In an unexpected move, Matt Asay, Chief Operating Officer (COO) for Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu Linux, will be leaving Ubuntu. In an e-mail to me, Asay, former VP of Business Development at Alfresco, the open-source enterprise Content Management System (CMS), told me that the news of his depature from Canonical would be be announced internally at Canonical today, December 8th. Asay is leaving Canonical, because “Basically, I needed to get back to a customer-facing role but hadn't realized that until my good friend, Bryce Roberts, pinged me about a company he had invested in (Strobe). I hadn't been looking around but agreed to meet with Charles [Jolley], the founder.” Strobe has already raised $2.5M from Tim O'Reilly's venture fund, O'Reilly Alpha Tech Ventures (OATV) and Hummer Winblad. The company is using the money to build a platform for delivering touch-driven web applications, based around the open-source SproutCore framework and HTML5. Asay continued, “It's a very early stage company (founded in July) and as we talked, I realized that much of what they needed was what I had enjoyed so much at Alfresco: early spadework with customers and partners, plus figuring out business models and evangelizing new ways to be open. It didn't hurt that that company's early focus is on the publishing industry, a market and challenge I love." He explained, “The decision, then, was more about finding a good role for me and my family than Canonical, which has grown sales ~300% each quarter (year over year) since I've been here. The opportunities at Canonical are real, near-term, and very big. I was involved in helping to grow them at Canonical but not as much as I'd like. With 400 people in the company, Canonical is not a startup anymore. I want to get back to the very early stage growth that Strobe offers.” Assay is leaving with Canonical's best wishes. In an e-mail, Jane Silber, Canonical's CEO, told me that “Unfortunately for us, Matt will be leaving Canonical December 17 for the lure of an early-stage start-up. While his time here has been relatively short, we all appreciate the positive impact he has had in many areas and I will personally be very sorry to see him go.”
Matt is joining Strobe, an early stage start-up at the nexus of open source and the open web, much like Matt himself. He will be taking a senior business development position, and that opportunity provides an irresistible forum for him to exercise his skills in a customer-facing role at a small start-up.No other changes are expected at Canonical at this time as the company continues to work towards its next release of Ubuntu.
While we will miss Matt, Canonical operations remain strong. We will recruit to replace Matt, hoping to find someone who carries on his love of Dilbert cartoons and The Smiths! We all wish Matt well in his new adventure.