I had a chance to reflect on 2008 on my way to Tokyo two weeks ago and was really humbled by realizing how many amazing opportunities Liferay has had this year.
2008 Highlights: Continued Grassroots Success, and Recognition from Decision Makers and Marquee Customers
2008 has been the year where Liferay's traditional strength within the developer and SI community has been complemented by overwhelming recognition from "the top down," helping enterprise executives make sense of their enterprise portal options in a chaotic market:
- In January, Oracle kicked off the year with its acquisition of BEA, leaving us with one less competitor and confusion in the portal marketplace. Customers were left to play russian roulette choosing one of four BEA/Oracle portal products; many of them decided instead to choose Liferay, whose commitment to open source and open standards eliminates the risks of product discontinuation, company failure, or acquisition.
- February saw the launch of Lufthansa Flight Training's Liferay-based website and learning delivery system (which they chose over Sharepoint 2007) and AAA's new enterprise-wide intranet.
- In March, Liferay participated in its first Gartner Portals, Content and Collaboration Summit in Baltimore, where open source was highlighted as one of five disruptive forces in the IT market today. Also, at Brainshare, Novell continued to showcase its use of Liferay in its teaming and conferencing solution. Liferay also held its first User Group in Dalian, with over 100 attendees from major Chinese enterprises and government bodies, including Genpact, SAP, Dell, and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.
- May saw the formal announcement of our relationship with Sun, who, recognizing Liferay's leadership in the portal space, decided to sunset their own portal and use Liferay instead. Their engineers have been submitting fixes and improvements to Liferay Portal, and Sun customers interested in an open source portal solution can now turn to Liferay for subscriptions and support.
- In June, Cisco Systems launched its Liferay-based Developer Network, an online social collaboration community that makes a direct impact on Cisco's bottom line. Liferay also participated in the Intalio User Conference in San Francisco, highlighting Liferay's strengths as part of a complete open source SOA solution, providing a single loosely-coupled, reusable presentation tier with user management, content management, collaboration capability, social computing, and web services connectivity to complement Intalio's great BPM and workflow capability.
- August was a busy month kicked off by Liferay's annual community Meetup at our headquarters in Los Angeles. Over 100 community members spent the day in various workshops, and we announced the availability of Liferay Enterprise Edition, a subscription service that provides long-term maintenance updates, bug fixes, and optional indemnification for our enterprise customers who can't always upgrade to the latest versions of Liferay. August also saw the launch of two great sites, Sesame Workshop's new web destination for kids, and OCLC's WebJunction, a social collaboration network for librarians across North America.
- September was our first ever Liferay European Symposium, with nearly 200 paid participants joining Liferay for two days of keynotes, workshops, case studies, and networking. Our European customers like HanseMerkur, BMW and Kempinski Hotels gave several presentations, and we had attendees from as far away as New Zealand and India. Also in September, Liferay's inclusion as a visionary in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Horizontal Portal products solidified our standing as the open source enterprise portal leader.
- In October, York University rolled out its Liferay-based student portal to rave reviews. In a short six months, the team created a one-stop place for students to check their course schedules, view payment and billing information, interact with library systems, receive grades, review personalized exam schedules, and more. Liferay also scored a double with its inclusion in the Magic Quadrant for Social Software with our new Social Office product.
- In November, the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development launched the Rural Poverty Portal as a Liferay Web 2.0 collaboration site, lending credence to Liferay's inclusion in the EContent 100 for the third consecutive year.
- December is not over yet, but we've already seen the launch of MINI United, a social networking site for MINI owners created on Liferay Portal. We also convened the Liferay team from eight different countries for our annual Liferay Retreat and Developer Pow Wow; for about 2-3 weeks every winter, our core engineering team puts their heads together in the LA office to plan, code, and throw it down on the handball court. We held the first ever World Cup of Liferay Football, and predictably the two European teams faced off in the finals, with Spain taking the first year's cup. Frankfurt vows vengeance next year and word has it they can already be seen practicing in the fields of sleepy Langen in near zero temperatures.
Organizational Growth (Liferay Now in 3 out of 4 BRIC Countries)
2008 has been a year of growth for Liferay:
- Liferay GmbH, our Frankfurt-based European headquarters, is on a tear, with 100%+ revenue growth and an impressive client roster, including BMW, Robert Bosch, HanseMerkur, Kempinski Hotels, Lufthansa Flight Training, and Dekra AG. Our Director of European Operations, Suresh Shamanna, has built a fantastic team in Frankfurt and has worked relentlessly to serve our customers in that market. Great work, Suresh!
- Our Brazilian team grew by 50% and they've proved to be some of our best engineers, adding creativity, passion and brasileiro flair to the team. Força brasil!
- In April we formalized our Madrid operations with the establishment of Liferay SL, providing subscription support and sponsored development capability to the Iberian market and adding the engineering talents of our three amigos Alberto, Jorge, and Julio. What strikes me about our Spanish team is their commitment to the open source ethos and to the Liferay vision. They would not have joined Liferay if not for our commitment to making an impact on the world.
- Liferay's operations in China continues to grow, and they are well positioned to serve our customers in the Asia Pacific region, including the Korean and Japanese markets.
- Liferay India was founded this year to complement the global professional services team and deliver additional value through global sourcing of our talent
- Liferay has increased activity in the Southern Hemisphere, with two training sessions given in Kuala Lumpur, a Cocktail Reception held with Intalio in Singapore, and increased adoption and customer acquisition in Africa.
What's amazing about our growth story is that it was completely organic and based on relationships. Folks we hire at Liferay are people we trust, either through past working lives or friendships or because they are members of the community that have invested in the product for years. Even our operations in China and India were not part of some calculated outsourcing strategy but rather based on existing connections and organic growth.
Profitable for a Fifth Straight Year—and still Passionate
I also want to say that we're very fortunate to work at a company that is profitable and self-funded. Our profitability proves we are providing real value to customers, who are willing to pay for our subscriptions and services, and also gives us the following advantages:
- Profitability means we make decisions based on what is best for our customers and the product, since Liferay isn't under pressure to get out of the red.
- We deliver on the promise of open source value by focusing investment on product engineering.
- Liferay sets our own agenda for how we balance revenue growth and our commitment to the Liferay open source community. For example, when we decided to introduce Liferay Enterprise Edition, we made key decisions to protect our community's investment in Liferay Portal.
It's also my privilege to work with an amazing group of passionate people. Liferay folks love what they do, which shows in the products they build and the services they provide. And most importantly, many of them have explicitly stated they would not work here if not for our vision to make an impact on the world.
The Bigger Picture
To that end, it would be good to talk about that vision. 2008 was a tumultuous year in the broader world outside technology and software. Certainly this was a historic and unprecedented year for the financial markets and the global economy, and the fallout from 2008 will continue to affect quality of life for many people from the "top" all the way to the "bottom" for years to come. Economists, businessmen, and politicians will need to take a long, hard look at policies, systems, and institutions to see what needs to change to create a sustainable world system for the future. For its small part, the open source world is expecting enterprises to take a fresh look at their software offerings, which promise greater ROI and flexibility to respond to crisis, but these are economic and operational considerations and perhaps ancillary to the greater issues at hand.
2008 also saw a great deal of political unrest and natural disaster, and Liferay had the privilege of being involved in helping address some of those issues:
- We began the year with unrest in Kenya, where one of the non-profits we work with, Common Hope for Health, has done a lot of work to address public health issues. CHH blogged about the situation on their Liferay site, and its founder Scott Lee continues to be involved in the work there.
- Liferay and its open source community also had the privilege to support relief efforts in both China and Myanmar, both of which were devastated by natural disasters in May of this year. Liferay employees and the Liferay community donated a total of $9429 to the causes, and with Liferay's 2 for 1 match a total of $28,287 was raised.
- Finally, as mentioned earlier, Liferay has had the privilege this year of working with the UN IFAD and Liferay also began working with the World Food Programme for a major SOA integration initiative. Both organizations seek to address poverty issues on a long-term basis.
When Brian Chan founded Liferay, he really wanted to make sure we didn't wait until the end of our lives to get involved in world changing work, and though the impact we make really is small (we're just a software company after all—and a free software company at that), it is there. I share this neither to boast nor to belittle the work we do; it's neither revolutionary nor inconsequential, but it is the contribution we can make, and I hope it will challenge others of you in positions of influence to do the same.