on Wednesday resigned from his post as CEO of open-source CRM vendor SugarCRM, leaving board member Larry Augustin to assume the role of interim CEO while the company conducts a formal search for his replacement.
Roberts, whose grounds for leaving the company and future plans remain undisclosed, has made a huge impact on the open-source world, innovating the "Open Core" business model and helping drive open-source applications into the enterprise.
SugarCRM, despite losing Roberts, will be in good hands with Larry Augustin, who, as founder and former CEO of VA Linux, sits on a number of open-source company boards, including Pentaho, Compiere, Appcelerator, and Medsphere. He understands how to run an open-source business and, importantly, what to look for in leadership. Augustin should be able to find a strong CEO to lead SugarCRM.
Augustin's near-term task is clear, as he outlines in his blog announcing the change in leadership:
Yesterday, I stepped into the role of interim CEO at the company. I have an immense amount of respect for the founding CEO, John Roberts...My goals for the next 30 days at SugarCRM are fairly simple: get to know the team, customers, and partners. I am looking forward to helping them to continue to execute and (taking) the company to the next level.
In other words, continue the solid work that Roberts started.
I first met Roberts at an SDForum event in 2004, at which time I thought that he was crazy for believing open source could succeed in applications. He and his SugarCRM team persisted in their Quixotic dream, building SugarCRM into a thriving company that brought in tens of millions of dollars in sales last year and has an eye on an IPO.
I couldn't reach Roberts for comment but hope that he spends a little of his downtime on cycling, one of his passions, before he leaps back into the open-source world. As Augustin notes of Roberts, "Few people have taken a company from concept to major growth the way John did at Sugar."
I agree. Roberts will be missed. Fortunately, his legacy should live on at SugarCRM, one of the pioneers of commercial open source.
Disclosure: I am an adviser to SugarCRM.
Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.