The Open Source CEO: Danny Windham (Part 13)

In this thirteenth installment of the Open Source CEO series, I talk with Danny Windham, CEO of Digium, the leading open source communications company.

Most of the CEO profiles we've done have covered CEOs who serve the enterprise IT market. To an extent, Danny Windham, CEO of Digium, does the same. But Digium's market - Telecom - is broader than that. This is the company whose modest goal is to open the world of communications...from Alabama.

In fact, this is one of the things I like best about Digium: it is yet another proofpoint that in open source, anyway, it's not important to be based in the Bay Area. World domination of Telecom from Huntsville, Alabama. Who would have thought?

Name, position, and company of executive
Danny Windham, CEO, Digium.

Year company was founded and year you joined it
Digium was founded in 1999, and I joined in 2007.

Stage of funding and venture firms that have invested
We are a late stage investment opportunity, but have only taken one round of funding from Matrix Partners. Mark Spencer bootstrapped Digium to this point.

Background prior to current company
Previously I was President and COO of ADTRAN, Inc. Prior to ADTRAN, I was Co-founder of Processing Telecom Technologies, Inc. I've been a board member of Digium since its founding, which was my connection to the company and to open source.

Biggest surprise you've encountered in your role with your company
The level of passion and enthusiasm that exists within the Asterisk development and user community. It?s rare to find industrial products where the users are enthusiasts with zeal and passion for the product. Occasionally this happens in consumer products (iPods, Porsche, etc), but in my career I?ve not experienced this phenomena to the degree that it exists with Asterisk with any other product or service with which I?ve been associated.

Hardest challenge you've had so far at your open source company
Determining the proper priority of the dozens of business and partnership opportunities that are available to the company. As a small, growing organization, we can only pursue a few of them, so which ones and in what order?

If you could start over again from scratch, what would you do differently?
Join the company earlier. :-)

Top three pieces of advice for would-be open source CEOs

  1. Open source isn?t for every application. First conclude if the targeted application is well-suited as an open source project;
  2. Seek to understand the culture and motivation of the development community;
  3. Recognize that the goals of a business and the goals of the development community can be at odds ? make all decisions by balancing the interests of both.

Excellent advice, Danny. This balance between community and company can be tough. It's something that several of the CEOs have pointed out but, I'd hazard a guess, none feel that they've perfected. Digium has done a masterful job of encouraging community through Asterisk while building a company with Digium. Truly a tough balancing act, but one that has served the company (and community) well.

Next up in the Open Source CEO Series...Bill Karpovich, CEO and Co-founder of Zenoss, an open source IT management company.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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