It was 2005. I was fresh out of colleage and had my sights set on being an investment banker. Four months in I finally accepted the realization that I was a salesman and entrepreneur.
I found myself inside the Advanced Technology Development Center at Georgia Tech speaking with the company who was helping recruit salespeople for a “hot new startup”.
This company was JBoss.
Jboss was a pioneer of the open source software companies. They are one of Atlanta’s best successes a decade ago. I had the opportunity to explore a job there.
I did my research. What I found was that JBoss did not sell software, they actually gave it away for free. I was baffled. I went back to the recruiters and told them I wouldn’t join. I had no understanding for how they would make money.
But make money they did. And a year later the company was purchased by RedHat for $420mm.
So how did a software company who gave their software way for free do this?
They built a community and excelled at making their community successful. That’s what open source software companies do. They do these things:
- They built and fostered the community and attracted developers
- They were excellent trainers
- They were support and maintenance machines
- They were content generation experts
They just did all the things to help their customers succeed with the software.
This is how we need to think about tech businesses. Sure we’ve got to build a great product and focus our attention there but for most companies that’s not enough.
Great software is becoming table stakes.
CEOs & founders should think about doing all the other things to make their customers super successful. In fact if we think about our businesses like open-source software will be more successful than ever.
So tell me: what services can you provide? How can you build your community? What focus can you give your customers and prospects? And who can you solve their problems without just building more product?
Helpful blogs, industry events, tuned in services teams, training and a success mindset will get you there. You need to create a community and steward a movement.
S/o To Nick Mehta at Gainsight who mentioned this idea to me over breakfast and reminded me of the JBoss story.