Looking back at 2009

Hello to everyone in the Liferay community and a belated Happy New Year. I trust January has been filled with new opportunities and renewed energy for all of us after the holiday break.

I've gotten in the habit of writing an annual year-in-review entry but am a little behind on 2009. So many good things are happening here at Liferay that it's hard to keep up! We recently put out a press release highlighting our successes in 2009: 

  • 80% Growth in number of customers
  • Over 50% revenue growth
  • 3 million+ downloads
  • More than 60 partners worldwide 

These are all exciting figures but they only tell part of the story. 2009 was a significant year for Liferay Inc. in many other ways. First, 2009 was a year where we all felt a lot of concern about the economy and what the recession might mean for our business. By the end of first quarter of 2009 we were at least six months in to the crisis, but we had no visible signs of being affected. Business was up and people were responding well to our new Enterprise Edition. But our management team always strives to be fiscally prudent and to proactively manage spending, burn, and cash flow. So around March 2009 we wondered whether we needed to take any drastic measures in anticipation of a possible downturn in business. 

We found blogs citing the kind of advice premier VCs like Benchmark and Sequoia had been giving their portfolio companies since October 2008: 

We considered the Zappos
model for conserving capital.

  • Conserve capital
  • Extend your runway
  • Don't expect to be able to depend on getting additional rounds of financing
  • Get profitable as quickly as possible
  • Minimize expenses like real estate (don't expand until you're literally sitting on top of each other)

Upon reflection, though, the truth was we had already been running our business this way for the past five years: 

  • Liferay has been a profitable company since inception
  • We've always conserved capital and minimized expenses to ensure we had enough cash to stay in business. We used a "just-in-time" hiring model in the early years and made sure we had enough revenue to pay for our people
  • We started out and continue to be self-funded and independent from investors that might force us to take decisions that aren't always best for our customers, the community, or our employees
  • We found a very affordable real estate solution that continues to serve us well to this day. When the office got crowded, rather than reducing people we shrunk our desks by 33% and increased capacity by 40% 

 We were quite humbled to think that as young entrepreneurs we had taken all the same steps that top tier investors with years of experience were recommending.

Enterprise Edition: Exceeding our Goals 

2009 was also significant as the first year we offered to the market a commercial version of our flagship product, Liferay Portal. We had seen several other open source vendors execute on similar models and it seemed to bring many benefits to all parties, but how would our community respond to this move? 

Very well, in fact; the Liferay community wholeheartedly embraced Enterprise Edition: 

  • They were happy to have a sustaining tail of older versions with a guaranteed four-year maintenance period and five-year End of Service Life Policy
  • They could now go to decision makers and show that adopting Liferay Portal in the enterprise would provide tremendous benefits in innovation, capability, and flexibility, without sacrificing stability or reliability
  • They wanted to see Liferay, Inc. continue to grow in its commercial success so we could continue to provide great free software to the community
  • Our service partners could now help Liferay grow subscription revenue through EE sales and benefit from additional services revenue passed on to them

We have since released two EE versions of Liferay Portal and our organizations is tuned for this new model.  

A Mature and Agile Organization

I was particularly delighted in 2009 to see how quickly our team here at Liferay executed on evolving the organization toward a subscription-based company with a dual-license model providing regular software updates and support. We set a goal in January of last year to build the machinery needed to drive sales of and support EE, grow a partner network to deliver solutions based on EE, and make the engineering investments in support, QA, performance testing, and environment testing to make EE a success, and by all counts we exceeded those goals. I am very proud to work with a team of talented, dedicated, and genuinely wonderful people here at Liferay. 

Ongoing Recognition

Our efforts have not gone unnoticed:

  • Gartner recognized Liferay as the leading visionary in their Magic Quadrant for Horizontal Portal products in 2008 and 2009
  • Liferay also placed in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Social Software, 2008, and Social Software in the Workplace, 2009
  •, a rich media website built using Liferay's web content management system, won an Emmy award for New Approaches in Daytime Children's, recognizing Sesame's innovative use of Liferay's web capabilities. 

More importantly, our customers continue to share about the empowerment Liferay provides them in their enterprises, the innovative solutions they are building, and the tremendous benefits end users are experiencing with our software.

Other Highlights

Other memorable moments in 2009: 

  • Our management and engineering team traveled the globe in 2009 to meet with nearly 1000 of our community members, customers, and partners at four separate Symposium meetings in Reston (Washington DC), Anaheim (Los Angeles), Offenbach (Frankfurt) and Bangalore.
  • Paul Hinz, former head of Java EE and the Glassfish family of products, joined Liferay as our new Chief Marketing Officer. Paul successfully grew the Glassfish community (18 million downloads!) and drove the Glassfish Portfolio offering that included WebSpace, Sun's offering built on Liferay Portal. Paul was also the champion for Liferay and Sun's innovative open source community relationship.
  • Continued software and technology innovation at Liferay resulted in the release of Liferay Social Office 1.5 beta and ongoing work on Liferay Alloy UI, a new all-encompassing front-end framework based on YUI v3 that simplifies rich application development across HTML, CSS, and Javascript concerns. 

Introducing Liferay Foundation

I'll close by talking a little bit about Liferay Foundation. Those who have been part of the Liferay community for some time are probably aware that Liferay, Inc., has actively been involved over the years in supporting organizations that are helping in disaster situations or providing more long-term development aid in developing countries. To further maximize our impact, we formed the Liferay Foundation in 2009 as an organization dedicated to discovering the unique ways we can meet the needs we encounter in the world. Most recently, Liferay Foundation offered a matching donation to our community of up to $15,000 for those supporting the relief effort in Haiti. Longer term, we want to invest in efforts that are sustainable and empowering to make a long-term difference in addition to the one-time donations we have made in response to disasters. You'll hear a lot more about Liferay Foundation in the coming months, and you can certainly talk to us if you are interested in learning more. 

What's next?

There's a lot more in store for Liferay in 2010 and I'll look forward to sharing more with you in an upcoming blog! Until then, thank you to everyone who has contributed to making Liferay even stronger in 2009!

Nice post Aaron.
Thanks for thorought summary Bryan. I'm also very happy to be able to work around so many talented people and within a company that cares so much about making a difference.
Sweet! Thank you, Brian. 2010 would be a Liferay year - stronger as the Tiger.

Happy Chinese New Year!
Bryan, it has been a great 2009 developping Liferay footprint in old Europe. We have very good feedback with major companies mooving to EE and smaller ones embracing CE every day. We are very excited with 2010 roadmaps and tons of inovations like HTML5, Vaadin and so on.
Hope to welcome you in France in 2010.
Congratulations! Great progress!
Thanks Bryan!

That photo reminds me of my old work desk under the bunk bed setup from the early days of Liferay. We weren't that far off...
Congratulations ! Thank You, Sir. Kudos to our Liferay team emoticon