Kim Polese, CEO, Founder, SpikeSource

Kim PoleseFor those who followed the Silicon Valley boom of the late 90s, Kim Polese might be quite a familiar name.

In 1996, Polese founded Marimba, which was one of the first companies in the
$100 million Java Fund, which venture capital firm
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers started that same year.

In March 1997, Time magazine anointed Polese one of the top 25 most influential Americans. In 1999, the company went public, and in 2000 Polese stepped down as CEO.

The boom times are back in Silicon Valley and so is Polese.

This time around, Polese is the founder and CEO of open source startup
SpikeSource, which first saw light in 2005 as a provider of certified open source solution stacks.

This year the company has gained momentum, adding new solutions to its stack of supported Spike Certified applications.

Polese recently chatted with about SpikeSource and
the challenges of running a startup in the Silicon Valley.

Q: What do you see as the biggest myth surrounding what SpikeSource does?

I don’t know if it’s a myth but probably there is this perception that Spike
is more focused on infrastructure than solutions. I’m not sure that our
solutions message has got out there yet.

One of the things that’s important for us to be clear on is that we’re
certifying not only infrastructure stacks but also a breadth of solution
stacks and offerings in different categories.

The origins of the company were really infrastructure-oriented, but we’ve
really expanded and moved up the stack.

Q: What have been your biggest challenges since you got the business off the

We’re in a brand-new market here, so there is no formula for us to follow.
There is a lot that we have to figure out and also put into place very quickly.

The combination of building out a channel, delivering open source
applications to that channel, introducing it to them, teaching them that
open source isn’t just high quality but also a secure solution.

We’re also pioneering some new models in support. We’re building out a
federated support model, and that means signing up a network of partners that
are experts in different parts of the stack.

We have to figure out a lot of things that just haven’t been done before:
How do you make the economics of it work? How do you make business
partnerships work for everyone concerned? How do you make sure that everyone
gets to share in the revenue stream?

Those are some of the things you have to figure out in a new initiative, which is what we are.

Q: Is GPL 3 an issue that concerns you, or is it external to your

It hasn’t been a huge focus for us. We aren’t seeing a concern or questions
about it from our channel partners. And I don’t think they’re really getting
questions about it from their customers, either.

So, no it’s not something that is front and center as a critical issue for

We’re certainly tracking it closely. But the philosophy of the company is
that we’ll work with the popular open source licenses that are out there. We’re taking the applications and the infrastructure and we just pass
through the licenses

We don’t really get into debates about the specifics of those licenses and
that includes the GPL 3.

Q: Where is growth coming from? Is it coming at the expense of proprietary
solutions or are these “green field” software deployments?

The growth is coming mostly from new projects that are being rolled out.
We’re seeing a lot of Web content management initiatives, employee and
customer portals — that sort of thing.

The other area is extending existing solutions.

A lot of companies may have
proprietary software like Vignette, for example, but now they want to add more
and they want to make that application available to more customers.

instead of buying more Vignette licenses they’re buying open source at a
fraction of the cost with the knowledge that it’s going to be supported and

Q: Is there anything out there that worries
you about open source stack competition? Or do you think that you’ve got such a lead that you don’t need to be overly concerned?

I don’t lay awake at night worrying about competitors. Really what I’m
concerned about is “let’s make sure that we’ve got all the ingredients that
the solution providers need to deliver world-class applications and service
to their customers.”

Q: What keeps you up at night? What are the biggest personal challenges
that you have running SpikeSource?

There are a lot of challenges that remain whether you’re an open source
company or a proprietary software company or even not in the technology
business at all.

Those are always about just the block and tackling of building a company.

It’s about all of things that companies here in the Valley have to deal
with, especially now as it’s starting to heat up again.

It’s a pretty
competitive recruiting environment; rents are going up. All those things that
I remember from 10 years ago in founding Marimba really still do exist.

That’s also what makes it fun. It’s actually a lot of fun to be together with
a team working together on something that is groundbreaking and being on a
mission together but obviously that comes with all of the challenges of
scaling a big mountain.

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