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Docker, a $1 billion software start-up, has lost its founder a year after new CEO joined

  • Solomon Hykes said he won't be part of day-to-day operations anymore but will be on Docker's board of directors.
  • Docker reportedly raised money at a $1.3 billion valuation last year.
Docker founder Solomon Hykes at DockerCon.
Source: Docker
Docker founder Solomon Hykes at DockerCon.

Solomon Hykes built a wonky open-source project a decade ago that later took on the name Docker and attained a private market valuation of over $1 billion.

On Wednesday, Hykes (who's French) wrote a blog post titled "Au revoir," announcing his departure from the start-up. Hykes said he won't be involved in the company's day-to-day operations and will help find a chief technology officer to replace him, one with more experience doing business with big companies.

His exit comes less than a year after Docker hired SAP executive Steve Singh as its new CEO, replacing software veteran Ben Golub, who recently took the helm of a blockchain-based start-up called Storj.

"Today, as I turn 34, Docker has quietly transformed into an enterprise business with explosive revenue growth and a developer community in the millions, under the leadership of our CEO, the legendary Steve Singh," Hykes wrote. "To take advantage of this opportunity, we need a CTO by Steve's side with decades of experience shipping and supporting software for the largest corporations in the world."

Docker's growth in recent years has been fueled by business from customers including Expedia, MetLife, PayPal and Visa. Last year, the San Francisco-based company raised $75 million at a valuation of $1.3 billion, according to Bloomberg.

But big software companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Red Hat have moved in to commercialize the technology at the heart of Docker, which helps developers package up code into digital containers that can be easily moved from one server to another. Containers are a modern alternative to virtual machines, which were pioneered by VMware.

Earlier this year Red Hat paid $250 million to buy CoreOS, a company with technology for building software in containers.

While container technology had been used for years, Docker popularized it among developers by making it much simpler to use. Hykes tried to persuade his venture capital backers to let the company "pivot" to focus on it.

His company, which went by the name dotCloud and was part of the Y Combinator incubator program in 2010, offered a service for hosting software, but it wasn't the top offering. In 2013, Hykes suggested that the company release the underlying container technology under an open-source license, and the software immediately took off.

The start-up rebranded as Docker. The open-source software is now known as Moby and has 48,000 stars on GitHub, a proxy for interest among developers.

Hykes hasn't made a public contribution to the Moby software since October. And now he is formally announcing that he won't be involved with company — although he will be a Docker board member and a user of the software.

"As a shareholder, I couldn't be happier to accept this role," he wrote.