Bruno Lowagie

Bruno Lowagie is the original developer of iText, an open source PDF library first released in 2000. He's also the author of the “iText in Action” books, published by Manning Publications. Together with his wife, he founded iText Group (2008), a company with subsidiaries in the US (2009), Belgium (2011), and Singapore (2015). The couple grew the business from start-up to exit.

Bruno left iText Group in 2018, and focuses on helping start-ups with technical founders as a business angel ever since. In 2021, he wrote a book about his journey as an open source developer and entrepreneur: “Entreprenerd: Building a Multi-Million-Dollar Business with Open Source Software.”

The book consists of three parts:

  • Part I: Failing Forward describes how Bruno came up with the idea to create an open source PDF library. He talks about the first small business he created as a teenager, how he met his wife and future business partner in college, how he switched jobs three times in two years, and how he went from failed business idea to failed business idea. When he released the first version iText, he didn’t realize this technology would make him famous.
  • Part II: Building Free and Open Source Software starts with the historical background of Free and Open Source Software, and then continues with the history of iText. Year after year, the PDF library became more popular (it was used by IBM, SAP, Google...) but it was hard developing a business for something that was perceived as a free resource. Part II ends with a "Lessons Learned" chapter explaining which different business models Bruno tried, which models failed (and why), and which worked.
  • Part III: From Start-Up to Exit shows how Bruno and his wife scaled up their start-up and how they prepared it for an exit. Bruno explains the different strategies that eventually led to an eight-figure exit. Whereas Part II talks about creating the business; Part III focuses entirely on growing the business. Bruno also talks about the aftermath of the exit—he ended up suing the original acquirer.

“Entreprenerd” is an autobiography, but throughout the book, you’ll encounter different terms (EBITDA, recognized revenue, term sheet...) that founders should know when they start a company, grow the business, and then sell their business. The book helps the reader to get acquainted with the vocabulary every entrepreneur needs (the theory that can be taught in school), but Bruno also share his firsthand experience putting the theory in practice (entrepreneurship isn’t something that is easily taught in school).