Doing a Web 2.0 Startup with Open Source
Many startups in Silicon Valley are chasing their dreams to invent the next coolest Web 2.0 service and to make a billion bucks. Whether building a social networking site, an online video portal or an accelerated gaming system for mobile phones — startups are making a name through innovation by using open source software. It’s astonishing to see this paradigm shift — Linux, Apache, MySQL, Ruby on Rails, Python, Django, PHP, AJAX are everywhere.
Today, when startups begin their quest for raising capital they have to include open source software in their plans. Whether their product or service is aimed for volume revenue markets or high innovation markets, open source has to be part of the pitch to get an audience with savvy venture capital firms. VCs prefer open source for the following reasons: more control, avoiding lock-in and lowering risks. And VCs who are more conscious today of capital efficiency like the lower cost offered by open source solutions.
“Open Source is a pillar of strength for all startups to build on.”
Startups are dedicated consumers of open source as they build out their product ideas. A key requirement is to be able to innovate freely by leveraging frameworks, adding, modifying and customizing code — a flexibility that only comes with open source software. Proprietary vendors cannot offer the same flexibility with their product licenses or source code. And startups can lower their risks by choosing proven platforms to innovate on top of.
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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey says that his company uses open source software because his team can tailor the performance of their service in whatever way they need to — it provides them the most control. Dorsey says that using open source to build a web portal takes some effort but having a community to help and interact makes that process of give and take a lot more intense and fruitful. Twitter is also giving back to the open source community. “We’ve released some improvements and libraries, specifically to interact with Jabber, and we’ve been doing a lot of optimizing of Ruby on Rails by committing some performance fixes to the core. We’ll continue to do so,” he said.
Just do the math with Digg! — Digg integrates over 200 million hits per month with only three web servers and eight database servers. These are Apache web servers and MySQL databases. A pretty frugal setup for being such a high profile bookmarking site. It’s the kind of calculus that presents a very attractive investment formula for any VC. Digg has already raised $11.3 million from its VCs.
Who Else is In the Winners Circle?
Startups including YouTube (now owned by Google), Facebook, Mugshot (a venture by Red Hat), Twitter, Stumble Upon, Reddit, Digg, LinkedIn, Dopplr, Tabblo, Pownce are all using, contributing and participating in the open source community.
YouTube is a heavy user of MySQL and Python. Mugshot runs on JBoss, MySQL and RHEL. Tabblo lives on Django. Twitter rides on Ruby on Rails and PostgreSQL. Stumble Upon couldn’t function without PHP and MySQL. There are countless examples of the symbiotic relationship between startups and open source.
As Web 2.0 gears up, it is evident that open source software, collaboration and community are the underlying pillars of strength for all startups to innovate and succeed. Open source will be just as important as the Internet in making Web 2.0 successful.