Long before Alfresco, I started my career in 1981 at Ingres, which was the database company started by my professors at UC Berkeley and recently resurrected out of CA as an open source database company. I started near the beginning and was one of the original engineers. I spent nearly 10 years watching the database market grow from infancy to near maturity. From this early entry into a new software company, I was able to span development, sales, marketing, architecture and management in California and in Europe. Ultimately, I ran the database technology group. The chief architect Paul Butterworth, now CTO at Amberpoint, had an important influence on how I look at architecture and how to manage developers. Mike Stonebraker and Larry Rowe, my professors at Berkeley who started Ingres, helped me see the larger picture of how technology affects the market and how it evolves over time.
In the early days of enterprise software at Ingres we were inventing all sorts of processes and decision criteria. Marty Sprinzen, then VP of Engineering brought in the book In Search of Excellence, which really started me reading business books. Up to that point all my reading had been computer science and history book. From that, the core pieces of advice that came out of In Search was “Stick to the Knitting” and "Bias for Action". When things get tough, it is important to focus and build core value and just do something goddammit. However, when things are going well, you have to start looking where that “knitting” is going to take you next. Many of the companies in that book are not doing that well or don’t even exist, because they didn’t know where to take their knitting and the bias for action disappeared.
In 1990, Howard Shao and I started Documentum with venture capital supplied by Xerox. The first three years we struggled in developing product and customers and raising additional capital until Jeff Miller came on board as CEO in October 1993. My responsibility was for architecting and developing the Documentum system and hiring and managing the development team. I count the longevity of the architecture and its big success as perhaps by biggest achievement. Howard Shao provided me with the model that I currently use to look at a products relationship to the market, while Jeff Miller provided me with a model of well-run companies. Geoffrey Moore, a board member, helped shape our strategy which is still the basis from which I look at market development.
During the Documentum days, I brought in lots of book and read the Harvard Business Review frequently. Michael Porter was very influential in my thinking about the value of content and knowledge management in building value in corporations. That started when we worked with SAP on defining the value that a combined solution that SAP and Documentum could bring to our joint customers. Porter’s Value Chains were de rigueur reading at SAP at the time, but Value Chains and Porter’s Cluster theory have really helped color my perception of Silicon Valley and the UK. Imagine my surprise when I see Michael Porter just hanging out at the Accel party at Davos. I just had to say “You’re my hero.” He said, “You should come by more often.”
In 2001, I joined Benchmark Capital to become an Entrepreneur in Residence to look at starting a new company in probably the worst period to do so. While there I formed many of the relationships with the venture capitalists, such as Accel’s Kevin Comolli, that were important for starting Alfresco. It was through Benchmark that I met John Powell who had just left Business Objects. I also met many people who were developing the nascent open source industry, particularly Marten Mickos, CEO of MySQL. It was Marten that really made me see that Open Source was not Communism. It was with this experience that John Powell and I came together to form Alfresco in 2005 to create an open source alternative for Enterprise Content Management.