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Open-source founders doubling up on startups

A small but influential group of open-source entrepreneurs are double-timing their startups, which might be just what the doctor ordered.

I was confused when Dave Rosenberg told me that he was leaving MuleSource to pursue a game startup. "But you are already the CEO of a startup," I remonstrated. Given his longstanding interest in video games, however, it was probably just a matter of time.

Of course, that was nothing next to my confusion when I kept reading about Digium-founder Mark Spencer hanging out with Marc Fleury, working on an open-source home automation project called OpenRemote. The OpenRemote blog suggests that Digium remains Spencer's primary home, but that he moonlights as the principal hardware designer for OpenRemote.

This morning Dries Buytaert of Drupal/Acquia fame confused me further by announcing Mollom, a "startup Benjamin Schrauwen and [Buytaert] began to help keep your website free of spam."

I asked Jeff Whatcott, vice president of Marketing for Acquia, the company that Dries co-founded, whether Dries was still fully engaged with Acquia, and he told me,

Absolutely. Dries has had Mollom going since before Acquia with grad school buddy. It's a micro-side business, and actually been helpful to us in getting down the experience curve at Acquia, helping us to learn the best ways to offer value-added services above support. We resell Mollom and we may resell other things like that over time, bringing together a whole suite of hosted services that complement on-premise deployments.

In other words, Dries is still at the Acquia wheel, and lightly doing some side work that directly improves the Acquia experience. Nice.

Indeed, I suspect that the "doubling-up" is actually good for Acquia and Digium as neither OpenRemote (Spencer) nor Mollom (Buytaert) consume much time, but they do keep the founders fresh and suggest insights gleaned from parallel but different experiences. So long as they don't consume cycles that really should be spent on their primary startups, which in both cases it appears that they won't, Digium and Acquia should be better off for their founders' "dalliances."

I'm not sure this would have flown in my grandfather's day, however appropriate it may be now. We work in a more scattered fashion today, with work something you never really stop doing, even after you get home, even after the kids go to sleep, even after you shut down the laptop (only to find the iPhone chirping at you).

In this incessant rush of work, perhaps Mollom and OpenRemote equate to "recreation" in a former era. It's still work, but it's a change of pace.