WSO2 Ten Years: It Takes Two to Tango!


Co-founder (and former Chief Technology Officer) Paul Fremantle knows how to party. The word around WSO2 is that Paul literally dominates the dance floor with his swift jive moves, headbanging, and jumping jacks!

WSO2’s success is a testament that the same levels of energy have been put into cracking the whip as CTO for most of the company’s 10 years to create innovative products that are being used by customers the world over.

So when did the dynamic duo get down to business?

After working together for 5 years at IBM, they became friends. In 2004, Sanjiva invited Paul to Sri Lanka to participate in the Lanka Software Foundation workshop on Apache Software. One day, over dinner, they joked about starting to work for themselves, and what followed was a 2-day brainstorming session a few months later in London between Paul, Sanjiva and another partner (who opted out not too long after things started to progress). The plans for project WSO2 were hatched “during a very long lunch at the Nando’s in Putney over some very spicy chicken” reminisces Paul. Thereafter, they rented a room in a cheap hotel in Putney (The Lodge Hotel) and spent time in a stuffy, windowless basement room planning and discussing WSO2. By December 2004, the building blocks for WSO2 had been visualized. Tragically, later that month, the devastating Asian Tsunami hit Sri Lanka and Sanjiva became involved in relief efforts back home. Plans for WSO2 were put on hold.

By around April 2005, Sanjiva had freed up some of his time to revisit the WSO2 idea and actually set up the framework for the company, while Paul was still doing time at IBM. From there, things progressed swiftly. By July 2005, Paul handed in his resignation  and the final paper work for WSO2 was completed. Although it was a major career decision for him, Paul had no doubts and felt that it was the right time to break away as opportunities like this didn’t present themselves often. Paul explains that he was really keen on the project, but at the time he never expected WSO2 to be where it is today.

Reminiscing their vision for middleware a decade ago

Paul says “it’s like lego.” “In a nutshell, it means you can collect the pieces you want to build what you need and then add anything more you need as you go along. This compares with having to build what you need from scratch every time, which would be the case if you used clay. “In the last 10 years the vision has come to pass; Sanjiva’s long-range vision was broader than mine,” he adds.

In February 2015, Paul decided to step down as CTO and concentrate on his research into IoT secure middleware. He’s still an observer on the board though.

In a recent blog Paul says “you often meet people who wish to ensure they are irreplaceable in their jobs, to ensure their job security. I’ve always taken the opposite view: to make sure I am replaceable and so that I can move onto the next chapter in my career. I’ve never thought I was irreplaceable as CTO of WSO2 – I’ve simply tried to make sure I was adding value to the company and our customers. In 2013, I took a sabbatical to start my PhD and I quickly realized that the team were more than ready to fill any gaps I left.”

Life moves on at WSO2, and hopefully the ‘gaps’ created on that dance floor at company parties due to fears of being pushed off by Paul would be now be filled too!

See more on our road to ten years here