Why are open-core companies winning? And why will they continue to succeed in the future? This is a question I constantly ask myself as an open-core founder and enthusiast. It was one of the many things I hoped to learn at the just concluded open core summit. And I think I picked up something relevant I’d like to share. But first, let me share one random picture I took to show how much I enjoyed the conference.
Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”, and this insight wasn’t any different. It turns out that open-core companies are winning because of Excellence. It turns out that being open-core is an implicit commitment to Excellence. The desire to build an open alternative to proprietary technologies has always been a mission to build a 10x better version of the product and make it even 10x accessible to anyone in the world who needs it. Maybe not articulated this way, but you can see this as the primary driver of many of the most successful open-core companies. In open-core land, we have no such thing as the DeWitt Clause. Instead, we say bring it on!
When engineers have a personal problem, they go in search of a solution (open source or not) and are usually surprised at how much the available tools suck. Knowing and believing they have the skills to build an even better version, they go on to do so and release the software in the open for everyone to use and even scrutinise. There are so many examples — David Cramer of Sentry saw how even very well-funded companies had products that sucked. And even before they went full in as a company, they were already rivalling well-funded companies on some dimensions. If you’re like me, who has used bit.ly before for short-link management, you’d clearly understand why I’m bullish about dub.sh and Steven. Product-obsessed founders driven by excellence are the recipe for success in open-core land.
In conclusion, this doesn’t apply to just all software products. But in the categories that do matter, I believe it holds very strongly. Let’s compete by building exceptional products, not by better sales teams, ruining the product for us all. But will this continue to hold into the future? I can’t tell. Actually, nobody can. But I hope that, as an Industry, we continue to hold ourselves accountable to these very high standards because open-core, source-available products aren't just an opportunity to distribute your product but a commitment to excellence and being in the proper service of your users.
Let me close with the wise words of the Luminary — Heather Meeker, who said, “Products drive adoption, not licenses. Users don’t adopt licenses, they adopt software.” Open core or source-available products aren’t driven by licenses but by excellence. So, open-core founders, go on and continue against all odds to build great products!
One last image of the beautiful city of San Francisco, because why not?