Mark Shuttleworth: South Africa’s Cyber Hero

Mark Shuttleworth was born in 1973 in Welkom in the Free State in South Africa. He holds a Business Science (Finance) degree from the University of Cape Town (UCT). His fascination with technology and science made him realize the importance of the Internet which he discovered at UCT. In 1995, his final year at UCT, he founded Thawte (pronounced “thought”) Consulting, an Internet consulting company. Its focus quickly shifted to the security aspect of e-commerce transactions and Thawte developed high-quality encryption software for internet transactions.

In 2000, at the peak of the dotcom industry, Shuttleworth sold his company to Verisign in the USA for $575m in Verisign shares. Within a year and a half he managed to convert the shares into a stockpile of cash ($560m or 4.6bn South African Rands at the then exchange rate). A wise move indeed as the dotcom market went downhill and the Verisign shareprice of $250 a share tumbled ultimately to below $10. Shuttleworth gave 1 million Rands to each member of his staff of 40, including the gardener and the cleaning lady.

Since then he has set up a venture-capital company HBD (“Here Be Dragons” named after the uncharted territory on early maps). He also founded the Shuttleworth Foundation, a non-profit organization supporting innovation in education in Africa.

This 2007 Guinea Space Tourism m/s shows Mark Shuttleworth in the upper right margin

In April 2002 his name became internationally known when he became the second space tourist (after American billionaire Dennis Tito) by spending nearly 10 days aboard the Russian International Space Station (mission Soyuz TM-34). The ticket for this trip cost him $20 million, which he considered a well-worth investment.

Being a self-confessed techno-geek, his interests vary from stem-cell technology to internet and the digital divide. He’s based in London but still frequently visits Cape Town.

South Africa issued a stamp on 17 December 2003 honoring Mark Shuttleworth as the “First African in Space”.

Launch cover for launch of Soyuz TM-34 to MIR, launched from Baikonur on 25 April 2002.
Notice the "Russian" spelling of Shuttleworth's name (bottom left).

            © Wobbe Vegter 2003

[ Published in: ThemNews, February 2004, Vol. 4, no.6]
[ Published in: Philamath, October 2007, Vol.XXIX, no.2]

[ Home ]