morgan as CFO, which is "obviously a key component for being able to do an IPO," the CTO added.

"In general we want to be an IPO-ready company such that we have the luxury to file for an IPO if we were to choose to," Buytaert said.

"But we're not in a hurry and it's not something that everybody in the company's working on; we're just very focussed on building a great company and building great products."

Acquia was founded in late 2007, around six and a half years after the initial release of Drupal by Buytaert. Like Drupal, the company has experienced explosive growth; with revenue growth of over 3100 per cent in the last three years, according to the company.

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Drupal now powers some of the Web's largest sites, including such high profile sites as whitehouse.gov. In Australia, Drupal has been adopted in a number of sectors, but particularly government and higher education.

It's a far cry from the early days of Drupal, which was initially an outlet for Buytaert to experiment with emerging Web technologies.

"When I started Drupal, honestly I didn't have a master plan at all," Buytaert said.

"I started Drupal as a message board because I felt it was fun to build and we could actually use it in our student dorm. That kind of evolved into an experimental platform for me so I could experiment with different kinds of Web technologies from RSS feeds to blogging to other things.

"Eventually I moved my website from an internal, intranet kind of forum to the public Internet and that actually attracted an audience of people interested in the future of the Web."

Visitors to his website, drop.org, had a range of suggestions for additions. "And so eventually I said, 'You know what — instead of me doing all the work how about I just give you the source code and then you can add these things yourself and feel free to send me back a patch'," Buytaert said. He was expecting five or 10 people to maybe contribute, he added.

"I kind of slapped the GPL licence on it, because that's what I knew from working on the Linux kernel, and I probably spent about 30 seconds thinking of a name — 'call it Drupal' — and uploaded a zipfile to my website for other to download...

"I had worked hard on it for a year and I was kind of proud of what I built, but I never expected a whole lot of people to adopt it."

Today there are more than 24,000 contributed Drupal modules, and more than 30,000 developers registered at Drupal.org. The CMS itself runs around 2 per cent of the world's websites.

"It's still mind blowing today to think about all the sites that use Drupal," Buytaert said.

Contact Rohan Pearce at rohan_pearce at idg.com.au or follow him on Twitter: @rohan_p

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