Stop Building Products and Start Building a Movement.

And why Open-Source Communities lead us into the future.

Photo by William White on Unsplash

Money can buy all the engineering time in the world, but it doesn’t mean you’re building something useful. Hiring the best engineers in the world doesn’t guarantee they will create something amazing.

When we come up with ingenious innovation, the product itself will only get so far by itself. We’ll explore how Open Source Communities lead to better service the demanding early-majority markets, the need of finding and retaining top engineering talent, and how to build kick-ass products that crush the competition.

I know what you’re thinking, “Movements suffer from credibility issues. They do not speak to the values of early-majority markets that only adopt gold-standard stable and proven products + services.”

And it’s true. These are some of the market risks of innovation. One way to mitigate the risk is to open source the core product and invite community contribution. Instead of monetizing only a core product, monetize as a subscription against premium support and custom hardware — but remove the barrier to adoption by giving away at least some of the software for free.

But the 10X marketing story must follow suit — target adoption of the visionaries and mavericks of the world. Invite everyone to decide for themselves: continue with the status quo or step into the future, at zero initial cost. Let the community tell a story, a story on why we deserve not just another incremental step, but a sweeping revolution. The future is not incremental little bitesize pieces on a silver platter. The future is delivered in violent and subversive 10x plots against the status quo. Yes, there will be opposition. Dinosaurs that refuse to change, once scary, will go extinct. March bravely into the tomorrow, leading an entire army fueled by passion on their weekends and late-nights after the kids go to bed.

Build-up an entire community of around an idea, not a product, and you’ll be well on your way towards total market domination.

Change is terrifying and risky, so when your 10x Story invites people to step into a future, it’s asking them to change. It is prudent to remove as many barriers to entry as possible, including cost. A straightforward way to do this is, again, through an open-source product.

As an example, Styra created the authorization service, Open Policy Agent (OPA). The core technology is entirely open-source, even though all Stryra engineers are open-source OPA engineers. But the moment you want that beautiful GUI, the premium features, support, and production quality SLA’s out of the box, Styra steps in with a subscription. Is that enough to build a thriving business? So far, so good. Besides, the real power here is the open-source community they have fostered, lead by great engineers, such as Patrick East.

Auxilary Markets do not just pop up out of nothing. They need kindling that enables a stand-alone business to be entirely autonomous and successful. To jumpstart an auxiliary market, open-source an SDK.

As an example, take the DJI drones. Their open-source SDKs enable developers to control everything from the Flight GUI to low-level onboard systems, to high-level operational logic. From this, other flight apps started to appear.

So look. At the end of the day, we all have access to the same knowledge. Sales are no longer about exploiting information asymmetries between buyers and sellers. Sales are about making a lasting human connection. There are no secret pills, no secret books, no magical system hacks, that will magically transform your proprietary widget into the next big revolution, without outside help.

Together, we can work on projects that are more meaningful, more transparent, and more important than any single organization or business. To effectively collaborate and build the future together, we need just a little bit of structure. And any true leader in an industry will have a visibility in the community, if not flat out lead it.

Enter the open-source foundation.

There are several notable foundations, including The Linux Foundation, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, and the companies driving us into the future, including, Cloudflare, Datadog, Docker, DigitalOcean, Flynn, IBM, Microsoft, LEAP, Kolide, and VMWare.

Specific industry verticals have formed open-source foundations, too. When requirements for security and collaboration are vertical-specific, FINOS, The FinTech Open-Source Foundation, initially started by Symphony Communications, leads all things FinTech Open-Source.

So why not let folks come together every once in a while. Put a face to the username. Let the influential ones give a few talks at an annual event, and let people mingle a bit. Like a garden, it takes time. But, growing an army of open-source weekend-warriors and midnight code-ninjas is a massive win for any ecosystem of products.

15+ Years experience leading security, Ex-Apple, Ex-Pure Storage, Ex-Symphony Communications, Co-Founder and CEO of Peacemakr, Lives in San Francisco.

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