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Mark Shuttleworth – Biography Of An Entrepreneur And The First African In Space

Mark Shuttleworth

Mark Shuttleworth is a South African and British entrepreneur, venture capitalist and philanthropist. He is the founder and CEO of Canonical Ltd, a software company located in the UK.

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Also, he is a space tourist, and the first African to get into space in 2002. Like we mentioned, he is a philanthropist and the founder of the Shuttleworth Foundation, where he funds projects that impact lives.

Start Your Business in 30 Days Even If You Don't Have An Idea
Start Your Business in 30 Days Even If You Don’t Have An Idea

See Also: Thuli Madonsela – Biography And Awards Of A Renowned South African Advocate

Mark Shuttleworth

Mark Shuttleworth Background

Mark Richard Shuttleworth was born on 18 September 1973 in Welkom, South Africa. His father Richard Dalton Shuttleworth was a surgeon and his mother, Ronelle Shuttleworth, a nursery-school teacher.

He attended Western Province Preparatory School and became the Head Boy in 1986. Then, he proceeded to the Rondebosch Boys’ High School then, Diocesan College where he also became the head boy in 1991.

Subsequently, he obtained a Bachelor of Business Science degree in Finance and Information Systems at the University of Cape Town in 1996. As a student, he became involved in the installation of the first residential internet at the University. Also, he studied Practical Ballistics at the Gagarin School, Star City, Russia in 2001 to 2002.

See Also: Koos Bekker – Biography Of A Self Made Billionaire And The South African Tech King

Mark Shuttleworth Career

In 1995, as a student, Mark founded Thawte Consulting, an internet security company that specialises in digital certificates and internet security. Thawte became a leader in Internet security for electronic commerce. However, in 1999, Mark sold the company to VeriSign, a U.S based company and earned about $575 million.

Next, in 2000, he established the HBD Venture Capital (Here De Dragons), a business incubator and venture capital provider. In the 1990s, Shuttleworth participated as one of the developers of the Debian operating system.  In 2004, he returned to the free software world by funding the development of Ubuntu, a free and open-source Linux distribution based on Debian, through his company Canonical Ltd.

See Also: Cyril Ramaphosa – Biography Of The Fifth President Of The Republic Of South Africa.

Canonical Limited

Canonical Limited was founded by Mark in 2004. He became the CEO until he stepped down in 2010 for Jane Silber to take over. Eventually, he took over again from Silber in 2017, and has maintained the position till date.

Canonical is a computer software company created for promotion, and market commercial support of free software projects for Ubuntu operating system and related projects. It generates a profit from 800 paying customers that includes Netflix, Tesla and Deutsche Telekom.

Also, in October 2004, Canonical fueled the modern world and created an operating system Ubuntu, which can connect almost everything to the internet. Canonical employs staff in more than 30 countries and maintains offices in London, Austin, Boston, Shanghai, Beijing, Taipei and the Isle of Man.

See Also: Patrice Motsepe – Biography Of South African Mining Billionaire

Go from idea to starting your business in 30 days
Go from idea to starting your business in 30 days

Shuttleworth Foundation

Generally, Mark is a venture philanthropist. He founded the Shuttleworth Foundation in 2001. This foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to social innovation.

It’s a small social investor that provides funding to dynamic leaders who are at the forefront of social change. It looks out for social innovators who are helping to change the world for the better. Then, it provides them with fellowship grants and multiplies the money they put into their own projects by a factor of ten or more.

Also, in 2005, he founded the Ubuntu Foundation, and made an initial investment of 10 million dollars. The goal of Ubutu is to ensure that a high distribution of free and open source software is available free of charge, throughout the world.

In 2006, he became the first patron of KDE, the highest level of sponsorship available. The relationship ended in 2012, together with financial support for Kubuntu, the Ubuntu variant with KDE as main desktop.

See Also: Winnie Byanyima – Biography Of The First Female Ugandan Aeronautical Engineer

Award and Recognition

Basically, Mark Shuttleworth got a worldwide recognition on April 25, 2002, as the second self-funded space tourist and the first-ever African in space.

With his profit from the sales of Thawte, he paid a sum of $20 million for the voyage. After about a year of training in Zvyozdny Gorodok also called Star City in Russia, he launched aboard the Soyuz TM-34 mission as a spaceflight participant with two other cosmonauts, Commander Yury Gidzenko of Russia and flight engineer Roberto Vittori of Italy. He spent eight days aboard and return to earth on May 5, 2002.

Also, few of his other awards include;

  • IT Personality of the Year Award, The Computer Society of SA (CSSA) and ITWeb, 2000
  • Award for Outstanding Contribution to Linux/Open Source, Linux New Media Award, 2006
  • Honorary Doctorate Degree, Open University, 2010
  • IEEE Sanuse Software Award, 2012
  • Austrian anti-privacy Big Brother Award, 2013

See Also: Sahle-Work Zewde – Biography And Career Of Ethiopia’s First Female President

Mark Shuttleworth Quotes

“Whenever there is a substantial change in an industry there are opportunities for new leaders to emerge…”

“A big part of willpower is having something to aspire to, something to live for.”

“I don’t expect my flight to produce a generation of astronauts and cosmonauts back home, but I hope it will encourage people to pursue their dreams.”

“Computer is not a device anymore. It is an extension of your mind and your gateway to other people.”

“There are many examples of companies and countries that have improved their competitiveness and efficiency by adopting open source strategies. The creation of skills through all levels is of fundamental importance to both companies and countries.”

“What’s interesting about Africa is that it presents tremendous opportunity… The continent has everything it needs to survive and thrive, given leadership, fair treatment by the rest of the trading world, and time.”

See Also: Glenda Gray – Biography Of A South African HIV Vaccine Warrior

More Quotes

“In your dreaming, think big. Go beyond the perimeter of the school…”

“It’s difficult for people to change but it’s very plausible for organizations to change. It’s a function of leadership and intent. An organization sheds its old ideas and a smart organization reinvents itself.”

“I’m pretty confident that we will see Africa shed it’s image of tragedy and travesty in our lifetime, and replace it with an enviable mix of prosperity and soul.”

“We are all at risk of stagnating if we don’t pursue the future, vigorously. But if you pursue the future, you have to accept that not everybody will agree with your vision.

“It’s technology which changes what’s possible in society, so if you want to change society, think carefully about technology.”

See Also: Manal Rostom – Biography Of Nike First Hijabi Running Ambassador

Entrepreneurial Lessons From Mark Shuttleworth


On Mark’s return to earth in the Soyuz TM-33 on May 5, 2002, his father who was also waiting to receive him stated that Mark had achieved a lot due to his determination. In an interview, he said “Mark is an ordinary boy who, with determination and a bit of luck on his side, managed to do something inspiring.”

Also, in a question and answer session, Mark also stated how spaceflight had been a great fascination and imagination to him. However on his first visit to Russia he thought about his plans and the worth, but then, he was determined to give his dream a trial.

Generally, dreams don’t become a reality through magic, it requires a large dose of determination to achieve them. This also applies to businesses. You don’t just dream it, you have to put in the work to make it work.

Take Action

At the initial stage, Mark disclosed how he was fearful about the trip. But after the trip, he narrated his experience saying he couldn’t have imagined another project that would have been as daunting and rewarding as space tourism.

Going the time he did was the best decision he took. Although he felt terrified, it was personally rewarding. During that time, he also met with great cosmonauts and NASA/ESA astronauts who were also preparing for their own mission. He made friends with people he thought he would never have met in his life. He also met the last kind of the Soyuz TM which enabled him to take more responsibility in-flight.

There is never going to be the best time to achieve you goal. If you don’t swing to action in time, you may never get the opportunity again.

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