$1.3 billion startup Docker gets a new CEO after only two years, as the company shies away from its goal of an IPO amid intense competition
- Docker has its third CEO in a little over two years: Former Hortonworks CEO Rob Bearden.
- Steve Singh, who took over for Ben Golub as CEO in 2017, will become the startup’s chairman.
- Bearden is best known for taking Hortonworks public, and later selling it to its biggest rival Cloudera — and has a history of big exits besides.
- It’s yet more turmoil for Docker, a promising company that’s seen a lot of executive change, including its famous founder leaving about a year ago.
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Steve Singh’s reign as CEO of Docker didn’t last very long.
After two years running the hot startup that forever changed how software developers work, the company on Wednesday announced that he was stepping down as CEO, though he will remain as chairman. Docker has hired former Hortonworks CEO Rob Bearden to take over for Singh, effective immediately.
Bearden is best known as the CEO who led data processing startup Hortonworks to an IPO, and then later to its $5.2 sale to Cloudera, its main rival. He’s not considered one of Hortonworks’ official six technical cofounders, but Bearden joined the company right at its inception in 2011 and was the CEO for most of his time there.
Prior to Hortonworks, Bearden was the COO of another startup, SpringSource, whch was bought by VMware for $420 million back in 2009. And he was COO of another open source startup, JBoss, rising up from a sales and marketing role there. Red Hat ultimately purchased JBoss.
Bearden clearly has the chops to navigate Docker’s world of commercially successful, open source enterprise software. And that’s exactly what Docker needs after the turmoil of its past few months.
In the recent past, Docker has seen a string of incidents including layoffs, a security breach that exposed the data of 190,000 users, and the major update of its software which now supports Kubernetes, its main rival technology.
Docker didn’t have much of a choice: Docker single-handedly created the market for software containers, a hot technology that’s changed how developers build modern applications, but the Google-created Kubernetes software has all but eaten the market for Docker’s own Swarm tool, which manages said containers.
Docker is now competing with all the heavyweights offering Kubernetes-based services, including Google, Red Hat, VMware, Microsoft.
The startup’s strength is that it is independent of those big players and their legacy software.
Under Singh, Docker has definitely experienced growth and success. He joined two years ago to transform Docker from an open source company that made a game-changing piece of tech that was mostly used by everyone for free, into one with viable revenue and enterprise products.
The still-private Docker doesn’t share financials, but Singh said it now has 750 enterprise customers and told Business Insider earlier this month that it is on track to become cash-flow positive by January, at which point it would be free to choose not to take more funding.
Lots of turmoil
The management shakeup is yet another big change for a company that experienced plenty of turmoil in the two years since Singh became CEO.
Its original CEO Ben Golub stepped down in May 2017. Its famous co-founder and CTO Solomon Hykes, well-known for spearheading development of the core technology behind the company, left Docker in March 2018. Until Hykes’ departure, he was considered the real powerhouse at the company.
Docker has raised $279.81 million from venture investors, and as of last October, when it completed a $92 million round, it was valued at $1.32 billion.
But he also backtracked on his timeline, and even his goal, of an IPO for Docker. A year ago, Singh told Business Insider he was working towards an IPO. This year — a year filled with big-time tech IPOs — he equivocated when put to the question: “We’re not building the company for an exit.”
Maybe not, but the company did just replace its existing CEO with one known for spectacular exits.