Rajiv Poodar has a great post on Wireless Utopia: Open Source and Charity about his frustration in explaining open source business models to others in Bangalore. It’s not a problem specific to Bangalore, though.
Charity is a dirty word in business circles. Free Open Source Software is considered charity. Therefore FOSS == Dirty. Free Software Business == stupid idea. FOSS Entrepreneur == BIG LOSER.
I think it is impossible for most people to comprehend that OSS is not charity. Open Source Software is a way of increasing the value of software faster than proprietary software and it is a way of improving software development efficiency (some will say it improves software quality but I’m not so sure about this). OSS allows people to customize, build upon previous works, improve upon previous works, and add value faster than closed systems can do. This isn’t to say that there isn’t a place for closed systems but it is meant more to highlight that a company built on open source software (and creating open source software) can be much more valuable than a company building only closed source software.
Creating a technology business is more than creating software. Most people don’t understand that. They believe that the software is the secret sauce. It’s usually just a very important ingredient of the secret sauce. As most successful entrepreneurs will tell you, the secret sauce is the execution, not the software, not the team. These are all ingredients in having flawless execution.
Though the Linux source code is free and open source software, it is not charity. It is the underpinning of a multi-billion dollar software industry (RedHat, Novell, IBM, HP, Mandriva, etc). The source code for MySQL is widely available, though no other companies have been as efficient at building services around MySQL than MySQL AB.
Preach the open source business model to those who have a chance of understanding it. Those that can’t get it, will eventually be left behind.
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