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Xamarin Founder Goes from Layoff to Launch — In 12 Days

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Well, that was quick.

In a large round of layoffs on May 4th, Novell (s NOVL)  let go of the 30-person team that was working on Mono, the open-source implementation of Microsoft’s (s MSFT) .NET development framework. Just 12 days later, Mono’s founder and lead developer Miguel de Icaza announced the launch of Xamarin, a new startup that bills itself “the new home of the engineers that created Mono.”

Xamarin purportedly has an undisclosed amount of angel funding for its launch and is currently looking for more investment. The company’s main focus will be on building new commercial .NET offerings for iOS and Android.

According to de Icaza, being axed from Novell was a blessing in disguise. He explained the situation in a post on his personal blog:

“We have been trying to spin Mono off from Novell for more than a year now. Everyone agreed that Mono would have a brighter future as an independent company, so a plan was prepared last year.
To make a long story short, the plan to spin off was not executed. Instead on Monday May 2nd, the Canadian and American teams were laid off; Europe, Brazil and Japan followed a few days later. These layoffs included all the MonoTouch and MonoDroid engineers and other key Mono developers.

…We were clearly bummed out by this development, and had no desire to quit, especially with all the great progress in this last year. So… we hatched a plan.”

Xamarin’s debut is notable in itself: Many open source developers will surely be heartened that Mono, which was met with both cheers and skepticism at its launch in 2004, could indeed have a life after Novell. But it’s also interesting as a larger sign of how, thanks to a host of factors from cloud computing to telecommuting, the barriers to launching a startup have significantly lowered in recent years. It took just 12 days for de Icaza to turn a layoff into a launch, and it will be interesting to watch how the company grows in the weeks and months ahead.

Image of Miguel de Icaza courtesy of Flickr user D. “Begley” Begley.

3 Responses to “Xamarin Founder Goes from Layoff to Launch — In 12 Days”

  1. I am interested in the business angle here … “building new commercial .NET offerings for iOS and Android”. What is the opportunity here and why. Intriguing. I am certain to miss it still – but I don’t doubt that someone can explain. Please.

    • Darrel Miller

      Using the Mono approach for doing cross platform mobile apps provides the best of both worlds. They use native UI toolkits to get the best possible user experience, but use C# as development language across all platforms. This enables developers to write the logic of the application just once but make the app look like it was designed for the platform.
      There are a lot of Windows developers who know C# and the ability to hedge your bets, in this uncertain world of developing mobile apps, is very valuable.

    • JHurdlow

      The commercial offerings will be replacements for the now apparently defunct MonoTouch (for iOS) and MonoDroid (for Android) product offerings built by Miguel and his team while at Novell. These are commercial frameworks designed to let developers build applications for iOS and Android using Mono(.NET) and C#. Many developers find there are productivity (and other) advantages to doing so over directly using the native Objective-C (iOS) and Java (Android) software development kits. Miguel has not been able to purchase these commercial assets away from Attachmate (the new owner of Novell) at this time, though he has indicated that would be desirable, and could possibly occur. Not wanting to wait for such a possibility his team is already hard at work on a new implementation.