On “selling to developers” and “monetizing the community”
After a decade of open source business models, the leaders of open source companies are still making fundamental mistakes.
Today’s example is provided by Peter Goldmacher, VP of Strategy and Market Development at Aerospike. In a post by Dan Woods at Forbes titled “Why Open Source Does Not A Business Make” Golmacher talks about “selling to developers”.
This is the same mistake that VCs and executives make when they use the phrase “monetizing the community”. Your customers are not the developers, unless the developers pay for the software themselves and don’t expense it. Why? Because developers typically have no budget. The litmus test for this is the question “if the developer leaves their current employer and joins another, who is my customer now?” In almost all cases the answer is “their former employer”. A simpler question is “who signed the contract, a developer personally, or a representative of the company?” The developer may still be a part of the community, but the customer remains the company that wrote the check.
The correct way to think about this is to consider developers as a group who can sell the software for you. Looking at it this way has several advantages:
- You recognize that developers are not the final decision maker
- You realize that developers have one set of needs, and that corporations have additional or different needs
- You realize that you can provide tools and guidance to help developers sell your solution to management
As I state in the Beekeeper Model
Customers are corporations, the community are people. They have very different needs.
For more detail on this you can read this section of the Beekeeper Model.
It’s possible Goldmacher was paraphrased or miss-quoted about “selling to developers”. If he wasn’t this VP of Strategy might consider adjusting his strategy.