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Open-source opportunities

Sramana Mitra has an excellent piece in this week’s Forbes.com on developing software and services using open source foundations. Money quote:

If you are an engineer pondering your career path, you can certainly look at commercial open source as a great model to innovate on a shoestring and jump-start your entrepreneurial career while the world scrambles to recover from the economic crisis

Open-source development is the perfect shoestring venture. It allows the entrepreneur to capitalize primarily on their own coding abilities and creativity. The open-source foundations and distribution model is the readiest path to creating a product and finding consumers. Once the viability of the product is proven, VC financing becomes the next crucial step.

Mitra spotlights SugarCRM, the open-source customer relationship management software that comes in both a free and a subscription-based version. The original code was developed by three programmers working in different cities over a period of six months. Once finished, they distributed it for free under an open-source agreement. As the customers piled on, VC money rolled in and they developed a second tier application that they would sell.

SugarCRM is featured in our book, Shoestring Venture, as are many other Software as Services applications, such as Basecamp, that were developed in similar ways. And, of course, open-source distribution models have the beneift of being much more attractive as consumers and businesses are cutting back on their expenses.

Remember that the key to a shoestring venture is extracting the maximum value from your passion, creativity, and intelligence. Capitalism is typically defined as gaining the maximum value from investments; but shoestring and bootstrap entrepreneurship is really about gaining the maximum value from you. And open-source models provide a very ready path to do this.

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