Subject: Re: Anyone know of a free software business list?
From: Mark Marsalese <mark@prototribe.net>
Date: Sat, 10 Jun 2006 03:45:46 -0400

I would imagine that people feel safer talking about abstract, ivory 
tower topics because they don't threaten their current business models.

I should probably introduce myself,  i've been a member of this 
mailing-list for several years, although i probably only read about 5% 
of the messages on this list. I've been involved in the software 
industry for roughly 9 years working for large corporations. Recently I 
started my own business, leveraging open source software as much as 
possible for both internal and client solutions, from Linux and MySQL to 
Asterisk and Alfresco. People are looking for solutions. There is enough 
high quality open source software to provide answers to most of it (at 
least for small to medium sized businesses).

Here are my thoughts on open source based businesses. They may be naive, 
confused, or totally wrong, but they're mine. =)

There are three primary types of open source business in my eyes; Open 
source creators, resellers, and service providers.

Redhat, Alfresco, and SugarCRM, and Asterisk (Digium) are all examples 
of creators. These companies create the software and have the claim of 
being the ultimate authority on the software. This generates credibility 
for the company if the software is liked by the target market. They can 
charge premiums for their services (usually support). This type of 
business requires time and resources to actually perform the initial 
creation.

Resellers will provide solutions based on existing open source products 
(the creators do this as well in many instances, but still have their 
own software). These solutions can range from selling consulting 
services providing solutions via open source software to providing 
packaged solutions with a unified frontend to leasing hardware with open 
source solutions embedded within them. ClarkConnect, Vigilant Minds, 
Asterisk@Home (now TrixBox), are examples that fall into this category.
As far as I can tell, this category is the easiest to get started with, 
but generally requires the most ongoing effort and is dependent upon the 
software being provided. It is probably also the riskiest to talk 
about.  The profits are primarily derived in the value added features a 
business offers. If they are talked about too openly, it would be easy 
to give away the competitive edge, or worse, give someone else the 
ability to compete directly against you (esp if they have more 
resources). The only distinguishing factors between companies at this 
point is brand recognition and quality of service, and quality of 
service won't get you in the door initially. (I guess sales ability 
helps, but that's sort of universal.)

Service Providers will generally use a combination of open source 
software as well as custom created software to manufacture services to 
provide to the public. There are two subcategories for this grouping, 
services for business (other computer systems) and services for 
consumers (people). Google, 37Signals, Many of the "Web 2.0" companies 
are primarily targeted at consumers. Offhand I don't know of any 
examples for the services for business (at least open source based), but 
i'm sure they're there. On the consumer side currently it's just 
replacing thick client software, but that will extend into replacing the 
desktop PC as the primary method of interface to be shared with whatever 
approach users prefer.

Businesses make money because they provide a solution to a problem, need 
or want, whether that problem/need/want is real, perceived or artificial.

I can only assume we have people operating businesses or are thinking 
about it who are here, where does everyone else fall in these categories?

Mark Marsalese
fsb@prototribe.net
orthox@prototribe.net

Robin 'Roblimo' Miller wrote:
> I'm trying to find an email list where intelligent people discuss free 
> software-based business.
>
> This one now seems to discuss patent law theory and things like 
> whether the phrase "intellectual property" came directly from Satan or 
> was passed to us through some of his imps.
>
> There are plenty of email lists, plus a site a friend turned me on to 
> called, I think, Slashdot or something like that, where these 
> theoretical issues get talked about all the time, but no one really 
> gets into practical matters like how to make money while giving 
> software away and the tactical processes that go into building a 
> successful business by doing this.
>
> I once heard of an email list called Free Software for Business that 
> sounds -- from the title at least -- exactly like what I'm looking 
> for. Is it still around? Does anyone know how to sign up for it?
>
> - Robin
>
>