The Business of Open Source

This week on The Business of Open Source, I spoke with Percona CEO Ann Schlemmer. This episode was recorded on site at State of Open Con in London, outside in a van! 

There’s a ton of great info in this episode, too. First of all, Ann talked about being a ‘suit’ in a geek’s world and her career trajectory that led her to lead Percona. She also set the stage around the constraints that Percona has chosen for itself: To be completely open source and only sell services, and to be completely bootstrapped. And what the ramifications of those decisions are for the business. 

Here’s some concrete takeaways:

  • The key to thinking about managing the tension between creating a project that’s high quality and still being able to sell services on top of that is to ensure that the services really create value
  • There’s a difference in profile between happy anonymous users and happy customers — often customers are operating at scale or are working in companies that simply always have to have support for critical software. But just as importantly, customers are often not database experts —they just need a database that works, and can turn to Percona to be their database experts. 
  • Founders are often more emotionally attached to aspects of the company that a non-founder CEOs like Ann can sometimes be more analytical about what’s working and what isn’t
  • Collaboration isn’t automatic, and how to make it actually happen
  • How Ann decides what problems to collaborate with others on, what they don’t collaborate on and when in the project / feature lifecycle they look for collaboration

We also had a bit of a random conversation about controlling status in relationships — the book we talked is Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre. And talked about how founders who are ready to step down as CEO can find a replacement and manage the transition. 

Ann’s links:


What is The Business of Open Source?

Whether you're a founder of an open source startup, an open source maintainer or just an open source enthusiast, join host Emily Omier as she talks to the people who work at the intersection of open source and business, from startup founders to leaders of open source giants and all the people who help open source startups grow.