Bob Young founds the ACC Corporation. Marc Ewing founds Red Hat.
Ewing releases his own Linux distribution—Red Hat Linux.
Young buys Ewing’s business, the two merge into Red Hat Software. Young becomes CEO.
Red Hat becomes a publicly traded company.
The Red Hat story is the classic American technology success story with a few twists. Instead of a garage in Silicon Valley, Red Hat was incorporated out of a sewing room in Connecticut and a bachelor pad in Raleigh, North Carolina. And instead of working in isolation, protecting trade secrets, and filing patents for expensive proprietary products, Red Hat offered a stable, easy-to-use distribution of a constantly evolving, community-developed operating system called Linux.
Linux still belongs to all who want to use it and is openly available to anyone who wants to improve it.
Red Hat, Inc. began when a small businessman met a geek at a tech conference. Marc Ewing was the technologist—hacking, debugging, and spinning his own distribution of Linux on CDs from his home in Raleigh.
THE HELPFUL GUY IN THE RED HAT
It was a red Cornell lacrosse cap, and it belonged to Marc Ewing, one of Red Hat’s co-founders.
Marc wore his grandfather’s red hat when he worked at his job helping fellow students in the computer lab at Carnegie Mellon. Marc was very helpful and well-known for his cheerful competence.
“If you need help, look for the guy in the red hat.”
When Marc started distributing his own curated version of Linux, he chose Red Hat as the name.
Bob Young was a typical (if visionary) small businessman. He ran a mail-order computer supply catalogue business out of his home. He saw some interest in Linux, so he bought some of Marc’s Red Hat Linux CDs, sold out of them, bought more, sold all of those, and so on. He sold so many copies of Ewing’s Red Hat Linux that he and Marc joined forces, and Red Hat Software was born in 1995 with Bob as CEO.
Bob Young was a gifted salesman, and he could explain the beauty and value of open source and Linux better than anyone. One of his best pitches, “You wouldn’t buy a car with the hood welded shut” is still used today.
Originally, Red Hat Linux was a boxed product, sold on shelves in retail stores. At the time, Microsoft was in trouble with the US Justice Department for monopolistic practices, so Red Hat was a much-needed David to Microsoft’s Goliath.
The early years gave Red Hat a chance to experiment, innovate, and perfect a community-based development model. Red Hat gained lots of experience participating in communities, adding features and functionality desired by customers, and then testing, hardening, compiling, and distributing stable, workable versions to customers.
It was during this time that Red Hat emerged as the open source leader, a role it still enjoys today.
Red Hat went public in 1999 with a record-breaking and newsworthy IPO. Marc retired early, and Bob Young started looking for his own replacement.
As Red Hat grew, it became vital that the logo be able to be registered as a trademark. The first “Shadowman” logo was created by Blank in 1996, and made its first public appearance in 1997.