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Zimbra founder becomes Redpoint partner

Satish Dharmaraj, former CEO of the open-source e-mail company, intends to focus investments at the Silicon Valley VC firm on open source, cloud computing, and SaaS.

Satish Dharmaraj, founder and former CEO of Zimbra, one of the industry's top open-source start-ups, has joined Redpoint Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, as a partner, Dharmaraj confirmed to me by phone on Tuesday.

Dharmaraj sold Zimbra, an open-source e-mail and collaboration company he founded in 2003, to Yahoo for $350 million in 2007. Earlier this year, Dharmaraj left Yahoo to focus on "other things." It's now apparent that the "other things" Dharmaraj had in mind included joining Redpoint, one of the industry's top venture firms.

I asked Dharmaraj about the move and the motivations behind it:

I've started and sold two companies now (Onebox and Zimbra), and was thinking about doing another. I came to the conclusion that a) I love working with entrepreneurs, and b) I can't bear working for a big company.

So I spent the last year doing angel investing, but I didn't like working alone. I've known the Redpoint partners for the past 10 years, and started talking with them last fall about me joining as a partner. Their focus fits really well with mine: cloud computing, software as a service (SaaS), and open source.

Given the shambles that the industry is in, Dharmaraj's timing seems inopportune. But he insists that now is actually an exceptional time to be investing, provided that the focus is right:

Some people think it's a crazy time to invest, but I think it's a great time to invest. Companies born this year will emerge from the recession in 2010/2011 with great momentum and discipline. Even in this bad economic environment, the types of companies I'm interested in dramatically reduce the cost of buying and running software, plus significantly increase productivity through open standards and open source.

For those looking for an experienced investor that seems to have done just about everything right with Zimbra, Dharmaraj should be top of mind. He's a warm but driven executive, someone you'd want to hang out with and report to. And given his track record, he should prove to be an informative adviser to any start-up that is looking to make money while simultaneously enhancing customer freedom.

Follow me on Twitter at mjasay.