Open source file sharing project ownCloud has formed a commercial entity founded by Markus Rex and Frank Karlitschek. Rex, former executive with SUSE/Novell, will serve as chief executive officer. The new company also announced a funding round led by General Catalyst but did not disclose the terms.

The company believes it offers a more secure and better managed product than its significantly larger competitors Dropbox and Box, and also is better suited to business users because its open source basis gives it flexibility without being locked in to any particular vendor.

Rex said ownCloud already had more than 350,000 users. “In a cloud-oriented world, ownCloud is the only tool based on a ubiquitous open source platform,” he added. “This differentiator enables businesses complete, transparent, compliant control over their data and data storage costs, while also allowing employees simple and easy data access from anywhere.”

“With the explosion of unstructured data in the enterprise and increasingly mobile (and unsecure) ways to access it, many companies have been forced to lock down their data – sometimes forcing employees to find less than secure means of access, or, if security is too restrictive, risk having all that unavailable,” said John Simon, managing director at General Catalyst. “When we saw the ease-of-use, security and flexibility of ownCloud, we were sold.”

Rex was former senior vice president and general manager in charge of SUSE Linux at Novell, having also served as chief technology officer of the Linux Foundation and chief technology officer for Linux at Novell. Karlitschek leads development and the ownCloud Open Source Project and Community.

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Photo by Flickr user Lel4nd/Leland Francisco, used under Creative Commons license