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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

Once upon a time, you had only three real license choices when building a commercial open-source business--Apache 2.0, MIT, or GPL. Times have changed, there are a dizzying array of licenses now being introduced into the ecosystem, and the debate has gotten rather heated (witness the Twitter firestorm during the Open Core Summit last fall). There are many who feel that the cloud vendors in particular unfairly benefit from open source code. There are just many who believe that the restrictive licenses will make enterprises less likely to adopt open-source code in their infrastructure for fear of losing control of their code--which is a death knell for any startup looking to build a bottoms-up adoption based commercial go-to-market process.

I don't have a strong ideological opinion about what should or should not be considered "open-source." That said, it is very early to determine which new licenses will be truly successful within the market, and as a founder you need to consider whether to risk your startup's success on this. The safest bet for a startup is probably to use a tried-and-true tested license (e.g. Apache 2.0 or GPL) and then build a proprietary layer on top (e.g. OpenCore, managed SaaS, etc.). However, if one of the newer licenses ends up having the right checks and balances to be useful for community, startups, and enterprises alike, it may see widespread adoption. Time will tell.

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