south african business link to experts

Personalities« Back to Personalities Listings

Mark Shuttleworth

First African in Space, founder of HBD Venture Capital and the Shuttleworth Foundation
By Interactive Africa

Mark Shuttleworth is an African entrepreneur with a deep interest in technology. This passion led him to Star City, Russia, where he is training for a flight to the International Space Station in April 2002.

He funds HBD, a venture-capital company based in South Africa, and TSF, a non-profit organisation dedicated to improving the quality of education in Africa. He currently lives in London when not “on assignment”, and spends much time travelling in search of new opportunities in global technology.

Mark was born in the dusty gold-mining town of Welkom in South Africa, and grew up in Cape Town. His fascination with technology started at a tender age when he discovered computer games, and not too much has changed in that respect. His interest in science covers an eclectic selection of disciplines, in particular particle physics, software engineering, digital media and biotechnology. While studying towards a Business Science (Finance) degree at the University of Cape Town (UCT), he first encountered the Internet, and quickly became fascinated with the changes it would bring in business and society.

In 1995, his final year at UCT, Mark founded Thawte Consulting, as an Internet consulting business. The focus of the company quickly shifted to Internet security for electronic commerce. Thawte ( became the first company to produce a full-security e-commerce web server that was commercially available outside the United States. This brought Thawte to the world of public key infrastructure, which is the basis for all encrypted and authenticated Internet transactions. By the time it was acquired by VeriSign in the USA, Thawte had become the fastest-growing Internet Certificate Authority, and was the leading Certificate Authority outside of the US.

Since the heady days of 1999, Mark has formed a new project team called HBD ( The name is a reference to the phrase “Here Be Dragons”, which was used to describe uncharted territory on early maps. HBD is a venture-capital company seeking to invest in innovative technology companies that are based in South Africa but that have the potential to serve a global marketplace. As well as funding HBD, he also serves as a non-executive director of the company.

He has created a non-profit organisation that supports innovation in education in Africa. The Shuttleworth Foundation ( seeks to fund projects that demonstrate a significantly better approach to some aspect of the education system and hopes to improve both the quality and the reach of education in Africa.


Mark believes that developing countries need to find their own voice in the digital era. To this end, he also funds and serves on the board of ( - an international non-profit organisation that seeks to address digital divide issues both through grass-roots work and high-level policy dialogue.

Likes: spring, cesaria evora, slashdot, chelsea, finally seeing something obvious for the first time, daydreaming, coming home, sinatra, sundowners, durbanville, flirting, string theory, linux, python, mp3s, reincarnation, snow, mig-29s, travel, lime marmalade, mozilla, body shots, leopards, the african bush, rajhastan, russian saunas, weightlessness, broadband, iain m banks, skinny-dipping, fancy dress, flashes of insight, inexplicable happinesses, post-adrenaline euphoria.

Dislikes: admin, legalese, running, London winters, salary negotiations, anxiety, public speaking.

Read More >