Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Announcing the August Issue and Upcoming Changes to the OSBR

The August issue of the OSBR is now available in PDF and HTML formats.
For this issue of the OSBR, we issued a general invitation to authors to submit articles on the topics of open source business and the growth of early-stage technology companies.
Anthony Casson and Leslie Hawthorn from the Oregon State University describe the Open Source Lab, which is home to many of the world's leading open source projects. They describe the benefits the lab provides to the projects it supports and the real-word experiences and educational opportunities it provides to its student employees.
Tyler Mitchell, Executive Director of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo), examines social interoperability as a parallel capability to technical interoperability. Using OSGeo as a case study, he highlights the importance of effective communication and relationships in enabling innovation within open source projects.
Sandro Groganz, Co-Founder of Age of Peers, shares insights into the structures and relationships of vendor-led open source ecosystems to highlight the business strategies available to partners.
Tony Wacheski, CEO of Anystone Technologies, shares the lessons he and his co-founder learned their first year as entrepreneurs. He describes the company's first applications and the valuable development, marketing, and sales experience they provided.
Chris McPhee, Editor-in-Chief of the Open Source Business Resource announces that this publication will become the Technology Innovation Management Review following this issue. He looks back on four years of the OSBR and describes the upcoming changes to this publication.
In September, we look forward to the first issue of the Technology Innovation Management Review. We welcome your feedback and invite you to submit articles on the topics of managing innovation, entrepreneurship, open source business, economic development, or the growth of early-stage technology companies. Please contact the Editor, Chris McPhee, if you are interested in submitting an article.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Redefining "Men's Work": Equality in the Playroom and the Boardroom

Today's columnist is Julian Egelstaff from Freeform Solutions. He writes:

I learned a lot of things during the early years of Freeform Solutions. But not just about business and entrepreneurship. I also learned:

  • Two-year-olds will eventually go to sleep by themselves for an afternoon nap, if you're on the phone with a client long enough.

  • Not all child-proof medicine bottles are created equal.

  • And never, ever, ever leave a permanent marker on the kitchen counter when you're in another room answering e-mail.

I had the good fortune to learn these and many other lessons courtesy of my twin daughters, who were born a few months before Freeform Solutions was officially incorporated. For me personally, and for my family, a big reason to start Freeform was to have a flexible job that I could do at home, so I could look after the girls. My wife continued with her 9-to-5 job out of the house.

So, at the same time as I became a social entrepreneur, I also became a man in the woman's world of child rearing. I think it gives me a unique perspective on some of the challenges facing women entrepreneurs.

Make no mistake, the world of child rearing is a woman's world.

If you don't believe me, just check out a random selection of books on how to take care of babies and young children. It won't be long before you find helpful chapters with titles like “What Dad can do to help.” Just imagine picking up a general business book and finding a chapter entitled “What your wife can do to support your career.” Equality of the sexes is closer to reality in the boardroom than the playroom.

As a society, we seem to pay a lot of attention to equality issues, at least in the workplace. They are routinely in the news, many organizations have anti-discrimination policies, and a lot of hiring practices are specifically designed to create an equal playing field. A lot of the articles in this month's OSBR issue on Women Entrepreneurs talk about the importance of various policies and programs in supporting women entrepreneurs in the workplace.

But when it comes to family life and personal decisions, our society seems to have a different set of expectations in place. These expectations are not just in the “parenting industry” – the book publishers, the toy makers, the companies marketing goods and services for looking after infants and young children – those companies can almost justify the focus on moms by the fact that women make up about 90% of the people providing child care at home. But in my experience, many individuals also implicitly hold this idea that looking after kids is “women's work.”

When I was out and about with my pre-school aged girls, people would often make conversation. Twins are a real show-stopper. If you enter a grocery store with a matched set of babies in a double stroller, total strangers will stop and talk to you, several times, whether you like it or not.

A common theme of conversation would be how nice it was that I was giving mom a break. These people were trying their best to be complimentary. It was just their instinctive assumptions kicking in, we're all prone to that. When you hear hoof beats, you think horses not zebras. And when you see a man pushing a stroller, many people think dad-home-from-work, not stay-at-home-dad.

My anecdotal experience is not the end of the story here. Many researchers have spent a lot of time examining these biases, as Tess Jewell explains in her article in this month's OSBR.

But it's not just the everyday world outside of work that needs to welcome and support men who provide child care. The workplace needs to stop viewing this as a women's issue, and start treating it as a family issue that affects men equally.

This is touchy stuff. You won't necessarily find people talking about it openly around the water cooler, but in how many workplaces would it raise eyebrows if a man took six or nine months of paternity leave? He's entitled under the law. But wouldn't it hurt his career?

Breathless profiles of women executives in magazines will not hesitate to comment on how she balances work and kids. But for how many men is that even a question in the interview?

Nonetheless, perceptions and behaviours are gradually changing. Since 2001, fathers in Canada have been able to take up to 35 weeks of parental leave, and a steadily growing percentage of eligible fathers have been taking at least part of that time – 10% in 2001, increasing to 20% in 2006. In Quebec, nearly half of eligible fathers take at least some parental leave time. That's probably because in Quebec there are more generous subsidies, replacing up to 75% of your income.

This is real progress, but men are still a distinct minority when it comes to providing child care. Support for fathers in the workplace needs to keep improving. Fathers need to be encouraged to provide primary care for their children, and as a society we need to welcome them into this role. Maternity leave is not some kind of special trump card women get to play. Being involved in raising your kids is a right that all parents have.

It's not just a right, it's a joy. Your kids are only young once. So come on guys, step up and take on this wonderful role. Until we find a way to make it happen, women will continue to be the only ones stuck with the challenge of balancing work and kids. As long as there's no equality in the playroom, it will be impossible to achieve equality in the boardroom.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Women Entrepreneurs

The July issue of the OSBR is now available in PDF and HTML formats.
The editorial theme for this issue of the OSBR is Women Entrepreneurs. In this issue, we examine the reasons for the relative lack of women founders and leaders in technology businesses. Our authors discuss the entrepreneurial challenges that are unique to women and what changes may be implemented to tip the balance and increase the number of women entrepreneurs. This issue features the following articles:
Tess Jewell, a PhD student at York University and Ryerson University, describes the social and environmental factors that influence women’s career choices and participation in entrepreneurship.
Roseann O’Reilly Runte, President and Vice-Chancellor of Carleton University, emphasizes the importance of women's participation in entrepreneurial activities and their impact on regional economic development, including solutions for cultivating a more supportive environment for women entrepreneurs.
J. McGrath Cohoon, Associate Professor at the University of Virginia and Senior Research Scientist at the National Center for Women & IT, describes research to determine what gender differences might contribute to the unequal gender composition of successful founders.
Janice Singer and Deborah Dexter, Industrial Technology Advisors for the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP), describe existing programs to support women entrepreneurs and introduce Lead to Win for Women, a new program to increase the number of women-founded businesses in Canada's Capital Region.
Ruth Bastedo, President of Experience Media Group Inc., answers the question: Why is there a dearth of women on high-growth technology startup teams? She describes the challenges she has faced as an entrepreneur and shares insights into the reasons for the current imbalance.
Cate Huston, Software Engineer at Google, answers the question: Should all women aspire to be entrepreneurs? In addition to supporting women entrepreneurs, she recommends encouraging and celebrating less overt forms of leadership.
For the upcoming August issue, we offer a rare unthemed issue and we welcome general submissions on the topic of open source business or the growth of early-stage technology companies. This is a great opportunity to publish your insights without having to wait for a relevant issue theme. Please contact the Editor, Chris McPhee, immediately if you are interested in submitting an article for the August issue.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Nostalgic About the Future: Open Source Entrepreneurship

Today's columnist is Julian Egelstaff from Freeform Solutions. He writes:
I'm nostalgic about the future. That sounds mixed up, but it's true. The future used to be a wondrous place, full of flying cars and plastic clothes and amazing architecture. Those were the good old “world's of tomorrow.” Some of them are still with us in a sense. The Seattle Space Needle predates the moon landings, and proudly shows us the sleek, stylized future that awaited us all afterwards.
The buildings of Ontario Place were constructed less than a decade after the World's Fair that brought us the Space Needle. The Ontario Place pavilions, hovering over water, speak the same optimistic language of the future. When they were new, they were filled with previews of tomorrow; I still vividly remember being there thirty years ago, and seeing computer animation for the first time — a wireframe paper airplane floating endlessly over a blocky landscape.
Somehow, we slipped off that path to the future and ended up in a different place. No flying cars (too bad). No plastic clothes (thank goodness). The Ontario Place pavilions are now deserted, awaiting demolition.
But on the flip side, we do have the Internet, more communications technology in our pockets than anyone could have dreamed of a generation ago, and a lot of open source software underlying it all. Sure, we didn't end up where some people thought we would, but it's been a wonderful march to a better tomorrow, hasn't it?
When we look back, it's easy to see the steps, though they're not always linear. In the case of open source and the Internet, you could single out:
But when we try and predict what's coming next — a key goal of any decent entrepreneur (entrepreneurship being the continuing theme of this month's OSBR) — it's a trap to look at that seemingly forward march of progress, and extrapolate to see tomorrow's technology today.
As Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” History is the same way. It seems orderly when we're looking back, but that's just us imposing an interpretation on a series of scattered data points.
The progress of open source is not inevitable, and just because a lot of people seem to line up behind an idea, that doesn't make it come to pass. How many times have you heard people say that Linux will be “ready for the desktop” now/this year/next year/in three years? Sure, it's closer than ever before, but it's definitely not a mainstream desktop operating system, and it might never be.
Some people have suggested that there should be an open source “marketing board” modelled after the egg marketing board or the milk marketing board. This is an interesting idea, which has not yet come to pass, and which highlights the necessary interplay between technology and other forces, like business.
As technologists, those of us involved in open source see a bright future for it, and believe it can achieve great things. But the technology won't get there on its own. If you invent it, they might not come. The history of technology is full of examples of the truly sideways march of progress.
For instance, early crystal radio sets employed the first semiconductor diodes to tune in signals. This early innovation was replaced by vacuum tubes which dominated the electronics industry until the transistor came along in the 1950s.
Looking back on it now, vacuum tubes were a complete detour off the semiconductor path. How much interest and research into crystals and semiconductors never happened, or happened only later, because of the dominance of vacuum tubes? What effect did that detour have on the emergence of the modern semiconductor industry, now the backbone of all computing?
Even something that seems like a basic law now, such as having 8-bits in a byte, wasn't a natural or inevitable property of our modern technology. Before IBM introduced the System 360 in 1964, there had been computer systems using all kinds of different byte sizes, all the way up to 36! The dominance of the System 360 was one reason that 8-bits became the standard. Then came the Intel 8008, and before you knew it, the 8-bit future was here today.
We tend to view the successful technologies as somehow better than what came before. In evolutionary terms, we want to believe that the dominant forms are somehow better adapted to their environments. We search for the good reason that explains why things worked out the way they did. But history (and biology) shows that the reasons for success don't always come from the correctness of the solution.
Opposable thumbs and bigger brains no doubt provided some significant advantages to the living things that inherited them. But not all adaptations produce benefits. Some things happen by accident, or a string of accidents. Features that look useful from our point of view (hindsight), might just be side effects as far as natural selection is concerned.
Other features of organisms must have had intermediate forms, with some distinct benefits of their own, even if those benefits are difficult for us to appreciate with hindsight alone. A classic example is a wing. Wings didn't evolve because of the great benefits that flying conveys. Half a wing doesn't convey any flight benefits, and clearly wings didn't evolve in one generation. So intermediate stages must have provided some benefit of their own, independent of flight.
Similarly in the technology field, we shouldn't look at the successful technologies of today and assume they are the culmination of development that was aiming specifically for their current success. Unfortunately, real life is very messy, and technologies become successful for lots of different reasons, not just the intentions of their creators.
Taming these forces is one of the key challenges for any entrepreneur. As a wise man once said, “The universe tends towards maximum irony.” Or put another way, there's a lot of natural forces conspiring against your version of the future ever coming to pass. So if we really want open source to live up to its potential, there's still a lot of work to do. The technology won't make the future happen by itself.
That's the other reason I'm nostalgic for the future, the wonderland version of it that was going to be here today. There was a wonderfully naive air of inevitability about it, like a sure view of history, just running in reverse. Hopefully one day we'll get there, and when we do, we'll pat ourselves on the back and it won't seem like the journey was so hard. Future generations might think it was preordained. But the truth is that our future will be a close run thing. It always is.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Call for Papers for August Issue

We believe there is great value in bringing multiple perspectives together to discuss a particular topic. This is why each issue of the OSBR has a theme. It gives both authors and readers the opportunity to collectively explore a topic in both depth and breadth.
However, a strict theme-for-every-month approach has a drawback. Although we often get suggestions for themes from readers and authors - and we welcome this wholeheartedly - we sometimes encounter the following problem: an author would like to write an article on a particular subject, but is quietly waiting for the right theme to come along.
This post is a call for papers for the August issue. At the moment, we have two articles planned. From Sandro Groganz, founder of Initmarketing, we have a very interesting article on the benefits of the community for partners of open source vendors. Also, I intend to write an article about the OSBR itself and some changes we are planning to improve the publication.
We would like your input on the August issue, primarily in the form of proposals for articles you wish to contribute. One option is to develop a theme of "Open Source Ecosystems". Another option is to use this issue as an opportunity to publish articles that are not tied to a particular theme - this would be like the "Potpourri" category in the TV quiz show Jeopardy. In any case, all articles should of course fit within the scope of the OSBR and be relevant to the subject of open source business or the growth of early-stage technology companies.
Let's discuss these options on twitter (@OSBR). You can also send me your article proposals by email. I also encourage you to extend this invitation to colleagues.

Please feel free to ask me any questions about writing an article. You may also wish to check the author guidelines. Note that the article deadline for the August issue is July 10th.
Chris McPhee
Editor-in-Chief, OSBR

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Technology Entrepreneurship II

The June issue of the OSBR is now available in PDF and HTML formats. The editorial theme for this issue is Technology Entrepreneurship. This issue features the following articles:
Robert Poole, CEO of, describes the benefits of starting a business that leverages an existing platform. He outlines relevant business models and describes the steps that an entrepreneur can follow to start a business on the platform.
Daniel Crenna shares the lessons he learned as the sole founder of Lunarbits. He argues that we have as much to learn by analyzing the causes of failure as we do from celebrating success stories.
Frank Horsfall from Carleton University's Technology Innovation Management program describes a new rapid prototyping environment to help student entrepreneurs test and refine their prototypes.
Ali Kousari, CTO of Systema Technologies in Geneva, reviews the challenges facing technology startups under traditional funding models. He describes new funding approaches and suggests ways of moving towards a new model of funding technology startups.
For the upcoming July issue, we focus on Women Entrepreneurs and welcome submissions that shed light on the particular challenges of increasing the number of women in founding and leadership positions. PPlease contact the Editor, Chris McPhee, if you are interested in submitting an article for this theme; the deadline is June 15th. We also welcome general submissions on the topic of open source business or the growth of early-stage technology companies.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Open Source Business: More Than a Question of Profitability

Today we welcome a guest columnist, Martin Heitmann from the Berlin Institute of Technology, who invites you to participate in his survey on open source business. He writes:

Can open source development be truly sustainable? And if so, how? The answer depends on your point of view on sustainability. Very often, sustainability is only used as a buzz word for ecological footprints, while other definitions also include economical and social dimensions. All three perspectives might be the starting point for intriguing studies about how open source development changes and continuously will change the world in the future. But today, our question asks whether open source development can be sustainable from an economic viewpoint. How can open source generate value over time and how are such mechanisms supposed to prevail?

>Open source development has gained much economic momentum in recent years and, despite frequent misunderstandings of the terms “open source” and “free software”, no one can deny this. Studies by Black Duck Software and the European Commission have tried to estimate the cost of reproducing just the global code base, as it was available at the date of the respective study’s sample collection. The dollar ranges in these estimations range from tens of billions to hundreds of billions. This notwithstanding, studies on the economic value creation of open source business are still scarce. What we can see from the estimated numbers is that, not only single companies, but also regional and national administrations have to pay attention to open source development. Without the provision of an open-source-friendly ecosystem, a region may miss opportunities to foster sustainable open source development.

In conclusion, open source development has not even, but especially from an economic perspective much to offer for theorists, as well as practitioners from the private sector and people in charge in the public sector. Nonetheless, academic research on the business-related aspects of open source development has mainly focused on developer motivation and organizational setups. Albeit that many concept papers have asked how open source development might be profitable, rather few studies have focused on business models or even their antecedents. (Examples of the few studies that have include Bonaccorsi et al. and Perr et al.)

The lack of research into open source business models might be due to the challenge of separating and classifying these business models. Often, the concepts show signs of overlap, which hinders subsequent analysis. How can we analyze what drives decision-making toward one business model and not the other if we cannot even distinguish between them? Actually, this task appears to be achievable and yet many studies fail in their attempt for a clear cut typology. One outstanding concept for delineation is that by Chesbrough and Appleyard. It mainly sorts open source business models into four clusters: i) deployment (e.g., professional services, consulting jobs); ii) hybridization (e.g., proprietary extensions and multi-license business models); iii) complements (e.g., complementary products enabled by open source software); and iv) self-service (e.g., organizations like the Sakai project).

In our research project on open source management at the Berlin Institute of Technology, we use this cluster scheme and we investigate the antecedents of business model choice in the open source software industry. By doing this, we aim to identify which factors are or were influential for companies’ initial business decisions regarding open source. Future studies will then also focus on the link between the circumstances of business model design and open source sustainability.

Following the invitation of OSBR, we would like to point out that our survey is still open and we want to invite you to participate. If you were involved in decisions on the business strategy of your company, please complete our survey. It will not take more than 10 – 15 minutes to complete. If you were not involved in the decision-making process, please pass on this invitation to any colleagues who were.

The survey can be accessed online at:

The anonymity of your responses is guaranteed. All data will be analyzed and published only in an aggregated form. As compensation for your efforts, we would like to offer you a more detailed report on our findings. If you relinquish your anonymity, we can provide you with a benchmark report that compares your individual answers to the overall study results.

Further information about our research can be found at

With your participation you help us in our research and our efforts to gain better understanding of how the open source development model can be interlinked with the private and the public sector. Of course, business model antecedents are only the start. From this starting point, we can then dive deeper into matters like social sustainability, regional creation of wealth, and on a micro level, the profitability of open source business models.