CXO

Larry Augustin: Open source pioneer. SugarCRM CEO. Gym rat.

Larry Augustin spoke with TechRepublic about his work at SugarCRM, why he bets on big markets, and how he helped coin the term "open source."

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Larry Augustin (SugarCRM CEO) takes the stage at SugarCon 2014, SugarCRM's annual user conference in San Francisco.
Image: Paul Sakuma/SugarCon photos

If you're familiar with the term open source, you have Larry Augustin, in part, to thank.

Augustin is the CEO of open source CRM company SugarCRM, a position he has held since 2009. A veteran technology entrepreneur and investor, he got involved with open technologies early and was part of the original group that came up with the term "open source."

He believes that the open source model and the open source community will continue to play a central role in emerging technologies and enterprise trends.

"It has the advantage of giving people an open platform, a set of open technologies, on which to build, and provides a framework for cooperation around these technologies that, in the past, companies lacked," Augustin said.

However, he doesn't see all software eventually becoming open source. While it will play an important role, he said it will work in tandem with proprietary software.

Augustin has always been a creator and a maker, which is why he pursued a career as an engineer. His father was an engineer before him. He spent some of his early life on a family farm in New Hampshire, and he was the go-to guy who would repair things around the farm.

After receiving his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering at Notre Dame, Augustin received a fellowship from Bell Labs to pursue a master's degree at Stanford. Once he got to Silicon Valley, he said, it was hard to leave. He described it as "Mecca for engineers."

He went back and worked for Bell Labs for a year before returning to Stanford to finish his PhD. When he came back to school, Augustin started building companies. Two of his classmates were David Filo and Jerry Yang, who were building what would become Yahoo at the time.

Filo and Yang went to Sequoia Capital to fundraise for Yahoo, and later introduced Augustin to Doug Leone at Sequoia. The firm invested in Augustin's first company, VA Linux, which he took public in 1999. After leaving VA Linux in August 2002, he became more focused on investing.

Augustin joined the board of SugarCRM in 2005 and assumed the role of CEO in 2009. According to Augustin, "enterprise" was a dirty word among the venture capital community when SugarCRM was getting its start, but he has seen the enterprise software market grow and evolve.

"Enterprise is a very interesting market right now because it's a market that, for many years, I don't think there was a lot of investment in and a lot of innovation," Augustin said. "As a result, we now find ourselves in a period of time where there's a lot of opportunity for innovation in enterprise IT."

The big four — social, mobile, analytics, and cloud (also known as SMAC) — have been consistent, but there are themes that cross those. According to Augustin, the next big theme in enterprise IT is empowering individuals.

Consumerization, BYOD, or BYOA give employees the freedom to get work done. Enterprise apps are becoming more like their consumer counterparts and IT departments are thinking more like consumer app providers. However, adoption of those enterprise apps has become the one of the main challenges that IT leaders are facing.

For aspiring entrepreneurs, Augustin has two pieces of advice: Go after a really big market and build a great team. Also, a big market leaves room to make mistakes, room to learn, and a great team will help you handle the storms of entrepreneurial life.

In his own words...

What do you do to unplug?

"I'm a gym rat. I have to get my workout in everyday, it's key for me. I really enjoy that, that's my unwind from the day. I'm the evening guy. There are people that get up early in the morning and do that workout before work. For me, it's the end of the day wind down. If I miss that, it throws me off for the rest of the week."

What's the best thing you've read lately?

"I just read Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross, which is a really interesting business/go-to market book. Which really, I think, took a lot of the things that we've been doing in terms of how we sell, and I found it to be a really good summary of the outbound sales model in the enterprise today. So, I recommend it from that point of view."

If you weren't working in tech, what other profession would you love to try?

"I always like working with my hands. I like building things and I like creating things. So, if it weren't creating software, it would probably be some other profession where I'm creating, building some other kinds of things. I've worked on cars in my career, I've done all of these different things. I'm sure there would be something else out there that involves creating/building something along those lines."

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About

Conner Forrest is News Editor for TechRepublic. He covers startups and enterprise technology and is passionate about the convergence of tech and culture.

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