A number of companies today proudly wear the open source badge to show their dedication to various projects, particular communities, or simply the idea of free software licensing. Many have gone down the Red Hat business route, creating a revenue model based on support and services, while others have built their business around proprietary features and add-ons to open source projects.
Business models vary, but what all successful open source companies have in common is the ability to maintain healthy relationships.
Relationships are fostered by developers. The goal is to derive value from a project that is owned and created by a community, while also feeding value back into the ecosystem. It’s essential to remember that the developer community is the guardian. The company or commercial entity is the cheerleader, whose purpose is to help the community grow, not divide. To do this, the company should provide resources that the community could not create or generate alone. Examples include marketing efforts like webinars, conferences, and merchandise.
Companies cheerleading a developer community need to understand this karmic feedback loop. Passionate programmers propel open source forward, and the happier they are, the more time, effort, and ideas they will contribute to making the technology—and, by extension, the business built on top of it—more powerful.
How to motivate your team
- Hire active developers and give them a direct voice in both the commercial and open source sides of the technology.
- Think of them as community members first, company employees second.
As a result, you will gain built-in ambassadors who go back out to the community, advocate for your company, and gather invaluable feedback from a wide variety of people along the way.
At my company, Lucidworks, we retain an obligation to the community that has been crucial to the technology underpinning our business. This is why we employ a third of Apache Solr committers, and why we host the community’s annual conference. This dedication to constantly pay it forward to the community is of paramount importance to our business’s success.
For the communities, the best open source projects rarely get there alone. Look at the ubiquity of Linux, the popularity of WordPress, and Hadoop’s evolution into the mainstream. All successful projects are backed by an organization whose primary focus is to drive the direction, development and marketing support that move the technology forward. For this reason, it behooves open source businesses to protect the community’s integrity and to champion its members—because those members’ time, effort and knowledge are the most valuable assets a company can have.
Lucidworks CEO Will Hayes will dig further into community building and open source business models during his All Things Open session: How to Build an Open Source Company in 2016.