Debian start-up seeks new funding

Progeny, which is aiming to commercialize the Debian version of Linux, is looking to "accelerate our growth," co-founder says.

SAN FRANCISCO--Progeny, a start-up seeking to commercialize the Debian version of Linux, is on the prowl for new funding, a company co-founder has confirmed.

Ian Murdock, chief strategy officer and a co-founder of both Debian and Progeny, said his company has been running profitably off its Series A funding round, completed in 2000, but now it's time for a more assertive phase at the company.

"We're looking to accelerate our growth," Murdock said in an interview here at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo . "It's nice not to have to worry about raising more money to keep the lights on, but it's frustrating; there are always more opportunities than you have the resources to tackle."

The investment round likely will close by the end of 2005 or early 2006. It's actually the second time it tried for a Series B round, but the first, during the technology bubble burst of 2001, was a "bad time," Murdock said.

Debian, run largely by volunteers, has long been a noncommercial alternative to top Linux versions from Red Hat and Novell's Suse . Progeny is trying to make a business by customizing Debian Linux for particular devices such as telecommunications gear, storage systems or special-purpose dedicated servers. In these devices, Linux is typically embedded but not visible to outside users.

Competitors include the general-purpose Linux companies as well as embedded computing specialists such as Wind River and MontaVista Software .

Progeny is one of several companies involved in the Debian Common Core (DCC) Alliance, an effort to try to bring more weight to the Linux version. For example, software and hardware companies wanting to certify that their products work with Debian now will have fewer partners to worry about, Murdock said.

"We're stronger together than individually," he said. The DCC Alliance hopes to make a version of Debian that's compatible with version 3.0 of the Linux Standard Base. Other alliance members are Knoppix, Xandros, Linspire, Mepis, Credativ, GnuLinEx, Sun Wah and User Linux.

Such alliances have been tried in the past, however. UnitedLinux fell by the wayside after one of its members, the SCO Group, chose to attack Linux rather than boost it. Its members, plus Progeny, gathered again in 2004 to form the Linux Core Consortium .

The DCC Alliance will fare better, Murdock predicted. For one thing, the alliance members all share the same core technology--Debian 3.1, called Sarge. For another, they have diverse, non-overlapping business models despite a similar technology foundation.

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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