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Wireless Utopia

The journey towards a free wireless world.

Open Source and Charity

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Warning: A personal rant.

Charity is a dirty word in business circles. Free Open Source Software is considered charity. Therefore FOSS == Dirty. Free Software Business == stupid idea. FOSS Entrepreneur == BIG LOSER.

This is a reality. I face it every time I step out of my own protected land of CVS and Linux and try to socialize with the top notch entrepreneurial talent in Bangalore. I have tried to be preachy and show them the vision behind but all I take back home from such encounters is a big hole in my heart and a bitter aftertaste. After some period of time the doubts start creeping into your mind and you start questioning your beliefs.

Is FOSS really charity? Let's go to the root cause. What is the duty of an entrepreneur? There are two schools of thought here. The first one says that it is to make money. The second one says that it is to create value. Depending upon which where your loyalties lie, FOSS will be dirty or wonderful for you. Obviously I am in the latter camp. Note that value and wealth are not equals. They differ in several ways. But thats a seperate discussion.

According to me the primary duty of an entrepreneur is to chase his own dream. I know that my dream will both bring value and wealth the long run. How? I dont have a freaking idea. With time maybe I'll figure that out. Maybe not! So does that make me an entrepreneur? In the books of majority it will not. But I will still pursue my dream to its end. If it works out, well and good. If it does not, I'll be contended with the fact that I had a shot at it.

I have always done things differently in my life. And I am proud of that. I still hold my head high.

For the lost souls who wandered till here, a bonus article. Draw your own conclusions.

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posted by Rajiv, 7:59 AM


Money is the metric to measure value. In many cases one can't measure effectively using that metric. In fact value created social software is now turning out to be a classic example of such a case.

That apart I can understand your frustration as I always say to you there are'nt many people (VC's) who understand Open source in the west it is futile to expect anyone at all to understand it here :)
Said Blogger Rajan, 12:10 AM  

Great rant! To me, being an entrepreneur is 60% making money and 40% adding value. Chasing a dream doesn't make one an entrepreneur. However, making money while chasing a dream is what entrepreneurship is all about.

With regards to FOSS. I think it is impossible for most people to comprehend that OSS is not charity. It is a way of increasing value faster than proprietary software and it is a way of improving software development efficiency (some will say it improves software quality but I'm not so sure about this).

Creating a technology business is more than creating software. Most people don't understand that. They belive that the software is the secret sauce. It's usually just a very important ingredient of the secret sauce.

Great post and keep preaching the OSS Value Prop.

Maybe I'll see you at FOSS.IN in November.

P.S. Please don't mind if I use some of the comment in a post linking to your post.
Said Blogger Pankaj, 12:43 PM  

I'd love to leave a longer comment but maybe another time. Keep writing please.. and chase your dream..all the way...don't ever let them go. Nurture them and see them grow.
Said Anonymous Deeps, 1:06 PM  

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