Founded in Silicon Valley, this software company now calls DC home

Since new software is comprised mostly of open-source code components, assuring their quality is extremely important for the resulting software to be trustworthy. With almost every company relying on proprietary software, the demand for quality open-source components is high.

Matt Howard is the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Sonatype, a company that aims to make sure that the components that organizations use are healthy and safe for their programs. It’s “the equivalent of FDA food labeling on open-source components,” said Howard.

“We’ve created a database that allows development organizations to see, on the top of an open-source component, this one is secure, it’s properly licensed, it’s popular, it’s older, it’s newer, et cetera,” he said.

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Despite being physically based in D.C., since Sonatype is a software company, it has the position to hire employees almost anywhere.

“We’ve got 130-plus employees. The lead architect and the senior leadership team for engineering is based here, but the actual day-in-day-out software development is done by individuals around the world,” Howard told What’s Working in Washington.

The decision to base Sonatype in D.C. was important. After founding in Silicon Valley, the company moved because of the “rich history in Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with respect to really interesting software innovation,” he said. “It’s not ultimately that difficult to put a great team of management together” in the greater Washington area.

Howard said that the recent success of modern cyber companies in the area is emblematic of not just D.C.’s prowess in the field, but in general.

“There [are] smart people all over the place, I think Washington has a core group of smart people, who, yes, are doing cyber, but it extends beyond cyber. And when they’re successful in cyber — or whatever industry they’re developing — the exits happen, and those people tend to go and look for another good idea,” he said.

Sonatype is also taking advantage of the opportunities available specifically in D.C. by working with the government.

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“We don’t discriminate…every organization in the world, whether they know it or not, is in fact a software company. At the end of the day, innovation is what these companies do in order to compete and win, and that innovation comes from software,” said Howard.

Companies like Airbnb, Tesla, and Netflix are, at their core, software companies, “and they’ve come out of nowhere, in the blink of an eye, to disrupt industries that existed for decades or even hundreds of years before it,” he said.

“Software is being built by everybody — in the government, in commercial markets. Anyone who’s building software is consuming a massive amount of open-source.”

With annual requests to Sonatype’s Central Repository, an archive of a massive number of open-source Java code components, increasing from 17 billion in 2014 to 52 billion in 2016, “the consumption of open-source is growing exponentially every year,” said Howard.

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