Globe reporter Michael B. Farrell recently spoke with Lou Shipley, the newly appointed chief executive of Black Duck Software Inc., a growing Burlington open source software company. Here’s what he found out:
1Shipley has been around. He’s worked at five other Massachusetts tech companies and was an early employee at Avid Technology Inc., where he was hired out of Harvard Business School by that company’s founder, Bill Warner. Before Black Duck, he ran VMTurbo Inc., another Burlington tech company. He has a passion for new companies and still thinks of Black Duck as an upstart, even though it was founded more than decade ago.
“Sometimes we don’t say this is a startup because it’s a big company — it’s a $40 million company. But in some ways it’s good to be seen as a startup because it represents aggressive growth and pioneering new markets.”
2He isn’t aiming for an initial public offering right away, but it could be something that Black Duck pursues in the next few years. So far, the firm has raised $42 million in venture funding and has 185 employees. It plans on adding another 40 this year.
“I want to grow it faster than it’s been growing. With a few changes, we can probably grow maybe 40 or 50 percent. That’s my primary goal. It’s really fun when you can be in a company that grows and becomes public. You can have a really big impact on the community. I want to give ourselves the option.”
3You can make money with open source. A lot of it. Open source software uses code that is developed openly and often distributed free of charge. Black Duck helps customers in the technology and financial sectors find, customize, and implement the best open source technologies. The Boston area is home to a few open source companies such as Red Hat Inc. and Acquia Inc.
“I got to know Black Duck when I went to sell my company Reflectent to Citrix. And Citrix said we’re going to scan your code for open source. And, lo and behold, we found out that there was quite a bit in there. [Black Duck] started with this audit business. The real growth for us is going to be companies that have a lot of developers and help them understand how to use open source.”
4Black Duck is big in technology circles. It has more than 1,200 customers and has been recognized in the software industry as one of the leading open source consultants. Its next target is the financial sector.
“Those companies are big software development shops. They really need what we have. I think government, telecom, and media companies are going this way as well.”
5Shipley is an open source evangelist. One reason startups can take shape so much faster now than a decade ago is companies can use open source code as building blocks for writing software.
“Company formation is so much easier now because of open source. You are leveraging the creativity that has come before you. You can take those ideas and work with them, and not have to go do everything yourself. You can do it faster and a lot cheaper.”
6He’s a lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management where he teaches a course on technology sales and management. Compared with his days in business school, startups have achieved a new status. It’s cool now. Shipley worries about that.
“You are dealing with all these young people who want to go and start companies. You have to remind people that there’s a lot of risk here. There’s 1,000 ways to blow up a startup. You’ve got to be careful about the decisions you make, but you also have to make decisions quickly.”
7A serious pond hockey player, Shipley, 50, will return with his amateur team to the annual pond hockey tournament that begins Jan. 31 on Lake Winnipesaukee. He played hockey at Trinity College in Hartford as well as when he studied at Harvard Business School.
“Harvard Business School had a really good team. The only way I could get on was to be the accountant.”
Michael B. Farrell can be reached at email@example.com