Famous South Africans in IT

Many South Africans have made a name for themselves with stand-out careers in IT. We look at who some of the most famous are.

Elon Musk

South African Elon Musk is perhaps best known now for his involvement with Tesla Motors which produces an electrically-powered sports car called the Tesla Roadster. But Musk’s career in technology has perhaps more highlights than anyone else’s. One of his earliest achievements was founding Zip2 with his brother Kimbal. The online publishing software was sold to AltaVista for US$307 million in 1999.

Musk then went on to found PayPal which was sold in 2002 to eBay for US$1.5 billion. Musk then founded his third company, Space Exploration (SpaceX) in the same year. SpaceX develops and manufactures space launch vehicles and has won a $1.6 billion contract from NASA for its Falcon 9 and Dragon vehicles to service the International Space Station when the Shuttle is retired in 2010. Musk’s other business at the moment is Tesla Motors of which he is a co-founder.

Roelof Botha (Sequoia)

Roelof Botha is a venture capitalist and was previously the chief financial officer of PayPal. He now works for Sequoia Capital, one of the most famous venture capital businesses in the US. Botha previously sat on the board of YouTube before it was acquired by Google. Just as famously, Botha is the grandson of former South African Foreign Affairs Minister Roelof “Pik” Botha.

Vinny Lingham

Vinny Lingham is the founder and CEO of Yola, an online website building tool. Yola was recently renamed from SynthSite and is based in San Francisco. Founded in March 2007 Yola has secured two rounds of venture capital investment totaling US$25 million and has more than a million users. Lingham’s first business, called incuBeta, has  primary business called Clicks2Customers, with offices in the US, UK and Cape Town.

Paul Maritz

Paul Maritz is currently CEO of virtualisation software maker VMWare but he has had a career studded with big names. Born in Zimbabwe and brought up in South Africa, Maritz has worked at Intel, Microsoft and VMWare among others. In 1981 Maritz worked for Intel in Silicon Valley, developing developer tools for the, at the time, new x86 platform.

Between 1986 and 2000 Maritz worked for Microsoft at a very senior level and was responsible for most of the company’s desktop and server software. Maritz then founded Pi Corporation which was acquired by EMC in 2008. After a short stint at EMC, Maritz was appointed CEO of VMWare in July 2008.

Mark Shuttleworth

Perhaps the best known of South Africa’s IT entrepreneurs, Mark Shuttleworth is the founder of Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu operating system and Thawte, a provider of digital certificates. Shuttleworth founded Thawte in 1995 and sold the company to VeriSign in December 1999 for R3.5 billion. With that money Shuttleworth founded HBD Venture Capital, a business incubator and venture capital provider, as well as The Shuttleworth Foundation.

Through the Foundation Shuttleworth has funded projects in education, free software and telecommunications. Shuttleworth also founded Canonical and the Ubuntu Linux operating system which is open source software. Until December 17 Shuttleworth was CEO of Canonical when he announced he was standing down as the CEO to focus on the more technical aspects of the operating system. The first version of Ubuntu was released in October 2004.

Theo de Raadt

Theo de Raadt is the founder and leader of the OpenBSD project, a security-focused free software operating system. Born in Pretoria, De Raadt moved to Canada when he was almost ten. In 1993 De Raadt was a co-founder of NetBSD, based on the original Berkley University BSD Unix operating system. A dispute in 1994 led to De Raadt being asked to resign as a core NetBSD member.

The reasons for the split aren’t completely clear but De Raadt is known for his outspoken nature. De Raadt then went on to create OpenBSD in 1995 which was split off from NetBSD and he created OpenSSH, a key part of today’s security infrastructure. De Raadt is widely respected for his security skills and his free software advocacy and in 2004 he was awarded the Free Software Foundation’s Free Software Award for his work.

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Famous South Africans in IT