What to know before you open source your project


Before your company makes a project open source, make sure you’re ready for all your new responsibilities to the community that forms around it.

It’s the ecosystem, stupid

With so much innovation happening in open source projects, why not take advantage of it across your product and supply chain?

1 Comment

  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Don’t be scared to open-source your startup’s technology

    To open source or not to open source? If you’re in the software business, this is a question you’re going to face at one point or another. The sooner you tackle it, the better.

    The big concern about going open-source, of course, is a loss of intellectual property. You go to great lengths to protect your IP, and, understandably, you likely don’t want to just give it away for free. But being part of the open-source software (OSS) community is not about diminishing profits or eroding the value of your IP – it’s about collaboration, and the idea that many hands make light work. Most participants don’t contribute the one thing that makes them unique to the world; instead, they contribute elements and building blocks that others can use to drive new ideas and products forward.

    Participating in the OSS movement can push your startup’s product ambitions farther than you might have thought possible, transforming small development units into large international teams with near infinite scale.

    Through my own experience, I not only believe OSS is fundamental to accelerating product development, but that not participating would be irresponsible to our business. Investors, employees, partners, and customers all have demands on (and ambitions for) the businesses they choose to engage with. Being active in the OSS community lets you address many of their concerns, motivations, and objectives, whether directly or indirectly.

    It’s a win-win-win-win situation

    One of the most notable champions of the open source movement, Elon Musk, summed up this dynamic brilliantly as part of his announcement that Tesla’s would create an open source patent pool for the technology used to build its electric vehicles. He said, “Technology leadership is not defined by patents, which history has repeatedly shown to be small protection indeed against a determined competitor, but rather by the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world’s most talented engineers.”

    While the benefits of OSS participation are incredible, be sure you’re not giving away the farm. You will still want to perform an in-depth review prior to releasing any code to be sure your business’s core IP is not included. Ask yourselves, “Are we revealing anything about the direction of our business that we want to keep secret right now?”

    ask yourself this question: “If our business success hinges on one snippet of code, was there really enough there in the first place?”


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