Wildest dreams of making profit on Open Source

At DeveloperWeek, in Oakland, California, United States

Open Source is amazing! But as long as our food, devices, and homes are not similarly open and free, this creativity needs to be rewarded monetarily, too. Yet, achieving success in this domain is not without its challenges. In this talk, I will unveil my insights on navigating this journey, based on years of building and launching commercialization of our own Open Source projects.

There can be no “guide” on how to run a successful open source-based business like Vercel, Supabase, Teleport, but I listed three passions that will steer you toward success:

1. Passion for people

#1 person in your life is your co-founder, of course. It can be your coworker, ex coworker, classmate, friend, spouse, collaborator, customer, fan, hater, competitor, or all of the above… How to find one? Involve people into your thought process, strategy and planning, and with someone it will click.

Technology is for machines, but products are for people, and only products change lives. To turn your open source technology into a product you need to meet your potential customers with curiosity and empathy and build for them. Don’t expect them to be the same as your contributors.

Finally, think about the broader audience–people whom you know and have empathy for, and who, in turn, recognize you as an expert. Fall in love with your audience, and build for them, while deepening your connection with them throughout your whole career and life.

2. Passion for uncertainty

There is no economic opportunity without risk, and entrepreneurs are professional risk takers. You learn it by taking risk.

Manage risk by making small bets, using experimentation frameworks like Lean Startup: formulate hypothesis, test them with MVPs.

An MVP testing a hypothesis is a set of three items: a specific group of people that you can reach, a product surface they can interact with, and a process of learning the outcomes. Your first MVPs are never products. It can be a post on Reddit, a Figma prototype you show to folks at a meetup, a bunch of emails/DMs you manually send to potential customers etc.

The first “real” MVP that you build as a product has to cover the most narrow use case. It brings value to, say, 10 people, and you test it by showing and selling it to those 10.

Angel investors and VCs are professionals that share risks with you, they want to place bets, mostly on: market, i.e. a chance to build a $1 bn revenue company, a team that can execute, high velocity, and proven revenue potential.

Many investors will notice GitHub stars growth like those of Meilisearch, Supabase, Bun, Strapi, Grafana.

3. Passion for speed

Weekly is not enough. Early stage startup has to run several experiments in a week. It can be experiments in marketing, activation, retention.

This speed is unnatural, use an external mechanism in order to commit to it:

  • Launch week every 3 months with major releases, blogs and videos
  • Weekly newsletter or stream
  • Build in public daily tweets

And having said all that, my question to you is: are your dreams wild enough? If you are reading this, chances are, you have everything in you to change lives of millions for the better. Dream bigger!


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years in business

We transform growth-stage startups into unicorns, build developer tools, and create open source products.

If you prefer email, write to us at surrender@evilmartians.com