Solomon Hykes’ announcement that he was quitting as CTO of Docker may have taken many by surprise, but insiders had seen it coming for some time now.
His departure as CTO is the second high profile exit from Docker in less than a year, after co-founder Ben Golub stepped down in June last year, with SAP executive Steve Singh replacing him as the new CEO of the company.
With the benefit of hindsight, one can now say that the writing was pretty much on the wall, what with Hykes moving away from the company’s executive circle in November last year – going from CTO to vice chairman of the board to chief architect.
Hykes, who is now 34, founded the company a decade ago, then called Dotcloud, and had a big hand in what the company may or may not be today.
Now that he’s decided to call it a day, at least as far as being part of the company’s “day-to-day-operations” is concerned, he can now focus on his role as “an active board member” and “a major shareholder.” He is also looking forward to being a “high maintenance Docker user” in times to come.
“A founder’s departure is usually seen as a dramatic event. Sadly, I must report that reality is far less exciting in this case,” Hykes wrote in a blog post entitled “Au revoir.” Well, the man is French.
“I’ve had many roles at Docker over the years, and today I have a new, final one – as an active board member, a major shareholder and, I expect, a high maintenance Docker user. But I will no longer be part of day-to-day operations,” said the Frenchman.
Hykes had been living in Paris with his mom when he started Dotcloud with his friends Kamel Founadi and Sebastien Pahl back in in 2010.
It was a pioneering endeavor, in that they worked on containerization – a relatively unknown technology at the time – to create user-friendly programming tools which the three pioneers chose to call “tools of innovation.”
“Ten years ago, I quit my job, returned to live with my mother in Paris and, together with my friends Kamel Founadi and Sebastien Pahl, started a company called Dotcloud,” Hykes wrote.
“Our goal was to harness an obscure technology called containers and use it to create what we called “tools of mass innovation”: programming tools which anyone could use. I was 24 and had no idea what I was doing. We needed a CEO, so that became my new role,” he said.
Dotcloud kept evolving as a company and five years ago it was rechristened, Docker. With Hykes and four other core team members at the helm, Docker grew exponentially, until the need for an experienced CEO became more than apparent, and one was hired to replace Hyde, who then took over the mantle of CTO.
Here’s how he said it: “Five years ago, Dotcloud reinvented itself as Docker, around a battle-hardened core of five people: Eric Bardin, Sam Alba, Jerome Petazzoni, Julien Barbier and myself. Soon growth was off the charts, and we hired an experienced CEO to help us sustain it. I was 29 and eager to do my part. Docker needed a CTO, so that became my new role.”
Explaining his decision to retreat, Hykes wrote that in order to make the most of the massive growth opportunity under the current container business environment, the company needed a more battle-hardened CTO with considerable shipping and software experience, who would do justice to the CTO portfolio.
“To take advantage of this opportunity, we need a CTO by Steve’s side with decades of experience shipping and supporting software for the largest corporations in the world. So I now have a new role: to help find that ideal CTO, provide the occasional bit of advice, and get out of the team’s way as they continue to build a juggernaut of a business. As a shareholder, I couldn’t be happier to accept this role.”
The exceptional growth Docker has witnessed in recent years is largely the result of lucrative business from the likes of PayPal, Visa, MetLife, Expedia, and others.
Bloomberg reported that the company managed to raise $75 million on a $1.3 billion valuation last year.
However, tech behemoths like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and even Red Hat have made inroads into the commercially viable container technology – Docker’s core business model.
Red Hat has already invested $250 million this year in the acquisition of CoreOS – a company with the technological wherewithal to build containerized software.
The container concept may have been in use for years, but it is Docker that’s looked upon as the pioneering force behind the simplification and popularization of the technology.
Although somewhat sad he is leaving the company, which is but obvious when you are the one who founded and nourished the company into what it is today, he is happy that things turned out the way they did.
In his own words:
“It’s never easy for a founder to part ways with their life’s work. But I realize how incredibly lucky I am to have this problem. Most ideas never materialize. Most software goes unused. Most businesses fail in their first year. Yet here we are, one of the largest open-source communities ever assembled, collectively building software that will run on millions of computers around the world. To know that your work was meaningful, and that a vibrant community of people will continue building upon it…. can any founder ask for anything more?”
Of course, there will be a lot of memories for Hykes to look back on with nostalgia, but, as they say, life must go on.
And, surely, with age on his side and the kind of talent he is blessed with, the world can look forward to greater things from the French whizz-kid.
Au Revoir for now!