November 14, 2016 – scrum meeting:
“We’re still working on this feature. It will take us longer than we thought,” said the tech lead at Vidoo, a start-up company that developed a video-ad creation platform for small businesses. Back then, I was the CEO and I followed that statement with the obvious question – “Why? What’s the hold up?” To which he replied: “There are a lot of bugs in the open source code we chose, so we’re trying to get in touch with the developer who wrote it, and in the meantime, we are trying to deal with it ourselves.”
That open source project was exactly what we needed at that moment, and it was quite popular on Github, but the answer never arrived from the developer. After spending weeks trying to fix several bugs ourselves, we decided to move on and kill the feature. Two weeks later, the repository owner emailed us back saying he will get to fixing the bug soon, but that was already too late for us.
In terms of numbers, I would say that we spent approximately 170–220 hours per developer per year on these types of problems.
In other cases, we tried buying an MIT license for the repositories we needed and that were licensed with GPL. We ended up receiving a wide range of responses to our requests. These included “I need to think about the price” or “Even if I want to help/sell you the code with a permissive license, I can’t.’’ The most common answer that we received from most developers – “It’s too complicated, sorry.”
When I left Vidoo in December 2018, my first priority for my next project was to try and find a solution to the ‘open source sustainability’ problem. After talking with over 100 developers and 35 R&D leaders, my partner, Chen Ravid, and I decided to create xs:code.
The idea was to motivate open source developers to maintain their code, while giving them the freedom to make their open source projects better. This would then help to build relationships between open source developers and the companies who use their code commercially, without damaging the awesome ideas being created by the open source community.
The Market Research
As a result of our meetings with R&D leaders and OSS developers (with many of whom are working at industry-leading tech companies), we decided to start looking for ways to motivate developers to maintain their code, write better documentation and to fix bugs. Of course, Chen, being the smart one between us two, had a brilliant idea and suggested that we should just ask them. So we did. After dozens of more phone calls, meetings, emails, and two meet-ups in Tel-Aviv, 95% of the developers had one answer to the question of what will motivate them to maintain their project. The answer – MONEY.
Will Companies Pay for OSS?
Following those meetings, we came to some major conclusions: If a developer can code for someone else (employer) for money, they would definitely code for their own interest if they were compensated. This, combined with the input we gathered with R&D leaders, led us to understand that the companies will be more than happy to pay for open source projects they use to motivate OSS developers. They will actually want to have a relationship with the developers they’re working with, even though they’ve never met before.
When we talked to CTOs, we asked them: “If you’re using them, why don’t you donate to open source projects?” Their answer: “The same reason you don’t donate to Wikipedia”. It made sense.
After 11 months of late-night meetings and evaluating the market size — a $19B market with over 40M developers, 28M public open source projects (most of them on GitHub). growing over 15% annually, and the fact that 90% of software projects in the world are using open source (including markets like government, banking and military), we realized that this was a huge opportunity for us!
Our vision is based on our four guiding principles: increasing developer motivation, maintaining open source sustainability, solving the market failure issue (millions are working without any compensation) and enabling developers the freedom to create and code. Our main focus and the heart of xs:code is to empower developers.
I worked with a lot of developers for the past 15 years. Many of them live in eastern Europe, make no more than $3K/month and are not aware that their GitHub repository was being used commercially by thousands of companies. With xs:code, in three to four months, and a conversion rate of 3% of their commercial users, they will be able to quit their jobs, keep coding and contribute to the community. Needless to say, projects with 100K stars on GitHub may probably be able to afford a nice Ferrari within a year or two.
Our mission is to create a new software economy and support it all the way. Our platform allows developers to monetize their code projects, share the revenue with their contributors, and keep a free version for community use. We’ve made it our priority that using xs:code will free developers to keep coding, while xs:code handles everything else (billing, invoicing and other corporate nightmares).
We are still 100% not there, but with some newly acquired funding, new offices, and a great team, we are working on creating a fair, sustainable and fun open source world.
Drop us a line here: [email protected].
Join our community: https://xscode.com
CEO & Co-Founder