Subject: Re: Successful FSBs
From: eric hamilton <>
Date: Thu, 31 Oct 2002 01:50:18 -0800 (PST)

> This somehow triggered a line of thought, and I now know why I
> believe
> Tim is wrong.  Ie, why I believe that defining FSB, and defining it
> to
> involve _developing_ open source software, is important.

I agree on this point.  A company that relies on, but does not
contribute to open-source development should not be considered an FSB. 
If it is not a large part of the company product or brand, how can we
look to them for guidance?  Sure, they may have money in the bank, but
how does that help me evolve MY business model if we're doing
completely different things?  How does it help the solitary open-source
software developer turn his geek-hobby into a business oportunity?

> What we are saying at this point is that getting private financing
> (which is where the money is; ask any country, including the U.S. or
> Japan, faced with the prospect of fighting off George Soros &cie)
> seems to be nearly impossible for FS.

The money in private financing is dependent on the idea that eventually
(3-5 years down the road), the company will be profitable enough to buy
out the investment.  The question at hand then, is how can we make that
happen -- let alone sell the idea to investors?  Trying to figure out
how to achieve financing before you have a provable business model is
putting the cart before the horse.

> So should we concentrate on how many companies use the FS that _is_
> produced?  That's minor, minor, minor, as long as FS is drastically
> _underproduced_.  And it will be underproduced, because FS is starved
> for resources for development.  It will depend on gifts of friends,
> family, and the pound of flesh nearest the developer's own heart. 
> And
> that is not enough when weighed against the benefits provided by free
> software.

Luckily for us, inspiration does not always wait for budgets.  It
certainly is hard to accomplish things quickly without a budget, but
there is obviously a lot of open-source development happening, with or
without financing.  In the mean-time, many companies are figuring out
that contributing to open-source development helps in areas that are
harder to measure than license sales stats.  How to leverage that
benifit is the real question.

> Nor are the companies Tim is lobbying going to suddenly come to their
> right minds and start funding gobs of FS development.  They're
> already
> in their right minds, and that's why they _don't_ fund FS
> development:
> it's a net loser for them, even in the long run.

If that were completely true, companies like IBM would ignore the
open-source community.  That obviously isn't happening.

> Government support?  Ra-a-aight.  For pure science, where the
> scientists basically decide, fine.  For readily commercializable
> technology, look at the history of MITI (aka Japan, Inc.)  The big
> decisions that they got right were taken by industry or were simply a
> matter of concentrating on catching up to the obvious leaders in one
> industry or another.  The ones they got wrong are precisely the ones
> taken by MITI when the correct technical answer was not obvious.
> (According to the Report of Prime Minister Hashimoto's Committee on
> Administrative Reform.)

Who says that the open-source software itself needs to be "readily
commercialized"?  I can think of a number of ways to sell OSS projects
to Uncle Sam.  The right strategy depends largely on your intended
business model, though.  Obviously, simply selling the software (or
some proprietary extension of it) is not enough.

> So maybe we have to call 1-800-Mephistopheles and try weakening
> _some_
> of the OSD strictures against proprietary licensing, while
> maintaining
> the ones that have the most social benefit.

I doubt this will help much, asside from allowing more software to work
together.  In terms of market climate, though, it won't change a thing.

- Eric

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The only limits in life are the ones we set ourselves.

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