Tech entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth, who turns 50 in a couple of days, is the youngest billionaire in South Africa with a fortune Bloomberg pegs at over $1 billion.
As a student at the University of Cape Town in 1995, Shuttleworth founded Thawte Consulting, an Internet security company that specialized in digital certificates and Interner security. Thawte went on to become a leader in Internet security for electronic commerce. In December 1999, he sold Thawte to VeriSign for $575 million, and became one of the richest South Africans at the age of 25.
In 2002, Shuttleworth paid $20 million to embark on a 10-day journey into space on a Russian rocket, including a stay on the International Space Station. Afterwards, he expanded his personal fortune by establishing new companies across various industries and investing in several others through his various investment vehicles.
Billionaires.Africa briefly explores five of the most remarkable companies Shuttleworth has founded so far.
Shuttleworth founded Thawte in 1995 while he was a student at the University of Cape Town. It became one of the world’s largest digital certificate providers, helping to secure communications across the budding World Wide Web. Thawte played a critical role in popularizing web-based commerce by enhancing the security of online transactions. In 1999, VeriSign acquired Thawte for over $500 million, marking Shuttleworth’s first significant exit.
Founded in 2004 by Shuttleworth, Canonical is perhaps the most well-known of his ventures. The company is behind Ubuntu, a popular open-source Linux operating system. Ubuntu powers servers, desktops, and IoT devices globally. Canonical has significantly contributed to making Linux more accessible and user-friendly, especially for everyday users and enterprise clients. Canonical Group Ltd., makes money from about 800 paying customers, including Netflix Inc., Tesla Inc. and Deutsche Telekom AG, which pay for support services.
HBD Venture Capital
With proceeds from the Thawte sale, Shuttleworth started HBD (Here Be Dragons) Venture Capital. HBD, a humorous reference to the phrase “Here Be Dragons,” which was used by early mapmakers to indicate unexplored territory. The firm’s focus is on investing in innovative startups in emerging markets. HBD has seeded various startups that have gone on to make significant contributions in their respective sectors, emphasizing the importance of supporting innovative entrepreneurs in emerging landscapes.
In 2011, Shuttleworth, bought Príncipe’s Bom Bom Island Resort and was granted six land concessions amounting to almost 1,700 hectares, including the largest, Sundy. He has since transformed the resort to HBD Príncipe, an ecotourism and agroforestry business based in the twin-island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe. The business has four unique boutique hotel properties as well as agricultural operations.
Impi Linux was a South African company specializing in localized versions of Linux. Although it was not directly owned by Shuttleworth, his influence and Ubuntu’s impact on the project was evident. It aimed to boost South Africa’s IT sector by creating solutions tailored for the local market.