Mark Shuttleworth – Ubuntu founder and first African in Space

Posted by on Sep 14, 2007 in Business, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, South Africa, Technology

Mark Shuttleworth is a young, South African multi-millionaire who places himself in the category of people who are both privileged and lucky and want to do something positive with their good fortune. His Ubuntu Project, HBD enterprise, and the Shuttleworth Foundation all serve as reflections of that thought.Born in Welkom, South Africa in 1973, Shuttleworth grew up in Cape Town and graduated from the University of Cape Town with a business science degree in finance and information systems. While still in college he founded Thawte, a company that specializes in Internet security and digital certificates. Thawte became the first company outside of the United States to offer an encrypted server, making commerce over the Internet more secure. In 1999, he sold it to VeriSign for stock valued at $575 million.

Using the profits from that sale Shuttleworth founded HBD Venture Capital, a group that invests in South African companies that hold the potential of serving a global marketplace. HBD refers to “Here Be Dragons,” a term used on ancient maps to mark uncharted territory. HBD invests in an interesting array of business ventures, from Themepack, a company that uses pencil cases to deliver messages to schoolchildren, to incuBeta, a Web2.0 company supplying paid search engine advertising and optimization. HBD recently invested ZAR25mm ($3.5mm) in incuBeta.Other investments include EDH, Metricap, Mybeat, and CSense Systems. HBD also offers managed investments: Impi Linux, Ubuntu’s provider in Africa; HIP2BSquare, which presents math and science to students as cool subjects and well-worth their time; and Fundamo, a leading company internationally of providing ways for organizations to do banking and other transactions from their mobile devices.

Ubuntu logo

In 2004 Shuttleworth founded the Ubuntu project, a free, open source, Linux-based operating system that’s growing in popularity among businesses and individuals. “Ubuntu” is an African concept and was once described by Archbishop Desmond Tutu as defining an open person who is available and affirming to others, and who knows that they are part of a greater whole. The Ubuntu platform contains around 1,000 pieces of software that include spreadsheet, word processing, Web browsing, instant messaging and presentation programs. Several Dell computers now come preloaded with Ubuntu. Google also uses Ubuntu on the computers in their offices. Shuttleworth’s Canonical Ltd., headquartered in Europe, is the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu.Another example of Shuttleworth’s philosophy of sharing his wealth to benefit others is his Shuttleworth Foundation. This organization funds projects aimed at improving the quality and reach of education in Africa, and has done work in all nine provinces of South Africa. It also serves to fund ideas that can create positive change in civil society. The ideas selected must originate in South Africa or come from another part of the globe but be beneficial to South Africa. It is estimated that Shuttleworth has given away nearly half of his fortune to charitable causes.In April of 2002 Shuttleworth fulfilled his dream of space travel by flying with the Russian crew Soyuz TM-34 to the International Space Station. He spent a year of his life and $20 million of his bank account training for and paying for the privilege of becoming the second-ever private citizen (and the first African) to be launched into space. His trip wasn’t just for fun, however; he conducted several experiments during the flight, including research on AIDS, stem cells, and muscle development and atrophy. He trained in Star City, Russia, for the eight-day mission. Since he has been back on earth he has shared his experiences and at the same time promoting science and math to more than 100,000 students. This, in turn, led to Hip2BSquare.His blog, lists many of his likes and dislikes. They include Cesaria Evora, Sinatra, flashes of insight, skinny-dipping and the string theory (likes) plus legalese, wet grey winters and public speaking (dislikes). Shuttleworth is single and lives in London. He spends his spare time reading and lists travel, naturally, as a favorite hobby. He gets to travel the globe in his own jet, a Bombardier Global Express.

No Responses to “Mark Shuttleworth – Ubuntu founder and first African in Space”


  1. Hasso Plattner Ventures Africa Conference - February 2009 | Carel's Conversations - blog - [...] that were at this event is anything to go by, then I’m sure we will soon be celebrating more…

Leave a Reply