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Transforming business models with open source

The 2016 Ada Lovelace festival | Photo by Foto Vogt GmbH
The 2016 Ada Lovelace festival | Photo by Foto Vogt GmbH(photo: Foto Vogt GmbH)

On Thursday, the 13th of October, I spoke about “Transforming Business Models with Open Source” at the Ada Lovelace Festival in Berlin, a festival dedicated to “Connecting Women in Computing & Technology”. Speaking to a crowd of business women and techies is always enriching. The room was filled with women at all stages of their career with both technical and non-technical backgrounds and most with open source experience.

Preparing for a presentation is always a nice opportunity to take a moment out of the day-to-day and to take stock. The reason I chose this topic of transforming business models with open source in the first place is mainly because our own business models have changed so much in the past six years and also because we are again (or perhaps: still) working with organisations around the world whose business models are changing with and because of the tools we are building. Our tools are of course: open source. The majority of women attending this conference were eager to learn how to grow an open source project into a sustainable business. Because of this receptive group, I began my speech by encouraging the audience members to reach for management positions in tech companies as we need more women in decision-making positions, a viewpoint I have had for a long time.

The simple fact that we have multiple business models wrapped around various open source products is something we take for granted every day, and it’s usually only in conversations with others that I realise what a mammoth task it is to combine all that under one roof. Since 2012, we have added 4 more products to our portfolio, we successfully launched Airtime Pro and developed Superdesk together with the Australian Associated Press, we worked with Amnesty International (Booktype) and the MTV Music awards were recently covered with our very own Live Blog.

Aside from our core values, change is a constant force at Sourcefabric and perhaps that is why we are still here and why people from all over the world, from NGOs to large corporate companies, keep contacting us and want to partner with us. For most, open source is still a key argument as to why they would choose our software but I believe the fact that we have built a successful business ourselves is perhaps an even stronger argument these days.

Transformation is part of our DNA. We have successfully survived many transitions over the years without sacrificing our core. To this day all of our tools are open source and we are a non-profit organisation with a team of 70 excellent individuals. The complexities have grown and the stakes are now higher than ever before. But our own standards and expectations have grown simultaneously and things that seemed out of reach just 24 months have become daily business. I have no reason to doubt that we will keep tackling the challenges that lie ahead because of who we are and who we are working with. Our partners and customers have become valued stakeholders over the years who give us input when we need it, who help us stay on track and who keep pushing us, sometimes outside of our comfort zones. And we are grateful for that.

Building a business like that of course require openness. To listen, to engage in conversations and to change. It also requires a strong core. We can’t possibly say ‘Yes’ to everything, but we want to say ‘Yes’ to the right things so that we can keep transforming into a glorious future.

And if there is one thing that Sourcefabric has always had: it’s an open, strong core.

It was an absolute pleasure to speak at the Ada Lovelace festival and continue to encourage women in tech, after all, in German, the word “Technologie” is female anyway!

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