Subject: Re: Opportunity lost? Challenge declined!? (LONG. COMPREHENSIVE)
From: Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com>
Date: 10 May 2001 10:25:49 -0700

Norbert Bollow <nb@thinkcoach.com> writes:

> I start a software development project for a BBS-like software
> system that is designed to be very useful as a marketing tool.
> (For details of the project see http://tbbbs.org ) This program
> will be released as Free Software.  At the same time I am starting
> a company which specializes on hosting electronic communities
> (which may be realized as email discussion groups, or with a
> traditonal bulletin board system such as Phorum, or with the new
> software) and providing technical support.  When other
> developers help me with my project I can give them shares or
> stock options of this company as a form of compensation.  The
> exit plan is that eventually this company would become a
> business unit of the Free Software Marketing Company which Tony
> Stanco is envisioning, i.e. at that stage the shares of my
> company would be exchanged for shares of the Free Software
> Marketing Company.  (And if Tony's plan with the Free Software
> Marketing Company does not work out, and this exit plan cannot
> be realized, we still have a hosting company that is worth
> something.)
> 
> What do you all think?  Is this a viable approach?  Is someone
> interested in investing into such a start-up hosting + technical
> support company?

Since it's not 1999 any more, I have to ask: where is the revenue?
Building community sites was never profitable.  Advertising revenue is
drying up--look at Yahoo.  You can have a 100,000 users, but how will
you get paid?


> It might work to build a Free Software Distribution Company
> (FSDC) around the service of helping software users choose a
> Free Software program then meets their needs.  The use would pay
> say $5 for using FSDC's website to try to locate the right Free
> Software solution.  The website would feature an automated
> system that lets the user between a resonable number (perhaps
> twenty) Free Software packages that may possibly be appropriate
> for the specific need.  The user can download and try any number
> of these packages and choose one.  When the choice has been made,
> $3 go to the current maintainer of the chosen software package,
> and $2 is kept by FSDC.

Interesting, but most people just need a few applications--the ones
which are in Microsoft Office, as it happens, plus maybe a photo
editor.  And most people choose applications because their employer
mandates them, or because a friend recommends them.  These aren't
fatal objections, but they should be considered.

Ian