Closing thoughts on Umbraco

Last week it finally became public knowledge that the Swedish equity fund Monterro is buying a majority stake in Umbraco, for me it marks an end of a 10 year journey with Umbraco, which I left 3 years ago, but didn’t really process before the sale negotiations started earlier this year.

On a rainy, grey day, back in 2007 I travelled to a dull office building outside Nyborg, the former site of the Great Belt Bridge building company. I was there to discuss with Niels on how we could make Umbraco a “real and sustainable business”, we spend hours in front of whiteboards and in spreadsheets, trying to figure out how many courses, add-ons and support contracts we would need to sell, to make 2 fulltime wages. We even dared to dream big and estimated that with a distributed team of 5-7 people, we would have an amazing operational setup. We threw around statements such as “stay small and nimble”, “let’s rewrite the rules”, “bootstrapped”. As I left the office late in the evening we had a plan.

10 years later, Umbraco and I had outgrown each other and I decided to pursue other things. With a staff of ~40, a physical office, a partner program and a full fledged cloud offering, nothing had of course gone according to our initial naive plan, it became something else and greater and it was truly an exceptional time for me.

This was not a VC-fueled, 80 hour workweek, soul destroying growth hell. It is an organically grown business with solid principles and heart and soul. It was a rare opportunity to build a bootstrapped company, being involved in strategy, engineering, community building and product. Staying true to the dream of finding an open source business model, which respected the needs of the community, the paying customers and the business itself. Meaning delivering an amazing content management system to the community for free and at the same time monetizing it through additional value targeted at commercial and enterprise customers with an ecosystem and cloud offerings, without diluting the free offering - it took many attempts to get it balanced just right.

I think we were able to pull it off, and with the announcement last week, Umbraco is continuing in that direction, but now with a substantial financial backing to continue scaling.

While this marks the definitive end for me, with a 3 year delay, I continue to be very excited for Umbraco and what they will be able to do in the future.

Thank you Niels for being such an inspiring collaborator through the years, to Kim for giving me my first real leadership learnings and to all the other product, engineering and partner people who I worked with through the years and who patiently taught me so much.