Mark Shuttleworth: Open Source Hero

Dear Readers,

Sorry for the delay in writing posts. I've been busy with life. Everything from school assignments to weddings. They all take large chunks of time. I hope you enjoy this article i wrote for a business class a while back. It's on the Ubuntu founder, Mark Shuttleworth. I hope you all enjoy it. My teacher did.

Mark Shuttleworth is perhaps one of the most unique entrepreneurs in the business world today. Growing up in the dusty mining town of Welkom in South Africa, Mark developed an interest for computers through the use of computer games. He obtained a BS degree in Finance and Information Systems from UCT (University of Cape Town). While at the university he came in contact with the Internet for the first time and realized the potential it had for the business world. While in his senior year at UCT in 1995, Mark started Thawte; an Internet consulting business.

Thawte quickly changed focus to Internet security for application in electronic e-commerce. This company that Mark started became the first company to develop a full-security encrypted e-commerce web server commercially available outside of the USA. This server brought the company to even greater success, as it plugged into the world of public key infrastructure. Even Microsoft and Netscape took notice, and Thawte became the first trusted third party for web certification. This made it possible for businesses around the world to accept secure transactions over the web.

Then, in 1999, the US company VeriSign bought Thawte for more than $500,000,000, making Mark a very wealthy man. But Marks business scope was far from over. He saw the potential global impact that South African entrepreneurs could have, and formed a venture capital team called HBD ( The name references the phrase “Here Be Dragon.” As legend has it, this phrase was used to describe uncharted territory on maps.). This company seeks to invest in companies, based in South Africa, that have the potential to serve a more global marketplace. The invested companies include such fields as software, mobile phone services, electronics, and even pharmaceutical services.

Mark also formed a non-profit organization, named the Shuttleworth Foundation, that supports the innovation of education in his home country. The foundation's main goal is to fund projects that have the potential to improve aspects of the education system, and works on improving quality and the reach of education in Africa. It seeks to find ideas that have the potential to dramatically change civil society for the better and funds those ideas. But Mark Shuttleworth wasn't only starting businesses and foundations right and left, he was also chasing dreams.

In 2002 Mark became the first African in space, and also the second self-funded space tourist in history. Mark even started the project that launched him into space; The First African In Space Project. He paid approximately $20 million of his own money to participate in the space flight. This included 7 months of formal training in Star City, Russia. Since he was a boy, Mark had dreamed of going into space, and while up there in space, looking down on our Earth, he had a revelation. “Going to space and seeing the Earth from a distance makes it very clear just how interdependent we are. So I wanted to do something that was really global; free software is a phenomenon that is truly global” (From an interview with Mark that Glyn Moody did for 'The Guardian'.).

Out of that revelation came an idea, and out of that idea came a new business for Mark Shuttleworth. In 2004, he founded the Ubuntu project, which is a project focused on providing a quality desktop and sever operating system that is available for free world wide. This project aims to bring the best of the free and open-source world into a Linux distribution that is available for anyone. Mark made an initial investment out of his own wallet of 10 million dollars. I use this operating system daily, and am actively involved in the community of users and developers.

In march of that same year, Mark formed a company called Canonical Ltd, that is focused on promoting and commercially supporting free software projects. This company oversees the Ubuntu project and all its derivatives. Mark is currently very involved in this company and is seeking to branch out to partner with such developers as Intel on the Moblin Project. The Moblin project is focused on creating a standardized Linux platform for mobile Internet devices.

What Makes Mark Shuttleworth An Entrepreneur

What makes Mark Shuttleworth an entrepreneur is his ability to see the potential in an arising market, and create a supply for the demand made by that market. A wonderful example of this is seen in his first company, Thawte. Mark saw the potential the Internet had to change the world, and saw a need businesses would have in this new industry. He created a company that would provide security for users of the Internet. Even before the Internet became is big as it is today, he saw the need, and created the solution. He risked his own money and time, to produce something for a market that was said to be only a “faze” but what Mark saw as a globe changing market.

He also saw the need for funding for the ideas that were not being implemented in the South African education system. Mark saw that the future of the world and the coming generations where not getting all the education that they could be getting. He saw the need, and created the supply, using his own money to start a non-profit organization.

In the same way, he started the Shuttleworth Foundation for promoting open source, open information, and open standards with the conviction that charing information leads to change and broadening horizons. And later down the road started and is actively involved in Canonical. With canonical he is using the potential of open source software, specifically Linux based operating systems, and commercially supporting them as they rise in popularity and implementation on the Internet. While some question the future of Linux, it is very clear that it's use is being widespread through more recent products. Dell is now selling computers with Ubuntu (Mark's own version of Linux) pre-installed as their Operating System. Many web surfing devices such as EEE's products, and the Acer One series, are using Linux as the default operating system.

Why I Chose Mark Shuttleworth

When first asked to choose and write about an entrepreneur I had no one in mind. I didn't want ot do the normal “Bill Gates” or “Steve Jobs” paper because, quite frankly, there are so many other amazing entrepreneurs in the technology world. So, being an Ubuntu Linux user, I decided to look into who created the Ubuntu operating system. At first I found a few pages on his involvement in Linux, and a few other software companies, then I discovered he was the first African to go to space. I was completely amazed, in fact, I double checked several times to make sure that this was the same Mark Shuttleworth who started the Ubuntu project. The more I studied and read about him, I came to the conclusion that no other entrepreneur could be chosen over Mark Shuttleworth.

Mark's achievements are not the only reasons I chose him. What made me choose him over other Linux pioneers, and computer geniuses, was his purpose in life. The purpose that overflowed into everything he did, technology wide, or world wide. Mark seeks to use his success to forward and improve the education system in South Africa. Instead of using his millions solely on himself, he funds organizations, and educational resources such as HBD, and the Shuttleworth Foundation. Mark believes that “education is the key to unlocking the creative and intellectual potential inherent in all individuals while aspiring them to believe that anything is possible.” ( What really made Mark stand out to me was his active involvement in changing the world and the economy.

So many famous people talk and talk about changing the world, but it is rare to find a person who does more doing than talking. Mark is not a famous man, in fact few know him for even his space flight, but he still uses his success to change the world. To improve the minds of the next generation. Mark wants to give South Africa the ability to connect to the outside world, and the wealth of information found on the internet.

What Mark Shuttleworth Has To Offer

In Mark Shuttleworth's first business, he offered internet security. His security server enabled other businesses and companies to share information within their industry, and not have to worry about hackers stealing their data. This is a crucial service to those companies who have much internet based transactions, and services.

With HBD Venture Capitol Mark offered investments in innovative companies based in South Africa that could potentially serve the global marketplace. This support for the smaller companies brought more services to levels that are easier to reach in the business world.
Ubuntu is an operating system that seeks to provide a free and open source operating system both for servers and desktops. It brings together the best of the open source and Linux world into a Linux distribution that is freely available to anyone in the world. It also provides an extremely dependable server platform for any company or business that hosts its own website for web application.

Works Cited