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Discussion on: I'm Vivek Saraswat, investor in Dev Tools + Infra startups @ Mayfield and former product leader @ Docker/VMware/AWS. AMA!

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Vivek Saraswat Ask Me Anything

Hi rhymes! Really great question. I would be remiss if I didn't point out @asynchio 's excellent spreadsheet of Commercial Open-Source companies with successful exits. If you look at these companies as well as the largest private COSS companies today, I believe there are a few key elements they have all gotten right:

  • Critical path value propositions: Each of these companies has an open-source project which is fundamentally critical to their core users. Examples include Red Hat (Linux -- operating system), Elastic (ELK -- logging), Github (Git -- source code version control), Hashicorp (Vault -- secrets management, Terraform -- infrastructure provisioning), Confluent (Kafka -- event streaming). And importantly, these are things that their enterprise buyers who support those users cannot afford NOT to pay for.
  • Ecosystem: Each of these players has built a thriving ecosystem which includes integrations across numerous open-source tools, commercial vendors, and cloud providers. This is crucial. The ecosystem both increases cooperation and helps provide a moat against other players. To become a large scale company, you simply cannot be an island.
  • GTM: This is more for the newer private companies--the successful ones were all built with a primarily inside sales process, as opposed to a top-down direct sales process. This is more capital efficient and takes advantage of the bottoms-up nature of open-source. The large public companies have both inside and direct sales teams because they can afford to, but startups have to focus.
rhymes profile image

Thank you for the thorough answer. I'll definitely take a look at the spreadsheet 🙂

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