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Software Company Transforms Itself to Try and Transform Its Industry

Published: September 14, 2010 09:50


Sonatype Inc.’s motto is "transforming software development."

But first, it is transforming itself.

Investors behind the startup just injected nearly $12 million in venture funding into the company, moved its headquarters from Silicon Valley to Silver Spring, Md., hired a new CEO, overhauled its sales staff and added a suite full of new top managers.

"I think it’s fair to say we were a package," said Wayne Jackson, the company’s new CEO.

Jackson, 49, comes with formidable credentials and a strong track record with Washington-area startups. Sonatype’s founder and its investors are betting on him to take the company to the next level.

"Wayne has consistently proven that he can build extremely successful software companies," said Jason van Zyl, Sonatype’s founder and chief technology officer.

Previously, as CEO of Columbia, Md.-based Sourcefire Inc., Jackson took revenues at the technology security company from about $2 million to $10 million and oversaw its transition from startup to publicly traded company over the course of about five years. Prior to that, he was CEO of Riverbed Technologies, where he said he had similar results.

Sonatype creates software development and project management tools for companies such as Cisco Systems Inc., eTrade Financial Corp. and Vanguard Group Inc. that develop their own software.

In just a few short years, more than 4 million software developers have used Sonatype’s open-source development tools, including its popular Maven and Nexus systems, the company claims.

Jackson said Sonatype is ready for the next phase of its evolution.

"This is the point in the company’s history where it really starts to get developed as a substantial company," he said.

Clearly, Sonatype is still developing. Up until about nine months ago, Jackson said, the company didn’t even have a sales force.

Along with stepping up its sales operations, Jackson hand-picked a new executive team, including new executive vice president Larry Roshfeld, who worked with Jackson at Riverbed and also has held executive positions at Lotus Development and IBM. He also hired a new chief financial officer, product manager, sales director and chief marketing officer.

Sonatype today, Jackson said, is not too much unlike where Sourcefire was when he joined that startup. "I’m not seeing the exact parallel, but it seems we have the same kind of market potential," he said.

The company currently has about 30 employees, but Jackson said he expects to double that workforce within the next year.

Fueling all of Sonatype’s growth is the new infusion of venture capital, coming from a firm that has put its money behind Jackson before.

Accel Partners led the new $11.6 million round of venture funding, with support from current investors Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, Morgenthaler Ventures and Bay Partners.

Accel also was an investor in Sourcefire.

"It is great to be working with Wayne again after our successful partnership at Sourcefire," Accel general partner Sameer Gandhi said in a statement. "Wayne has a strong track record of recognizing breakthrough technology opportunities."

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