Most Influential People In Open Source

As part of MindTouch’s 2009 open source best practices research,  we asked C and VP level Open Source Executives who they thought are the most influential people in the industry today.  Over 50 votes from Executives in Europe and North America were cast to determine the 2009 edition (note: they could not vote for anyone in their own company).  What makes this list remarkable is that industry insiders were the judges.

There were a few surprises from outside of the open source industry.  For instance, Steve Ballmer was voted in because of his negative remarks on the open source industry and its subsequent positive impact.  Vivek Kundra was voted in because of his contributions to the industry inside the US Federal Government (in fact the site was revamped with open source software).  Notably absent however are any influential women.

This list of the top influential Executives of the 2009 is ranked by the effect these individuals have had on the open source industry.  Not all are recognizable, but these leaders are the movers, shakers and thought leaders of the open source industry.   Want to know the future direction of open source?  Just ask a few of the people on this list.

Rank Executive Biography
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Larry Augustin

Larry Augustin is CEO of SugarCRM.  One of the group who coined the term “Open Source”, he has written and spoken extensively on Open Source worldwide. In 1993 he founded VA Linux (now SourceForge, NASDAQ:LNUX), where he served as CEO until August 2002. While CEO he launched and led the company through an IPO in 1999.
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Matt Asay

Matt Asay has been involved with open source since 1998, and is one of the industry’s leading open source business strategists. Asay currently manages sales and business development activities in the Americas for Alfresco.  Asay also writes a very influential open source blog on CNET.
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Marten Mickos

Mårten Gustaf Mickos was chief executive officer (CEO) of MySQL AB. He served as chief executive officer from January 2001 to February 2008, when Sun bought MySQL AB. He served as senior vice president of the database group at Sun Microsystems until February 2009. In February 2008 he was announced as member of the board of Mozilla Messaging, in May 2009, he also joined the board of directors at RightScale. In September 2009 venture capital firm Benchmark Capital hired Mickos as their Entrepreneur In Residence.


Jim Whitehurst

Jim Whitehurst was named President and Chief Executive Officer of Red Hat in December 2007. Whitehurst joined Delta Air Lines in 2002, serving in various roles, most recently as Chief Operating Officer, responsible for Operations, Sales and Customer Service, Network and Revenue Management, Marketing and Corporate Strategy. Prior to joining Delta, Whitehurst served as Vice President and Director of The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and held various leadership roles in their Chicago, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Atlanta offices.
5 clip_image002[10]

Dries Buytaert

Dries Buytaert created Drupal in 2001 and has led the software project ever since. He has guided it through rapid growth and to widespread acclaim. Dries is able to motivate the burgeoning community of users and developers by communicating ‘the big picture’ while paying careful and measured attention to the technical details essential to good software development. These two factors have been crucial to Drupal’s popularity and success to date.

Honorable Mentions

Individual Their Company Individual Their Company
Mark Radcliffe DLA Piper Mark Shuttleworth Ubuntu Project
Andrew Aitken Olliance Group Rod Johnson SpringSource
Marc Fleury Retired (JBoss) Scott Mcnealy Sun Microsystems


Tom Erickson, Sam Ramji, Brian Gentile, Steve Ballmer, Doug Levin, Greg Schott, John Powell, John Roberts, Jonathan Schwartz, Roger Burkhardt, Tim Yeaton, Vivek Kundra, Walt Johnson, Zack Urlocker, Aaron Fulkerson, John Lilly

The accomplishments and influence of these executives highlight the story of the most significant changes in open source this year.  We will continue to publish this “insiders” VIP list each year as part of our comprehensive analysis of open source best practices in sales and marketing.

Please comment on the list or let us know who is missing.


  1. The Mark Shuttleworth’s Twitter profile you linked to isn’t the right one…

  2. How is Matt Mullenweg not even mentioned?

    • Ryan,

      This year the participating executives were almost entirely from enterprise open source companies. Executives from about 25 open source companies were surveyed, some of those included: JasperSoft, Alfresco, Pentaho, SugarCRM, Zimbra, Talend, OpenBravo, etc… While I was impressed by the number of participants and participating companies I suspect next year there will be an even larger group participating.

      Truth be told though, this list is not dissimilar from one I would have created were I tasked with listing the most influential. By the way, I really liked the fact Mark disallowed each vendor from nominating people from their own companies. This objectivity seems to have made the list pretty accurate.

  3. What about Shaun Walker, creator of DotNetNuke?

  4. Ken Banks of

  5. Are you crazy??? Steve Ballmer (Microsoft CEO)?

    Seriously, I was expecting to see at least on of those individuals in the list:

    Linus Torvalds (Linux creator), Eric S. Raymond (Open Source advocate), Bruce Perens (started Debian Linux and coined the term “Open Source”), Richard Stallman (Free Software Foundation spiritual father), Bob Young & Marc Ewing (Red Hat founders) and Larry Page & Sergey Brin (Google founders).

  6. Hi Aaron, Mark!

    I’ve got to disagree with the validity of this list. :( You write:

    “What makes this list remarkable is that industry insiders were the judges.”

    I would argue that because the industry insiders were judges, this list is not valid at all…frankly some of the people on this list have zero influence in the open source community at all.

    Also, where is Tim O’Reilly on this list? Seems very strange for such a proponent of open source to be missing…

    I don’t have anything at all against any of the people on the list above. I just think that as far as “influential people in open source” goes…there’s a lot of folks like Tim O’Reilly, Rasmus Lerdorf, Larry Wall, Guido Van Rossum, Tim Bray, etc, that open source community *activists* and *developers* listen to a lot more than Larry Augustin or Scott McNealy.



  7. What about Matt Mullenweg?
    Have you ever heard about a publishing platform called “WordPress”? ; )

  8. @Jay,

    I like what Radcliffe wrote: In short, we should separate into two categories next year: 1. contributions in business or law and 2. technical contributions.

    As for “industry insiders” I can report the top three people (and several others) on this list each have had a significant, direct and positive impact on MindTouch. I suspect the same is true for the other 25 open source companies surveyed. Realize these 25 open source companies represent the most successful and innovative open source companies today. I think this speaks volumes.

    Finally, I think your suggestions, and some others listed here, are solid. However, I completely agree with Matt’s assessment in his post on this list: I think this is a pretty clear indication of the maturation of our industry.

  9. Open source is not equivalent to open source companies. Please don’t abuse the name of “open source” to try and refer to what are effectively modern-day-shareware businesses.

    You should really have said “Most Influential People in Commercial Open Source Businesses”.

    Open source is also not an industry.

  10. How about Michael Tiemann ?

  11. Where is Linus Torvalds??

  12. No Mitchell Baker? One of the most significant women in opensource.

  13. @Imran,

    I too am disappointed by the lack of women in this list. Next year perhaps.

  14. Ditto on Mullenweg. WordPress is bringing open source to tons of people.

  15. Honestly, who gives a RAt’s ass?

  16. I also agree with Miiko above. The survey seems rather sketchy and it feels like you are mixing apples and oranges and peanuts. The result is an interesting popularity contest, but that is probably about it. I would try creating a few different categories (legal track, business track, tech track, purist track) – that would be interesting.

  17. Disappointing list. Real heroes are completely left out. Instead the rich and famous are included. Remember Linus Torvalds, Andrew Tredgell, Larry Wall, Alan Cox, Richard Stallman who started the free software movement..

  18. This list includes none of the real heroes, instead only the rich and famous.

  19. Anand, I agree with your heroes ‘hall of fame’ list. The goal of the survey was to determine who are the movers and shakers in open source today.

    BTW: Next year’s survey will be expanded to include some new categories.

  20. The title of the article is wrong. This clearly are (some) of the most influential executives as you state later in the article, not the most important _people_ in open source. Important people in open source are usually not executives.

  21. Want to know the future direction of open source? Just ask a few of the people on this list.

    That statement sounds good but is quite hollow. One of the great things with Open source is that you never know whats coming next…

  22. Wow, quite surprised that Andrew Trigwell of SAMBA fame isn’t there.

  23. Since Steve Ballmer is in there, then your probably considering influential for better of for worst.

  24. Obviously this list is a bit biased, two of the names on this list already board member for MindTouch, more or less this is a marketing ploy.

    • @Dan,

      I must point out that Matt and Larry are very active on the board of many open source companies. The two combined likely sit on the majority of open source companies’ boards or advisory boards. Indeed, this is likely one of the factors they’re considered to be very influential.

  25. alan cox.
    without him few things would work.
    never mind the suits

  26. Where is Ton Roosendaal from the Blender Foundation!
    His look on Open Source and Open Contend changed everything for good!

    Blender is now a well used alternative in the industry.
    Elephant’s Dream and Big Buck Bunny are the only open movies right now, and used a lot for studies.
    Yo Frankie!, is one of the only open games that is used as base for a lot of starting developers.

    Where is Ton, the best open source CEO ever!

  27. I’m deeply shocked and agree wholeheartedly with Etienne who mentiones the real Open Source heroes and movers like Linus Torvalds (Linux creator), Eric S. Raymond (Open Source advocate), Bruce Perens (started Debian Linux and coined the term “Open Source”), Richard Stallman (Free Software Foundation spiritual father), Bob Young & Marc Ewing (Red Hat founders) and Larry Page & Sergey Brin (Google founders).

    Shame on you for not mentioning ANY of those above. I’ve been using Open Source software since early ’90 and can’t say I’m impressed with your list.

    ….and remove Steve Ballmer from the list before I regurgitate….

  28. Miguel de Icaza?

    Pamela Jones?

    Paul Graham?

    +1 to Michael Tiemann and Alan Cox.

    Jamie Zawinski?

    Larry and Sergey ?

    Matthias Etrich?

    Mozilla folks changed the whole internet game on its head and continue to do so.

    Conclusion: “few of the most influential people”

    VPs and CEOs need to be more knowledgeable while using their vote.

  29. This list looks equal to saying that “The makers of Linux, GNU, Apache, Python, QT etc. are really all open source cheerleaders, and we can make money without them.”

  30. I have __NEVER__ seen such a dumb list, where is Linus, the Well crowd, ESR, Perens … All this tells me is the author is utterly clueless!

  31. Dries? If by “influential” you mean “responsible for creating one of the most poorly planned and sloppiest content management systems to date”, then yes I would agree.

  32. Sir,

    I think your list is foobar, so many omission its laughable.

    And Ballmer? Most obnoxious surely, ugliest probably, sickest fux you wouldn’t want to have to sit through lunch with, maybe. But open source?

    Or did you mean open sores?



  33. I was happy to see Dries Buytaert in the right place.
    Drupal is amazing, changes the web, and lots of its success is thanks to Dries.

  34. Why are 2 of your board members in the top 2 most influential? Is it because you can arbitrarily chose who ever you want to be in this list.

    Also the list is incredibly web centric and to a person who actually uses FOSS it is so obvious that you don’t use a FOSS desktop, everything listed is so webcentric it is painful.

  35. Are you crazy??? Steve Ballmer (Microsoft CEO)?

    Seriously, I was expecting to see at least on of those individuals in the list:

    Linus Torvalds (Linux creator), Eric S. Raymond (Open Source advocate), Bruce Perens (started Debian Linux and coined the term “Open Source”), Richard Stallman (Free Software Foundation spiritual father), Bob Young & Marc Ewing (Red Hat founders) and Larry Page & Sergey Brin (Google founders).


  36. Maybe not up to the same caliber as the rest of the list, but I’d definitely put a mention up for Pete Trbovich. He runs A lot of what he says is really controversial. So what he says ends up being what everybody else is saying five years later.

    He also has a parody of Linux culture in a comic strip there, “Doomed to Obcurity”, which is just plain wicked.

  37. I would say this is more a list of those who have been successful with commercialization of open source. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The true influential people in open source are the creatives who founded the movement and are still active today. At the top of the list should be somebody like Linus Torvalds or Mark Shuttleworth.

  38. Executives who vote for other executives? The title of this post is incorrect.

    As Jay Pipes said, open source community activists and developers don’t care about the people on this list. Let me do my own survey…

  39. This is a list of C levels, not people who are actually in the industry! The people surveyed are only busy with selling their widget and could care less about open-source or even know what it is. These people aren’t influential at all, they’re just the ‘currently employed’ by the boards of each company. Influential are people who see open-source as a movement, Stallman, Torvalds and the like.

  40. What with all the SHOCK and HORROR over Ballmer being mentioned I feel compelled to mention that I believe this: was the root of the Ballmer vote(s).

  41. A title reading “Most Influential People In Open Source” should be supported by a proper methodology. Most of the folks listed certainly play a role in open source influence, but the main players are not even mentioned and I don’t see anyone from the EFF either…and if this is only focused on business types at least get Mark Shuttleworth – his foundation only made the most popular linux disto for personal use.

  42. If MySQL guys are so high up there, there should have been a mention of some of the Postgres proponents too…

  43. Congratulations to Drupal Dries!

  44. What exactly Mr. Steve is doing here?

  45. Whereas it’s arguable whether RMS, ESR, Linus and Alan Cox still have a significant, direct influence on open source software, it’s simply wrong putting Mike Shuttleworth just as a “honorable mention” (by the way, you can link to his site His Canonical currently has an enormous influence on desktop linux community. Also, how about key developers of “hottest” projects, like KDE (Aaron Seigo seems like a very influential person within that community), Mono (Miguel de Icaza?) or GNOME (Stormy Peters?). You should also put Novell as an influential company.

  46. Weird list… What about Linus and Alan?!?

  47. This isn’t the list of the most influential people in open source, this is the list of business men that a different bunch of business men have actually heard of. In open source software I would expect to see Torsvalds, Cox and Stallman at least. And where are the women?


  48. Where is Mullah Stallman and his taliban ?

    Please do make it a point to mention Mullah Stallman or else he will be bring out a new license version expressly to avoid these kind of omissions called the GNU Do leave me Please license.

  49. Cool list. But I know only a few of the ones listed.

    Why is Mark Shuttleworth’s name not linked to his blog – when everybody’s names are linked to their respective websites ?

  50. @Etienne Savard:

    “Larry Page & Sergey Brin (Google founders)”

    What’s OPEN in Google? Goole is a black hole for open source.. open source may enter, but it never get out. I can’t see what’s the influence of Google in open source.

  51. @LinuxAndFriends,

    Thanks. Shuttleworth was originally linked to the wrong Shuttleworth. Corrected.

  52. Steve Ballmer? Open source? Really?

    Granted, guess he serves as an influence on what NOT to do.

  53. What about Moodle? There’s no mention of Martin Dougiamus and his Moodle team in the list. This seems a little short sighted based on the massive positive impact Moodle and other VLEs are having on the education sector worldwide.

  54. @disem:

    > What’s OPEN in Google? Goo[g]le is a black hole for open source.. open source may enter, but it never get out. I can’t see what’s the influence of Google in open source.

    That’s total FUD!

    You apparently don’t know what you are talking about… Google are good Open Source citizens and they have opened-up a lot of cool projects. Here is a short and incomplete list:

    - The Go programming language:
    - Google Code (kind of SourceForge and free as in free beer)
    - Closure:
    - Android:
    - And, not the least, they provide a lot of API to interact with their web services:

    They also finance students working on Open Source projects with Google Summer of Code:

    Microsoft, on the opposite, use Open Source components in Windows 7 without providing the source code back: Unless someone catch them!

  55. disem Says:

    >> What’s OPEN in Google? Google is a black hole for open source..
    >> open source may enter, but it never get out. I can’t see what’s the influence of Google in open source.

    You obviously don’t know what you are talking about. Man, you got a lot of FUD in only 3 short sentences!

    Let me put the fact straight about Google. Google is not an Open Source Company but they definitely are good Open Source citizen. They have open sourced a lot of code and they support financially Summer of Code which sponsors students to work on Open Source projects during summer. They also provides Google Code which is hosting thousands of Open Source projects (including Google’s). They recently released, as open source projects, the Go programming language and Closure. Their web browser Chrome is Open Source. They provide a lot of API’s (in many languages) to interact with their web services. Android is Open Source.

    What do you want else? Their search engine technology? Come on!

  56. Oups, double-post! :)

    Sorry. Same ideas, different words.

  57. What about Ton Roosendaal, who runs Blender, one of the most solid and routinely successful open-source projects in a world where most of them die due to lack of support?

  58. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  59. Why are there no women?

  60. My vote goes to Shaun Belding from Customer Service Champions!

  61. Fulkerson didn't write this article. Claiming he wrote it and then voting for himself as an honorable mention is just silly.

    • Weird. Mark Fidelman wrote this article… I think. I don\’t know why my name is on it at the author. I\’ll ask Sarah. Yeah, this was a long time ago, but I recall Mark surveyed several dozens of executives from open source companies. This clearly was not very scientific, but I thought it was a fun list then and I still do. Take a look at what many of these have achieved since this list launched.

    • Hi Jason – Sorry for the confusion. Must've been a bug in WordPress and it got flipped somehow. We are working to fix it. Thanks for understanding. :)

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