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The Open Source CEO: Javier Soltero, Hyperic (Part 2)

Part 2 of the Open Source CEO Series, profiling Javier Soltero, CEO of Hyperic.

For the second installment in the Open Source CEO Series, I caught up with Javier Soltero, CEO and Co-founder of Hyperic. Javier is a highly pragmatic open sourceror, fully buying into the open source ethos but not forgetting that customers buy value, not source code.

Name, position, and company of executive
Javier A. Soltero, CEO and Co-founder, Hyperic

Year company was founded and year you joined it
Hyperic was founded in 2004. Coincidentally, I joined that same year. :-)

Stage of funding and venture firms that have invested
Series B (closed 6/07). Investors: Accel Partners & Benchmark Capital

Background prior to current company
I was Chief Architect at Covalent in charge of developing products to help manage Apache and its related technology stack (Tomcat, etc.). We built the first version of what later became Hyperic HQ at Covalent in 2003 and prior to that shipped a number of management technologies for Apache/Tomcat including a configuration and provisioning system. Before that, I was senior engineer at Backflip.com (a 5-years-ahead-of-its-time high-profile bookmark sharing/social network founded by ex-Netscape people). It was at Backflip that I had my first brush with the problem of managing a large scale online service business. I also met two of my co-founders (Charles and Doug) while at Backflip. Prior to that, I was at Netscape, helping create the internet infrastructure technologies that most people today take for granted :)

Biggest surprise you've encountered in your role with your company
Things always take longer than expected. This applies to everything from hiring to closing key deals. Despite the fact that we accelerate and facilitate the engagement with our customers through open source, the fact that we're always competing against proprietary alternatives means we run the risk of getting trapped in process and timeline designed for the old model of delivering software. I was hoping that this would not be the case, but we've dealt with it well and managed to succeed on our terms.

Hardest challenge you've had so far at your open source company
Maintaining the balance between a top quality open source offering, and a subscription offering that is compelling and profitable for the company. It's a process that takes constant adjustment and also forces the company to continually reassess the value of what it offers to its customers.

If you could start over again from scratch, what would you do differently?
Best I can say is I'd be more patient. The process of starting a company is a journey with lots of unpredictable twists and turns. I lost a lot of sleep over things that wound up solving themselves, or didnt matter in the end. Having gone through this once, you now know what to worry about and what to simply deal with.

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

  1. Just because it worked in X or Y market space, doesn't mean it will work for you;
  2. Sell and promote innovation, not open source; and
  3. Define success at the very beginning of the process for both you personally, as well as for the company. The road to success might not involve venture investors, large companies, etc.

Thanks for sharing, Javier. Next up in the Open Source CEO Series...Marten Mickos of MySQL.