Mark Shuttleworth is an African entrepreneur with a love of technology, innovation, change and space flight.
He currently lives in the Isle of Man, and is an active member of the Ubuntu community – working to create a universal, freely available high quality desktop software environment for everyone. He funds HBD Venture Capital, an investment company based in South Africa, along with The Shuttleworth Foundation, a non-profit organisation that accelerates social innovation in Africa with a particular focus on education.
Mark was born in the dusty gold-mining town of Welkom in South Africa, and grew up in beautiful Cape Town. While studying towards a degree in Finance and Information Systems at the University of Cape Town (UCT) the Internet first came to SA, and he became intrigued by the changes it would bring in business and society.
In 1995, his final year at UCT, Mark founded Thawte as an Internet consulting business. The focus of the company quickly shifted to electronic commerce and Internet security. Thawte became the first company to produce a full-security encrypted e-commerce web server that was commercially available outside the United States. This brought Thawte to the world of public key infrastructure, which is the basis for all encrypted and authenticated Internet transactions. Thawte was one of the first companies to be recognized by both Netscape and Microsoft as a trusted third party for web site certification, and it quickly established a leadership position helping businesses around the world accept secure transactions over the web. By 1999, when it was acquired by VeriSign, Thawte was fastest-growing internet certificate authority worldwide, and the leading certificate authority outside of the USA.
Believing that investment is an important part of development, Mark formed the HBD investment company. The name is a reference to the phrase “Here Be Dragons”, which legend has it was used to describe uncharted territory on early maps. HBD primarily invests in Africa, but has a global perspective and seeks opportunities worldwide.
Bringing risk capital to civil society, Mark created the Shuttleworth Foundation, which funds people that have the potential to bring about dramatic improvements to some aspect of society. The Foundation has worked in all 9 provinces of South Africa, underwriting initiatives from teachers, small businesses and private individuals. The Foundation is a catalyst for accelerated change in society, with the general theme of greater openness and effectiveness. It seeks to identify people that have the potential to create tremendous change for good, and amplifies their own investment in their vision.
In April 2002 Mark realised a lifelong dream to fly in space. He spent a year working on the project, including seven months of formal training at Star City in Russia, and almost as much time in medical testing, science program development and negotiations. The First African in Space project was without doubt the most challenging and exciting project any geek could wish for. He was a member of the crew of Soyuz TM-34, launched from Baikonur in Kazakhstan and docked with the International Space Station two days later. The mission included 8 days working on the ISS, conducting a program of South African science experiments and enjoying the extraordinary environment of weightlessness before coming back to earth with a bump. Since then, he has worked on a roadshow to share that experience as well as his excitement about science, mathematics and technology with pupils across South Africa. The science and maths show has been seen by more than 100,000 pupils from nearly 2,000 schools. It has spawned a plethora of initiatives under the Hip2BSquare brand, which aim to make mathematics and science sexy to pupils who are choosing their subjects for high school.
In early 2004, Mark founded the Ubuntu project, which aims to produce a high quality desktop and server operating system that is freely available all over the world. The project brings together the very best of the free software stack, with cutting-edge desktop and handheld innovation and very solid server-side infrastructure. Ubuntu aims to be beautiful, easy to use, free, and complete. Related projects include specialised desktop environments for schools, and for the needs of people in specific countries or industries, such as Edubuntu and Kubuntu.
Likes: spring, cesaria evora, slashdot, chelsea, finally seeing something obvious for the first time, daydreaming, coming home, sinatra, sundowners, durbanville, flirting, string theory, particle physics, linux, python, mp3s, reincarnation, snow, mig-29s, travel, lime marmalade, mozilla, body shots, leopards, the african bush, rajhastan, snowboarding, russian saunas, weightlessness, broadband, iain m banks, alastair reynolds, skinny-dipping, fancy dress, flashes of insight, inexplicable happinesses, post-adrenaline euphoria, convertibles, country roads, clifton, the international space station, artificial intelligence, wikipedia, kitesurfing, manx lanes.
Dislikes: admin, legalese, salary negotiations, public speaking.