Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Making Money from Erlang

Last Friday I had lunch with Jane Walerud.

Jane is one of the unsung heroines of the Erlang story. She was the first entrepreneur to recognise that having a better programming technology gave commercial advantages that could be turned into money.

Jane was the first entrepreneur to recognise the commercial value of Erlang and form a new company that would eventually earn over USD 100 million from Erlang.

In 1998, in those heady days before the great IT crash, we formed Bluetail. Bluetail had a strong technical core, composed of the techies who had made Erlang, and Jane. Jane knew all sorts of things like how to start a company, how to raise venture capital, how to write a contract, how to sell software. Things that we knew nothing about.

We knew how to do do techie things like how to write compilers, make databases, make fault-tolerant systems - but not how to turn these ideas into money.

In 2000 we sold Bluetail to Alteon Web Systems for USD 152 million. You can read more about this here.

Since Bluetail, Jane has been involved with eight new companies but she is still looking for ways to exploit Erlang.

Every year we hold the annual "Erlang conference" - people come from all over the world to talk about Erlang. Jane always comes.

"It's a funny thing," Jane said,

"at last year's user conference there were two entrepreneurs - that's a doubling - I used to be all alone."


Anonymous said...

Let's hope this year's conferences doubles the last one as well... and if we can keep up world domination is close, very close.

Anonymous said...

On the subject of entrepreneur, and Erlang...

I'm a entrepreneur, and like Jane I'm trying to build a new company with some pretty big ambitions. Erlang seems a perfect fit for parts of our infrastructure, but here's my problem: where do I hook up with some Erlang 'hackers' willing to work on a start-up? Any advice on this?

We're located in Copenhagen, Denmark close to the Erlang 'source' :), but we can't find any Erlang people in Denmark. It's very frustrating! Do you know if there are any universities who teach Erlang as part of their curriculum?

I hope you can shed some light on this issue, and help us harvest the great potential of Erlang.


Joe Armstrong said...

Hi Michael,

If you send me your email adress
I can reply privately to your comment.

You might like to try posting a job ad to the Erlang list, (or here :-)

Also you might like to come to the Erlang conference, and meet some of the users (and Venture Capitalists!)

See Here

Shaun said...

I recently started as a developer for a small company doing database programming. I chose Common Lisp for similar reasons. I'm the only developer and functional programming allows me to do better work. You can focus on expressibility and correctness better in functional programming languages with garbage collection.

Having learned common lisp, I believe my next language to learn will be erlang.

Michael Arnoldus said...

Hi Michael,

We are a small software company located in Farum, Denmark who are developing in Erlang. We have been doing this for the last 3 years and not regretted a single day.

Please contact me if you think we can help you in any way.

Kind regards,

Michael Arnoldus (mu.dk)
Tlf. +45 3369 1399

John Haugeland said...

She was the first entrepreneur to recognise that having a better programming technology gave commercial advantages that could be turned into money.

I believe that honor goes to John Backus, who used precisely that argument in 1952 to convince IBM to fund the development of FORTRAN in 1953 for the IBM 704, though there may be someone earlier about whom I do not know. That machine was big iron aimed at bean counters; if the end of the argument wasn't "... which is why it makes you money," FORTRAN would never have existed.

There is some reasonable argument that the statement is actually about syntactic expressiveness, at which point it can be attributed to Euler, in a rant about the shortsightedness of industrialists with regards to education in symbolic logic. Again, there may be someone earlier of whom I am unaware.