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The Open Source CEO: Harold Goldberg, Zend Technologies (Part 21)

In this 21st installment of the Open Source CEO Series, I talk with Harold Goldberg, CEO of Zend Technologies.

For today's 21st installment in the Open Source CEO Series, I decided to talk with the head of Zend Technologies, Harold Goldberg. PHP adoption has exploded - how does a company build a business around that adoption? In fact, today Zend also announced the availability of Zend Framework 1.0, with a vibrant development and documentation community surrounding it.

Harold joined Zend with an enviable pedigree in enterprise software. As I've said before, that can be a blessing and a curse. In Harold's case, it seems to have been a blessing. Let's hear why.

Name, position, and company of executive Harold Goldberg, CEO, Zend Technologies.

Year company was founded and year you joined it Zend was founded in 1999 and I joined six months ago in January 2007.

Stage of funding and venture firms that have invested In August 2006 Zend secured $20 million in series D funding. Our investors are Azure Capital, Index Ventures, Intel Capital, Greylock Partners (new investor), Platinum Venture Capital, SAP Ventures and Walden Israel Venture Capital.

Background prior to current company I've always worked at companies during times of dramatic disruption. BMC [where Harold was SVP of Worldwide Marketing and Corporate Strategy] is a $1.5 billion software company and we helped large enterprises grapple with sea changes like grid architectures and distributed computing. At Remedy, we drove CRM onto the Web and ended up in the crosshairs of laggards like Oracle, Siebel and SAP. At Siemens and Peregrine our customers were moving off mainframes and onto client server architectures. I'm doing this again at Zend, working with companies to web-enable all those business-critical legacy applications that I helped create earlier in my career.

Biggest surprise you've encountered in your role with your company I'm stunned by the power of the PHP community and how dynamic it is. We?re getting ready to release a production version of Zend Framework and it has already been downloaded 1.2 million times. I compare that to a commercial software company where we're happy to have a handful of beta customers and maybe 75 or 100 of them on board as customers. It's a completely different mindset and an invaluable asset.

Hardest challenge you've had so far at your open source company See above. The biggest challenge I face is the fact that we're being pulled by a large, community-driven wave and have to be incredibly smart and strategic about how we respond. When do we just surf it and when we try to redirect it? Over 50% of all companies have some sort of open source project running. There are no sales people in that process, no push mechanism. So, I think a lot about how to capture that opportunity.

Also, I think all open source companies struggle with the defining optimal metrics. Zend Framework has been downloaded 1.2 million times. What does that mean? How many people do I need to support that? And, to what extent do we participate in growing the overall community? Will more customers buy from us because of it? These are the challenges common to all open source CEOs.

If you could start over again from scratch, what would you do differently? I have only been here for only 6 months - it's too early for regrets.

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

  1. Learn to live with less sleep because open source is embedded into the 7/24 global economy;
  2. Sleep with your eyes open because new models are emerging all the time and you can't assume that what you learned before will apply now; and
  3. Think about yourself as part of a greater industry. While something might not deliver short-term gratification, everything you do to promote the community will come back and reward you many times over.

Excellent counsel. I talked with Harold back in January before he formally joined Zend. He was smart then - he's smarter now. Or, rather, wiser now. How do you get out in front of a massive community? Or, more to Harold's point, how do you ride that wave, rather than trying to push it in this or that way? Non-trivial to answer, but key to success in many open source commercial opportunities.

In our next installment of the Open Source CEO Series I'll talk with Eero Teerikorpi, CEO of Continuent. I'd like to get a read on the CEO of a low-profile, but important open source company.