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Max Ong Zong Bao
Max Ong Zong Bao

Posted on • Originally published at

Thoughts on Open Source Startups

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash


Open source has always held a special place for me.

Ever since I started to pick up Java as my first programming language in a technical school.

While I was 16 years old learning it as part of the introduction to computer programming for my course.

That was when I was exposed to the world of Java where open source was considered a great boon to me.

Back then due to the close relationship with Sun Microsystems with my school.

We were given basic training of Solaris administration (a variant of UNIX) that was quite popular in data centres back in the day.

Taking the Leap of Faith to Open Source

Due to the training, my interest for it grew this allowed me to play around with open source software.

Which lead me to install Ubuntu to my laptop and choosing the LAMP stack as part of my final year project.

Despite the lack of support from my lecturers who were skilled in Java. I completed my project.

Due to the vast knowledge and support from the open source community from discussion forums to stack overflow answers.

Open Source Startup

That was Open Source back then today, Open source has become cool due to the rise of cloud computing and in the world of startups.

Besides the iconic Red Hat or Canonical that created Ubuntu who were considered the old guards of the open source movement.

In recent year I had come across a new term called Open Source Startups while listening to an episode of Software Engineer Daily interviewing Joseph Jacks from OSS capital.

Open Source Startups (OSS) focus on producing open source software. They usually reside in the enterprise software space to solve a specific problem in their relevant industry.

Startups like Cloudera, MapR, Kong, Redis Labs, Nginx, MongoDB, Pivotal Software, Gatsby or Docker are some of the startups that have come to my mind.

OSS in recent years has gained traction in the industry & among developers.

These OSS were hitting the news due to the change in business models or recent acquisition by companies like IBM or Microsoft.

To stay relevant to the developer community & open source innovation.

Making Open Source As Part of Your Career

I personally feel that as long as you're a developer. You will be involved in contributing directly or indirectly to the open source movement.

To spread the awareness of open source technology or adopting open source technology as part of your development process.

Like for me, I was only directly contributing to open source project like FreeCodeCamp last year due to Hacktoberfest.

But I was involved in the open source community by helping out to organise a few years of PyCon.

For the Python User Group in Singapore while I was still a student at my University.

Bright Future For Open Source Startup?

For me, I think the future is bright as there will be more and more startups.

Who will be creating open source startups like Gatsby or Kong.

Besides that, I start to see more and more parties being involved in helping to raise awareness and funding to OSS.

From an open source, Patreon project like Open Collective, Linux Foundation's CommunityBridge and venture capital firms like OSS Captial.


Open source has come a long way from Microsoft hating hard cores to loving Microsoft due to their involvement in open source in recent years.

I see myself being actively involved and playing a part in the open source movement.

Maybe someday, I might create my own open source software startup.

Since I see a ton of opportunities to help contribute to open source and build a startup with it as I dive deeper and deeper into.

Do leave your comments on your views of open source startups. I would love to know more about your thoughts on it.

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This post was originally posted on max's blog at Thoughts on Open Source Startups - Read Time: 3 Mins and Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash


Top comments (4)

simo97 profile image

Sure open source is a great concept... But some open source companies are "un-"open sourcing their software with time... Think to odoo(ex OpenERP) the claim to be open source but every new releases comes with 2 things(in general):

  • open features that have been closed
  • new features that are closes(proprietary)

Sometimes open features became closed...
I don't know if this still open source startup, because some part of the codebase still open.

steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao

I think they were trying to follow the Red Hat business model which charges licensing of new features and support for enterprise customers.

I am fine with these startups that operate this way. Since I might not have certain use cases that justify the means to purchase of a enterprise license.

xngwng profile image
Xing Wang • Edited

I think most open source companies have that model. Open source to get follower and users. Once enough adoption then there are two approach to generate revenue: (after all, a startup is a business):

  • some have a non open source version that have more features. (For example, Kong have an enterprise version that isn't open source)
  • provide Consulting, Training, and Service Level Agreements that big enterprise companies require (for this, sometimes there are multiple competing companies that serve the same open source product, like Horton Works and Cloudera before they decide to merge with each other rather than competing against each other.).
Thread Thread
steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao

Yup, it's actually one of the popular & successful Red Hat open source business models that I had encountered so far.

There's also another one which is the Dev community that goes for merchandise store and sponsorships for their website besides VC funding.