Subject: Re: Open source funding?
From: Laurent GUERBY <laurent@guerby.net>
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2005 21:58:34 +0100

On Wed, 2005-02-16 at 10:21 -0700, Lajos wrote:
> 1) they are developing a complex piece of software for a market that has 
> few open source products available
> 
> 2) the commercial products available are horrendously expensive and are 
> very hard to use

Complex, hard to use: looks good for custom development and high quality
support. The proprietary offerings (please don't use "commercial" in
this context, since open source / free software *is* commercial)
are likely to have awful support since in the proprietary
model gives monopoly on support, and economics 101 tells
you what monopoly does to quality and efficiency :).

> 3) the project is self-funded by the two founders - they donate time and 
> hosting, but basically end up with all the duties of handling the 
> community, answering users and trying to make room for development

Awful support means customers are likely looking at the
first opportunity of change. Their current path is the good one, they
just need to get a few of the big users of proprietary software
understand that they have interest in shipping money a small and
efficient *support* oriented company (and for them that will be likely
peanuts money). It's of course hard, but entrepreneurship is never easy,
and you always need contacts, open source or not.

That's exactly what happened in the founding of Ada Core Technologies
(now AdaCore, see http://www.adacore.com/). US DoD wanted a revision
on their technology, they shipped some money to a university project
(mandating the use of GPL in 1992 BTW) and on a standard revision, then
Silicon Graphics was having a hard time with the same class of software
but from a proprietary vendor on their platform, their customer pissed
off by poor vendor support, etc... said well, look at that nice small
free software project: more funding. Then a few more customers from
Silicon Graphics, a few more platform vendor wanting the software: more
ports, more funding. Then other tool and support selling companies
around the software (some proprietary tools BTW), more customers from
partner portfolio, more funding. And now a nice and healthy privately
company selling high quality support per seat/platform and nothing else
(software being free, CVS open, ...). HP is currently funding them to
port their software to ... OpenVMS/Itanium.

Disclaimer: I was an intern and then employee of AdaCore,
and my current employer has been a customer of AdaCore
support services for the past 7 years.

Laurent