Setting up and sustaining a global FOSS-based business (Ian Lynch)

Another Monday, start of the working week and I’m thinking about business again. Ian Lynch of The Learning Machine is a smart cookie who I’ve collaborated with before. He leads a free-software-based business which is very different from TTLLP’s cooperative model and he gave a talk about it to Manchester Free Software. Here are the headlines:-

Building a FOSS Business
  • No fees from licenses
  • Services allied to FOSS
  • Something everyone needs
  • Low cost to produce
  • Low cost to distribute
  • Encourage FOSS take up
  • Increase the number of FOSS contributors
  • Make money to support FOSS development
Background theory and research
  • Clay Christensen and the theory of disruptive innovation
  • The innovators dilemma
  • Seeing What is Next
Business Growth
  • 3 horizons of business growth
  • Horizon 1 – current profitable business
  • Horizon 2 – business with clear potential
  • Horizon 3 – possibilities currently being explored
  • Pipeline for growth
Tipping points
  • Critical mass
  • Viral effects
The ideal product
  • Something everyone needs
  • Something that costs nothing to make
  • Something that costs nothing to distribute
  • Something that has increasing value the more that is bought.
The INGOTs
  • International Grades – Open Technologies
  • Market disruption
  • Lower barriers to entry
  • Target those currently not in the market
  • Provide products that are good enough
  • Improve and add features over time
Primary Schools – KS3
  • No-one targets primary schools
  • Very little certification in KS3
  • Use specialist schools community plans
  • “Upsell” from primary to secondary
  • KS3 – add value at with less work for teachers
Developing world
  • Enable developing countries into the qualifications market
  • Target those making the transition to FOSS
  • Ally to netbook/smartphone internet access to lower costs
  • Use UK Awarding Body status for credibility.

The above points are under a Creative Commons cc-by-sa license and the original report was at Manchester Free Software. Sometimes FSUK-Manchester produce videos of talks, but I’ve not seen this one yet. Watch their page for details.

What can Ian’s business analysis teach us about free software businesses? What interesting questions does it leave open?

Have you had anything to do with the INGOTs? I’ve not worked in education for a while, so I’d love to hear tales from the chalkface about them.

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