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Former Apache Exec's New Gig: Function(x)

Geir Magnusson, Jr., the former Apache Software Foundation board member and representative on the Executive Committee of the Java Community Process, has left his position as CTO of Gilt.com to become CTO of new company launched by entertainment entrepreneur and "American Idol" backer Robert F.X. Sillerman. The company is called Function(x) (pronounced "function ecks," not "function of ecks," you math geeks), and its broadly stated mission is to "establish a new platform for investments in media and entertainment with a particular emphasis on digital and mobile technology."


"We're still kind of evolving," Magnusson told me. "But this is business around consumer media consumption. It's about building systems that are mobile-based and scalable for the everyday consumer."

I'm beginning to see why the media dubbed Sillerman's enterprise a "mystery media company" when he took control of dormant public company called Gateway Industries in February to use as a launching pad. Whatever they end up doing over at Function(x), the outfit is currently accumulating talent with experience from companies like MTV, Tidal TV, AOL, Microsoft, Expedia, Massive and Ticketmaster.

Magnusson shifted gears (no pun intended) on his ASF activities to take on the position.

"Right now I'm heads-down focused here with Function(x)," he said. "I still have a very strong interest in open source, and I'm still a member of the ASF and active in pieces of it, but I won't be as active as in the past." He's no longer on the ASF board of directors, but he's the treasurer ("They voted when I was out of the room."), and weirdly, he's still in the JCP. "It's a fairly quiet position," he said. "It wouldn't surprise me if they simply decided to get rid of it."

Magnusson founded several open source projects at the ASF, such as Geronimo, Harmony and Velocity. He also had a relatively high profile during some getting-to-know-you scuffles between the ASF and then-new Java shepherd Oracle. As the ASF's JCP EC rep, he cast the only nay vote for the Java EE 6 spec, which was approved by the committee nonetheless. And he was there when the ASF left the EC. But he was quick to downplay his importance to the organization -- in fact, any one contributor's.

"In a sense, there are no key people as the ASF," he said. "We expect that the projects will outlive their founders. The system is designed to promote a kind of community ownership of anything we do, so that when life changes for people -- they get married, have a child  or get a new job -- everything continues without them, though they'll be missed."

And to underscore the ASF's continuing importance to the Java community: "Apache projects are still very much in the forefront of the implementation of Java specifications," he said. "Tomcat, ActiveMQ, Apache Geronimo; they're all staying current and competitive with other offerings, both commercial and open source. It's just that we're no longer participating in the JCP as a member of the executive committee."

My best to Magnusson at his new company... Whatever it is they're doing.


Posted by John K. Waters on September 9, 2011