Shuttleworth Reboots Canonical Leadership

Mark Shuttleworth, founder and CEO of Ubuntu commercial sponsor Canonical, announced on Thursday that he is stepping aside to develop cloud products and begin new partnerships. He named Chief Operating Officer Jane Silber to take his place as CEO of Canonical.

Mark Shuttleworth

Mark Shuttleworth

The change in management will begin immediately but will not be fullyimplemented until March 1, he said. The unexpected leadership changewill not bring a change in the company’s status or abruptly alter itsfocus, added Shuttleworth. He will retain his role as chair of theUbuntu Community Council and the Ubuntu Technical Board.

The management change has been under review for the last few months, heexplained. He first pondered and then rejected any consideration tobringing in a CEO from outside the company. Instead, he ultimatelydecided that Silber’s background and skills along with her five years ofexperience with Canonical are what Canonical needs at thispoint.

“We will continue to expand the Ubuntu governance structures as theproject and Ubuntu community grow, but I am not moving away orrelinquishing any community role I hold,” Shuttleworth said during ateleconference from London announcing the leadership change.

Switching Gears

No particular event — nor the fact that the company is notprofitable — led Shuttleworth to his decision to step down as CEO, he said.Instead, the decision formed as a result of his personal belief thatleadership within a company should be changed every five years or so.

“It’s almost five years to the date that I started to work on Ubuntu.I have a concrete program in place to take leaders and stretch them innew directions,” he said.

Silber, however, will bring a new discipline and a change oftactics to the company, he acknowledged. That shift, he insisted, is a naturalbusiness growth, but it will not represent a change in the company’s direction.

“In her new role as CEO, she will have the authority to make decisionswhich may differ from those I would make. We are broadly aligned onour strategy and direction,” he said.

New View

In her tenure with Canonical, Silber has been closely involved in theestablishment and management of most Canonical functions, includingUbuntu One, OEM services, corporate services, marketing, finance,legal and others. She has a technical background as a softwaredeveloper and previously held engineering and senior managementpositions at companies such as a health and wellness promotionstart-up, a large technology and manufacturing company in Japan, andthe U.S. defense contractor General Dynamics, she said.

What will change are some relationships with customers and partners, as well ashow the company satisfies their demands, Silber said. Her focus willbe on building the ecosystem between OEMs and enterprise customers.

Jane Silber

Jane Silber

“One thing this move will bring about is a clearer separation of therole of CEO of Canonical and the leader of the Ubuntu community. Itwill be two different people now, which I think will be helpful inboth achieving their joint and individual goals more quickly,” said Shuttleworth.

Between now and March 1, Silber will conduct an internal and externalexecutive search to fill the key roles of COO and head of Ubuntu One.

Task Change

“It is critical now that we have a more commercial focus for the nextfive years. We are growing into markets that demand this focus,” saidShuttleworth about Silber’s challenge as CEO.

To that end, Silber aims to grow Ubuntu’s enterprise business and work to push Canonical into a profitable status.

While Silver pursues those goals, Shuttleworth will follow up on hispassions for product design and the company’s cloud offerings. He willalso work on developing stronger relationships with partners in Asia.

“I want Ubuntu to succeed as the open platform of choice for almostall use types, whether on netbook, notebook, desktop, server, embeddeddevice or wherever people compute. That is an large undertaking,” saidShuttleworth.

Bottom Line

Canonical is not currently profitable, Shuttleworth acknowledged. Yet the company continues to develop its three main revenue sources from OEMs, enterprise offerings and product support.

“It takes time to achieve a profitable status as a platform company,” he said. The company has expanded to more than 300 employees, he added.

“Things are already changing within Canonical. As we grow, there willbe an increased focus on the financial result. But that doesn’t mean achange in direction,” Silber concluded.

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