Linus Torvalds – “software is like sex; it’s better when it’s free”
Now considering that I am a specialist Recruitment Consultant for Data Science and Big Data hires, you would think I should have a perfectly detailed answer to this question when I was asked last week by a more junior consultant. Now why should I know this? Well, Open Source is set to (arguably already does) dominate Data Science and Big Data.
Consider the success of Hadoop, MongoDB, Python, MySQL and R for starters!
So I got on with the research. Here is what I found to be the top 3 ways to make money with free software.
I’m sure most of us are aware of the Freemium model from playing Candy Crush and Clash of Clans, but this is a great way to get started with Open Source software. Customers will be given a basic version of the software for free, though to access more advanced add-ons and usage of the software, they will need to pay for upgrades.
Tableau is a great example of this. The free version is great for basic visualizations but if you want to get deep inside data and unleash your creativity, then the upgrades are worth it.
A Helping Hand
1 word. Support.
Quite simple really. If your Software Engineers have spent considerable time creating an exceptional product, then why not turn these guys into a stellar support team.
Red Hat, for example, provide varying levels of support depending on your budget and needs. For example, 24/7 call support will be much more expensive than support queries via email only.
Knowledge is Power
Like the previous point, use what you have to benefit users. Create and roll out documentation, guidelines and tips in the form of books, online tutorials, webinars and videos (all with a little fee of course). Remember, for the consumer of your Open Source software, knowledge is power for a better user experience.
Final thought. Now, some of you may well be thinking this is all contradictory as it goes against the point of Open Source software. Open Source is an ideal to break down the corporate software barriers! But, at the end of the day, it’s pretty tough trying to get by whilst earning nothing. I am all for Open Source and support these business models as it will allow better, and cheaper, software which will in turn contribute to the benefit of mankind! Speech over.