ActiveState Returns to Open-Source Roots

The provider of tools and services for dynamic languages gets acquired by a Canadian VC outfit and will return to its open-source core mission.

Just two years after shelling out $23 million to acquire ActiveState, anti-virus vendor Sophos has offloaded the company to Pender Financial Group, a Canadian venture capital firm.

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. The deal is expected to close within the next 30 days, the companies announced Feb. 6.

For Sophos, the decision to spin out ActiveState is hardly a surprise. The acquisition was meant to give the UK-based company the technology to add anti-spam capabilities to its enterprise-class anti-virus group, much like rivals Network Associates, Symantec and McAfee.

But, ActiveStates bread and butter was in the open-source dynamic languages space. ActiveState makes free distributions and commercial programming tools for programming languages like Perl, Python, PHP, Tcl (Tool Command Language) and Ruby, while Sophos sells integrated threat management services.

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Once the anti-spam element of ActiveState was integrated with Sophos anti-virus products, the marriage no longer made much sense, industry watchers said.

David Ascher, ActiveState CTO and vice president of engineering, said as much in a blog post, announcing the Pender Financial acquisition.

"Sophos is focused on ensuring their success in the space of threat management, and there was broad agreement that ActiveState needs to stand on its own feet if it is to continue to do good things," Ascher said. "This deal results in two independent organizations, each focused on its own needs."

"[Being] independent will allow us to react faster, and make bigger bets," he added.

Bart Copeland, a well-known figure in Canada technology circles, will join ActiveState as CEO.

Ascher said the company will maintain offices in Vancouver and continue development of several free language distributions, including ActivePerl, ActivePython and ActiveTcl.

The company plans to release a full set of OS X on Intel downloads soon.

ActiveState is also sticking to current plans around tools such as Komodo and the Perl Dev Kit and Ascher said there are "significant upgrades" planned for next year.

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