Tom Preston-Werner

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Tom Preston-Werner
Preston-Werner in July 2013
Born (1979-10-28) October 28, 1979 (age 40)
Dubuque, Iowa, U.S.
ResidenceSan Francisco, California, U.S.
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materHarvey Mudd College (dropped out)
OccupationSoftware developer, entrepreneur
Years active2008 - present
OrganizationGitHub, Inc.
Known forco-founder of GitHub
Notable work
co-founder of GitHub
Net worth$1.25 billion (June 2018) [1]
TitleCo-Founder & Former CEO of GitHub
SuccessorChris Wanstrath
Spouse(s)Theresa Preston-Werner[2][3][non-primary source needed]

Thomas Preston-Werner (born October 28, 1979) is an American billionaire software developer and entrepreneur. He is an active contributor within the open-source development community, most prominently in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lives.

He is best known as the founder and former CEO of GitHub,[4] a Git repository web-based hosting service, which he co-founded in 2008 with Chris Wanstrath and PJ Hyett.[5] He resigned from GitHub in 2014 when an internal investigation concluded that he and his wife harassed an employee.[6] Preston-Werner is also the creator of the avatar service Gravatar[7] and the TOML configuration file format.[8]

Preston-Werner lives in San Francisco with his wife Theresa and their sons.[2][7]

His wife is a former graduate student in cultural anthropology known for her involvement in historical research and social subjects.[9][10]

Early life[edit]

Preston-Werner grew up in Dubuque, Iowa. His father died when he was a child. His mother was a teacher and his stepfather was an engineer.[11]

He graduated high school at Dubuque Senior High School and attended Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California for 2 years before dropping out to pursue other endeavours.[11] He realized that he enjoyed programming far more than the math that was the core of his physics studies.[citation needed]


As an active contributor to the open-source developer and hacker culture, most prominently in areas involving the programming language Ruby,[12] he has written enthusiastic articles regarding his philosophies and opinions on various issues. He has been featured as a guest on podcasts, including Rubyology and SitePoint,[13] and he often speaks out about his conviction that developers should seek to collaborate more, and the measures which would promote such collaboration, such as writing better documentation and contributing to other people's projects.[14][non-primary source needed]

In 2008 Tom Preston-Werner spoke about the application of conceptual algorithms to higher-level thinking patterns, rather than solely to coding patterns.[15]

Preston was one of the initial members of the San Francisco group IcanhazRuby or ICHR[when?], after he became a regular member of the San Francisco Ruby Meetups. He continued until the meetings became overwhelmed by venture capital investors searching for talent; this prompted him to seek more private gatherings.[12] On April 8, 2011 he also started a conference called CodeConf, by means of GitHub's influence in the coding community.

Preston-Werner is the creator of the TOML configuration file format.[16]


In an article published by Hacker Monthly in 2010, Preston wrote about his passion for ensuring that developers document the code they write so others can easily understand how it works.[17]

In 2004, Preston-Werner founded Gravatar, a service for providing globally unique avatars that follow users from site to site. The company grew to about 32,000 users in 2007,[18][non-primary source needed] when Preston-Werner sold the company to Automattic.[19] In 2005 he moved to San Francisco to work at Powerset, a natural language search engine. Powerset was acquired by Microsoft. Preston-Werner declined a $300,000 bonus and stock options from Microsoft so that he could focus on GitHub.[11]


Preston-Werner co-founded GitHub in 2008 with Chris Wanstrath, PJ Hyett and Scott Chacon, as a place to share and collaborate on code.[20]

Architects, musicians, city governments, builders and others are currently using GitHub to share and collaborate on projects beyond software code.[21][22]

In 2010 Preston-Werner read a comment on Twitter insulting the quality of GitHub's search function. This prompted him to overhaul the service's search, drawing on his experience having worked at Powerset.[12]

Resignation from GitHub[edit]

Julie Ann Horvath, a GitHub programmer, alleged in March 2014 that Tom Preston-Werner and his wife Theresa engaged in a pattern of harassment against her that led her to leave the company.[23][24] GitHub initially denied Horvath's allegations[25][26][27], then following an internal investigation, confirmed some of the claims. Preston-Werner resigned. GitHub's new CEO Chris Wanstrath said the "investigation found Tom Preston-Werner in his capacity as GitHub’s CEO acted inappropriately, including confrontational conduct, disregard of workplace complaints, insensitivity to the impact of his spouse's presence in the workplace, and failure to enforce an agreement that his spouse should not work in the office."[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ {{|url=}}
  2. ^ a b Deamicis, Carmel (February 7, 2014). "This year at the Crunchies: Class tensions and tech-charity". PandoDaily. Retrieved April 22, 2014.
  3. ^ Preston-Werner, Tom (October 18, 2008). "How I Turned Down $300,000 from Microsoft to go Full-Time on GitHub". Tom Preston-Werner. Retrieved April 22, 2014.
  4. ^ Etherington, Darrell (January 21, 2014). "GitHub President Becomes CEO, CEO Becomes President In Executive Role Swap". TechCrunch. AOL. GitHub has just announced that co-founder Tom Preston-Werner will be taking over the role of President from fellow co-founder Chris Wanstrath
  5. ^ [citation needed]
  6. ^ a b "Follow up to the investigation results". April 28, 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Tom Preston-Werner". Bloomberg Link. Bloomberg. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  8. ^ "GitHub - toml-lang/toml: Tom's Obvious, Minimal Language".
  9. ^ Heller, Nathan (July 7, 2014). "California Screaming". The New Yorker. Retrieved October 22, 2014.
  10. ^ "Journal of Folklore Research" (PDF). 2008. Retrieved October 22, 2014. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  11. ^ a b c Bourne, Will (February 27, 2013). "2 Reasons to Keep an Eye on GitHub". Inc. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  12. ^ a b c Randall Thomas (February 5, 2011). "Interview with Tom Preston-Werner" (MP3) (Podcast). 1 (Cloud Out Loud ed.). Engine Yard, Inc. Event occurs at 42:35. Retrieved October 21, 2014. Lay summary. The Ruby community and the way the Ruby community interacts is always kind of my model for how it should be done. |entry= ignored (help)
  13. ^ Simoneau, Louis (April 9, 2011). "SitePoint Podcast #107: Social Coding with GitHub's Tom Preston-Werner". SitePoint. Retrieved October 22, 2014.
  14. ^ Preston-Werner, Tom (May 30, 2008). The Profitable Programmer: Creating Successful Side Projects (PDF). RailsConf. Portland Ballroom Room 255: O'Reilly. 1450. Retrieved October 21, 2014.
  15. ^ Preston-Werner, Tom (July 20, 2008). God's memory leak - a scientific treatment. RubyFringe. Retrieved October 21, 2014.
  16. ^ "TOML, Tom's Own Markup Language". Y Combinator Link. Y Combinator. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  17. ^ Preston-Werner, Tom (October 2010). "Readme Driven Development" (PDF). Hacker Monthly (5): 22. Retrieved October 22, 2014.
  18. ^ Werner, Tom. "Updated Croppr & Stats". Gravatar Blog. Retrieved April 22, 2014.
  19. ^ Aamoth, Doug (October 17, 2007). "Automattic Acquires Gravatar". TechCrunch. Retrieved October 10, 2013.
  20. ^ McMillan, Robert (February 21, 2012). "Lord of the Files: How GitHub Tamed Free Software (And More)". Wired. Retrieved October 10, 2013.
  21. ^ Silverman, Rachel Emma (August 6, 2013). "Some Tech Firms Ask: Who Needs Managers?". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 10, 2013.
  22. ^ Howard, Alex (March 8, 2013). "GitHub gains new prominence as the use of open source within governments grows". Radar. O'Reilly. Retrieved October 10, 2013.
  23. ^ Wilhelm, Alex. "Julie Ann Horvath Describes Sexism And Intimidation Behind Her GitHub Exit – TechCrunch".
  24. ^ Biddle, Sam; Tiku, Nitasha (March 17, 2014). "Meet the Married Duo Behind Tech's Biggest New Harassment Scandal". Vallywag. Gawker. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  25. ^ Wanstrath, Chris (April 21, 2014). "Results of the GitHub Investigation". The GitHub Blog.
  26. ^ Miller, Claire Cain (April 21, 2014). "GitHub Founder Resigns After Investigation". Bits. The New York Times.
  27. ^ Wilhelm, Alex (April 21, 2014). "GitHub Denies Allegations Of "Gender-Based Harassment," Co-Founder Preston-Werner Resigns". TechCrunch.