It’s a word that is part of our mission, and it’s what we strive for when investing in Founders of movements and products that capture the imagination.
And nowhere has that impact been felt more than in the 22 open source companies True has invested in over the last nine years. Billions of downloads later, with investments in companies like Automattic, Puppet Labs and 3D Robotics, we have learned many lessons along the way. Here are some of the key attributes we’ve learned to look for when we invest in open source companies:
Controversy: It’s okay to have an opinion. There will be a set of people who strongly disagree with your vision and who think they can do it differently and better. We have seen this happen with many companies in the open source ecosystem: Puppet vs. Chef, Cascading vs. Hive, OpenStack vs. Eucalyptus, Gradleware vs. Maven. We like Founders who have a clear vision, even if they become a lightning rod.
Long-Term View: We know it takes time, oftentimes more than a decade, to build a great company from the bottom up. We love product-driven companies that aren’t looking for service-intensive, million dollar deals to meet short-term needs. Most open source projects require a true “land and expand” model that needs patience and discipline.
Product!: In fact, the term “open source company” is very outdated. We are looking for a vision for how to actually deliver a value as a product from day one. This could be in the form of an SaaS deliverable or a commercial version behind the firewall. Either way, it’s far more than just support.
Community: The groundswell created by an open source product gives companies an unfair advantage that must be maintained. We look for lightning in a bottle—those projects that have clearly risen above the noise. More importantly, and often more tricky, is building a great, value-added product while always keeping the community’s needs front and center.
Major Disruption: We are seeing a major architectural shift in every layer of the data center right now, with SaaS and open source leading the way—sometimes in tandem. Large incumbents often have no answer to companies that are looking to disrupt and democratize a part of the stack.
“THE” Person: Matt Mullenweg, Josh McKenty, Luke Kanies, Isaac Schlueter… Lastly and most importantly, we want to invest in the creators, builders and the authentic voices of the community. Ultimately, it is these visionary Founders who create the most lasting impact.