How a Couple of ex-Microsoft Guys Built An Open Source Powerhouse

MindTouch has catapulted into a leading place in the enterprise collaborative market by harnessing open source

Enterprise class collaboration is usually a market dominated by big companies such as Microsoft's SharePoint and IBM's Lotus platforms. But two ex-Microsofties have leveraged the open source model to catapult to the top of the heap in the collaboration space in just a few short years. Today Aaron Fulkerson's and Steve Bjorg's concept of making a better combo wiki/SharePoint that worked the way people want serves more than 10,000,000 users!

Fulkerson and Bjorg both worked at Microsoft's advanced strategies division before leaving and subsequently forming MindTouch. MindTouch bills themselves as:

The leader in Enterprise 2.0 Collaborative Networks and is changing the way businesses capture, share and collaborate on information. With MindTouch, companies are revolutionizing how they work and increasing returns on investment from existing software, hardware and humanware.

  • Improve enterprise speed and agility with dashboards and dynamic reports created from across existing enterprise systems and data sources
  • Rapidly develop content workflows, social applications and enterprise situational applications
  • Improve corporate wide efficiency with real-time intelligence and just-in-time wiki like collaboration

MindTouch combines the speed, agility and ease of use of a wiki with the scalability, security and integration of an enterprise portal. With MindTouch, users can connect enterprise applications and data silos to create a real time information fabric that even novice computer users can collaborate on. Forget traditional enterprise portals and web content management systems that require many months to deploy and countless development hours to build. Speed and agility is what every enterprise requires. With MindTouch your business will benefit from a higher value Collaborative Network in a fraction of the time and with a fraction of the cost.

Industry leaders use MindTouch to address critical business challenges. MindTouch serves more than 16 million users and thousands of companies. Customers include Mozilla, Microsoft, Intel, Intuit, The Washington Post, EMC, Harvard, Timberland, The US Army and The United Nations. MindTouch users report double-digit percentage increases in productivity and orders of magnitude of return on investment from their MindTouch powered Collaborative Intranets, Extranets and Documentation Portals. 

MindTouch offers a community supported free, open source version of the product. They then offer a commercially licensed enterprise edition that is built on the same code base but has a lot more features as well as of course commercial support.

The real key of MindTouch's success though is the great community they have build. There are something like over 1,000 script applications and plugins written and contributed by the community.  That has been the secret weapon for MindTouch to take on giants like Microsoft and IBM and compete successfully. 

Of course MindTouch is not the first company to do so successfully. In fact much of what they have done is right out of open source success 101 textbook. I spoke to CEO Aaron Fulkerson about this and other things just last week.

The thing that struck me most about my conversation with Aaron is that he had what other successful CEO's I have spoken to had, open source or not, that is tremendous enthusiasm and passion for their company and space.

MindTouch made some news last week in announcing their "most powerful voice in open source" rankings.  Though it does not have a lot to do with the core MindTouch business it should give you an idea of how immersed in the open source world MindTouch is.  

Below is a video featuring Aaron talking about the company. I think you will get an idea of what makes him and MindTouch so successful.


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