Most influential open-source gurus? Votes are in

Open source has become as much about business as it has code. These people are seen as perpetuating the most market growth among the open-source set.

Influence in open-source development communities is earned through years of writing and sharing great code. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, influence in the business side of open source is also gained through sharing expertise, and not necessarily from making mountains of cash.

At least, that's the lesson I take away from MindTouch's inaugural survey of 50 open-source business executives. MindTouch, an open-source collaboration company, has spent the last few months surveying executives within the commercial open-source community, asking them to name the most influential people within the commercial open-source ecosystem.

The result is effectively an all-star list of open-source business executives. The top five are as follows:

  1. Larry Augustin, CEO, SugarCRM
  2. Matt Asay, vice president of business development, Alfresco (and fellow CNET blogger)
  3. Mårten Mickos, entrepreneur-in-residence, Benchmark Capital, and former CEO, MySQL
  4. Jim Whitehurst, CEO, Red Hat
  5. Dries Buytaert, co-founder and CTO, Acquia

The full list is available here.

The common theme running through these top-five vote getters is how open they've been with their peers. Larry Augustin sits on several boards of open-source companies, but he also frequently speaks at industry events and has been involved in open source from its inception.

Matt Asay, my friend and fellow CNET blogger, sits on more than 10 open-source advisory boards, chairs the Open Source Business Conference, hosts an informal get-together every year (called Open Source Goat Rodeo --don't ask why), blogs at an unhealthy rate for CNET on open source, and has actively helped a range of aspiring open-source entrepreneurs understand the mechanics of running an open-source business.

Mårten Mickos made the world safe for the $1 billion open-source acquisition, but he has also traveled the globe speaking at open-source events and is very generous with his time, sharing know-how and best practices with other open-source executives.

Jim Whitehurst, breaking the typical Red Hat mold, has been active in industry events, has hosted a range of dinners and other small-scale, intimate events with open-source executives. He is amazingly accessible, given that he has a fast-growing open-source company to run. It's unfortunate that Whitehurst is the only Red Hat executive to make the list; Red Hat should follow his lead and be more permeable to its peers. Its influence would grow accordingly, just as Whitehurst's has.

Finally, there's Dries Buytaert, who blogs frequently on his project, Drupal, but also regularly attends and speaks at industry events. He has also been active behind the scenes, working with other open-source companies to share information on how to optimize community development.

Open-source code becomes valuable when you give it away. The same holds true for open-source business expertise. There are individuals who have made more money than these with open-source software, but in terms of influence, the more you share, the more influential you become.

What do you think? Who else should be on the list? Who influences you?

About the author

Dave Rosenberg has more than 15 years of technology and marketing experience that spans from Bell Labs to startup IPOs to open-source and cloud software companies. He is CEO and founder of Nodeable, co-founder of MuleSoft, and managing director for Hardy Way. He is an adviser to DataStax, IT Database, and Puppet Labs.

 

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