I've heard from several different sources about a "hot deal" for
venture capital funding of a Drupal-oriented
start-up called Acquia. Acquia has been in
stealth mode, but not for long -- "hot" means likely to get funded,
perhaps by a consortium of VCs. Acquia
will release has released an FAQ outlining
the new company, formed with a CEO and some developers, as well as the participation
of Drupal founder and über-committer Dries
Buytaert as Acquia CTO. As Web
CMS Report readers know, Dries is revered in the Drupal community by
creating both a culture and a technical framework for the project where a thousand
flowers could bloom in the form of pluggable, community-contributed "modules."
Rare is the Drupal implementation without a unique bouquet of such modules.
As someone who tries to follow open source governance models I find this development fascinating. Clearly there's an opportunity here. Drupal is riding the Web 2.0 wave on two fronts: as a tool built from the ground up to support user-generated content, and (consequently) as a favored platform choice many Web 2.0 start-ups -- who sometimes found the product lacking the kind of maturity and readiness one would want to stake a business on. VCs are anxious to ride this wave. Some sort of formal commercial venture thus seems quite inevitable.
Acquia says in its FAQ that they will play nicely with the community and add new intellectual property to the project. That makes good sense for all concerned.
And yet, large raucous communities don't always cotton to even the hint of one of their members assuming a leadership mantle (or oversized share of profits) out of the blue. It's one thing when a commercial company founds a project (c.f., Zope or Alfresco) and then has to negotiate the reins with the community they fervently hoped would join the project. It's quite another for a highly distributed community to ingest a sizable commercial firm without feathers getting ruffled. I won't go out on a limb and predict the kind of turmoil and forks that befell Mambo and threaten Joomla! even today. But if you have staked your website, or even your start-up, on Drupal, you'll want to watch your interests very closely as this unfolds.