From August 6-9, Openbravo will be making its 2nd trip to the San Francisco LinuxWorld (Booth #1308). This conference is billed as “…the premier event for the Linux and open source community, bringing together industry leaders shaping the future …
On June 7th Stephen Walli invited me through his blog to list three success factors and three things to avoid when building businesses using open source software. This is coming from a challenge initiated by Mikko Puhakka that tagged three people to jump in (one of them was Stephen) and there is already a good number of opinions being posted through this interesting pyramid (e.g, Marten Mickos, Javier Soltero, …). So here I go:
My three success factors for open source projects are listed as follows:
1. A great product at least equivalent to successful proprietary competition
- Very obvious point but a must that becomes a “killer” aspect when combined with open source. A great product generates positive word of mouth from its users which is directly amplified through the natural dissemination mechanisms of open source.
2. Active and relevant community
- Mandatory to properly leverage the two most critical aspects that open source enables from a business standpoint of view:
- Facilitate the development of quality software
- Facilitate the Sales & Distribution of software
3. Solid business plan executed by a great team of professionals
- The business plan of any successful open source vendor should be build leveraging a mix of low touch-high velocity products & services sold arround the core open source product. An excellent team of professionals is the key ingredient to define, build and maintain the right business.
My three things to avoid:
1. Unbalanced leadership
- A great product is developed by excellent product engineers. A great business is developed by a team of professionals with the right balance between technology and business skills. Typical business issues that should be well thought are: h2 build a leading brand in a world full of proprietary software?, h2 accelerate community growth and foster dissemination?, h2 acquire, develop and maintain best in class partners when starting up?, …
2. Mismanagement of company growth
- Open source by definition is international as of day one since software is available in the internet. If things go well … demand is much larger than the capacity of the start-ups behind the product to serve it. A well thought offering helps you grow your company without compromising quality service levels.
3. Unclear/ unfair policies that confuse your community on what is for free and what is offered at a fee
- I love Marten Mickos presentation @ OSBC this year which said “Success in open source requires you to serve: 1) Those who spend time to save money and 2) Those who spend money to save time”. This is only achieved by being very clear, fair and open with your company policies.
People I have tagged to continue the challenge (I exclude the ones that have already been tagged by others such as Marten, Matt, Javier,…):
Fabrizio Capobianco (Funambol‘s CEO, open source guru, great entrepreneur and another European in the Valley)
- Peter Fenton (One of the most experience Venture Capitalists in the space from Benchmark Capital, who has a very distinct opinion about the real drivers behind Open Source businesses)
- And last but not least … Josep Mitjà (Openbravo’s COO and Open Solutions Alliance Board member … sorry Josep but lately you are not posting messages in your blog and the world needs food for thought!)
Last week, while still in Cannes, I read an article about SAP’s point of view on the impact of open source in ERPs. Henning Kagermann, SAP’s current CEO, declared in Computer Business Review that “Open Source is an option for operating systems and databases but not at the business application level”. This point of view does not surprise me since it is not a new statement coming from a top software executive. In the past, important executives such as Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer also disregarded the Open Source opportunity/ threat in the operating system world. But … you know … what really strikes me is the main rationale that Henning was using to support his point of view. He argumented that Open Source successful projects are those where developers like to work for “fun” and literally said “I have never seen anyone who likes doing that (referring to altering applications to cater for legal or regulatory changes such as Sarbanes-Oxley or Basel II). That is not fun. There is no choice. The boring bits are a strength of SAP” .
I am really astonished … Can we imply that SAP’s strengths against open source competitors are only built upon boring pieces?. Does Henning see open source competitors failing on their purpose because there is no fun on building ERPs?. If that was the name of the game … and you are working at SAP … please tell your boss that our growing community encompassing now more than 50 employees and more than hundreds of individuals working for IT companies around the world is really having “fun”!!!!. But please tell him that we are not having fun for the sake of fun. And here it comes the true reason why open source will make it in the world of ERPs: Fun for the sake of building Openbravo, the leading open source ERP Company in the space. At the end experience tells us that everything that can be built on open source, is finally built on open source (see other similar projects that are building business applications successfully with open source @ the Open Solutions Alliance )”.
Anyway … I am convinced that we will see Henning in the future adapting its pitch as many others (read Gates and Ballmer) have done it. Don’t you think?
Next Sunday I will be travelling to France on behalf of Openbravo to accept the “Top 100” award, presented by Red Herring. I am extremely satisfied with the award since it not only recognizes the work and results achieved so far; but also it points out to what I truly believe is one of the most differential elements that we have as a Company: the capacity to innovate! Opening ERP’s future and becoming the leading ERP in the space is a huge project requiring innovation toward building a solid and thorough business approach. And guess what … Openbravo guarantees this continuous innovation with one of the most professional teams that I have ever had. Allow me to celebrate with a big open applause or better yet, a big open bravo for our team. Guys … let’s make it happen!!!
Today we have received the official confirmation that Openbravo is a winner for the acclaimed Red Herring 100 Europe 2007 award. The prize recognizes the 100 most promising start-ups driving the future of technology.We are obviously very honoured to re…