Open Source Entrepreneur – Launching a Project Successfully

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I have been asked several times how do I launch an open source project. To which I ask them, why not contribute to an existing project rather than build one from scratch? Being an open source entrepreneur who is launching a new project is really a long term effort and not just a weekend gig. So think hard before you make the jump.

There are literally thousands of open source software applications that need help in open source community. From drivers, to web and mobile applications, to mission critical systems and operating systems. Even stuff to put the man on Mars has some critical open source components. Yes, open source is rocket science stuff. So why build one from scratch?

Here are a few points to consider when launching a new project.

Solving the Pain Point

Open Source Entrepreneurs have to think like any startup founder. Before embarking on your new project, do a bit of googling (or binging if you prefer) to see if there are any existing efforts in that domain. Say, if you want to build a CMS  (Content Management System), is there a genuine need for another one? Are users happy with their WordPress, Joomla, Ghost and other similar software or is there a dire need for a new system? If there is one, it needs to have a 100 times impact before upon launch.

So think hard, do a lot of research and figure out what is it that you want to do.

Join an Existing Effort

Once you have figured out what problem you want to solve, google more to see what existing efforts come close to what you want to do. Genuinely review if there is a way for you to contribute to that existing effort. So if you can figure that out, whatever you want can be solved by contributing to an existing project, then it is advisable to join it and give your best shot. A few things will happen when you do that.

  • You will learn about the community, culture and contribution of individuals.
  • How they work together as a team and deliver on a regular basis.
  • You will network with like minded community members. These friendships are likely to last you a life time. And who knows, some of them might join you on a new venture that you launch in future.
  • You will also learn about the business side, licensing and how to keep building year after year great software without getting fatigued.

So joining an existing effort can be a great learning experience. Go through it before you embark on a solo open source entrepreneur’s journey.

Galvanize

Once you do decide to launch a new open source project, think about the community of contributors who will be part of this effort. Where will they come from? Will they love it as much as you love it? Will they contribute regularly? How do you get them to be more than just contributors? Remember the best projects have the best teams. As open source entrepreneur, think of the core team before you embark.

You must clear your thoughts and create a vision about galvanizing the community you will be building for your project. They must see value in your work, and find it useful for them as much as you find it useful for yourself.

The core team has to be as highly motivated as you are.

Sustainability

Just because you have a great idea, it, unfortunately, does not guarantee to pay you and your team’s bills. Do you have a plan to generate some financial gains from the project in consulting and enterprise services for yourself and your core team? The five dollar donation button on your project site will probably not cut it for long. If you keep a day job and work on it on weekends, it might not be sustainable in the long run. And may cause a burn out as experienced by other entrepreneurs who work 80 hours a week. So having a plan that pays your bills is always wise. Even if you implement it much much later in the project life cycle.

So build a business plan along with the project plan. Be it rudimentary, but having a plan is better than no plan. Think like an open source entrepreneur.


Customer Acquisition

The most important thing for any project is gaining customers that love the product that you have built. They find it useful and are willing to even recommend it to their friends to use it.

But to get to those customers, you will need to create a focused sales/marketing and branding plan. This is essential for any open source entrepreneur success. Talk to your friends, see how other similar products are doing to create a sustainable plan. You will pick up a few pointers from such projects. Use them to your benefit.

 

Techie by day, blogger by night. Love the outdoors, enjoy traveling and building new and interesting things. Follow me if you want to know something.

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