“Pre-IPO” Acquia Lands Another $30M, Sees Sales Topping $56M

With so much focus on the rise of mobile devices, apps, and networks, it can be easy to forget that there’s still life left in the good old website, that basic element of the original Internet revolution.

One of the companies proving that notion is Burlington, MA’s Acquia. Founded in 2007, Acquia offers a wide range of software and IT services to help businesses build and run their own websites using Drupal, a free, open-source content management system.

And as of today, the startup has another $30 million in venture capital to fuel its growth. The round was led by Investor Growth Capital, a new investor, and also included Goldman Sachs, Accolade Partners, and Acquia’s previous investors, North Bridge Venture Partners, Sigma Partners, and Tenaya Capital.

It’s not the biggest fundraising amount in the world, but there are a couple of things that make this news stand out. For one, Acquia is being billed as a “pre-IPO” company—a deliciously vague term that can mean a hundred things, but with $68.5 million in total capital raised, Acquia certainly points to a future that could very well include the public markets. (It is also now one of the better funded tech firms in Boston.)

Two, the company recently landed at No. 8 overall in this year’s Inc. 500 list, reporting fast growth to $28.1 million in revenue for 2011. Bryan House, Acquia’s vice president of product marketing, says the 250-person company’s revenue has nearly doubled as of the end of September, and should end 2012 at more than $56 million.

“I think the long-term vision for us is to build a very large, successful company in the Boston area,” House says. “There was a period of time there, sort of a fallow period of time in the Boston area, for great young tech companies. Obviously that has changed.”

Acquia follows a general playbook used by other companies seeking to commercialize an open-source technology. On the IT operations side, I’m reminded of Seattle-based Opscode, another well-funded, fast-growing company that commercializes the Chef open-source software.

That playbook includes having a very close tie to the underlying technology—in Acquia’s case, it’s founder Dries Buytaert, the original author of Drupal. The company remains committed to sponsoring development of the open-source content management system it’s based on, with House telling me that a team working under Buytaert is developing some advanced page-editing tools that it hopes will be included in the upcoming release of Drupal 8.

Acquia’s business is charging subscription rates for software services that help website publishers use the Drupal system to run their own websites—technical support, Web hosting, and tools to build and improve websites of many kinds. Acquia has racked up plenty of notable customers, including Twitter, eBay, Warner Music, The Economist, Duke University, and the New York State Senate.

So yes, there’s plenty of life left in the website. And if Acquia gets its way, that growth will help establish it as one of the anchors of the new Boston tech scene. “There’s so much happening here from the technology and the entreprenerurial, new startup phase,” House says. “We want to be a leader in the next generation.”

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