Building a global company from outside the US

Open source is the way to build outside the US.

I've long maintained that you don't need to move to Silicon Valley in order to start a successful technology company. While true, that doesn't obviate the very real fact that it's much harder to market a new software product/company from outside the Valley, and certainly outside the US.

So, how do you do it? You don't move to the Valley. Instead, you move to open source, according to The Guardian, as part of its interview with my CEO and colleague, John Powell (Alfresco):

"We decided that the only way to build a major software company out of the UK was with the open source business model," Powell says. "To build a global software company, you have to be successful in the US." However, "it costs a huge amount of money to start a marketing operation in the US when we're here [in the UK]".

Open source gets round this because prospective customers can download the product and try it - Alfresco has been downloaded 700,000 times. If they like it, they can pay for support, much of which can be provided online. Powell says: "When you get into it, you recognise that open source makes virtually every aspect of writing software and selling software and acquiring customers easier."

Open source gives a company global reach without boarding a plane. My cost of sale is almost negligible. Most of my team never gets on a plane. But we're doing a tremendous amount of business globally...including in Silicon Valley. And that despite the fact that we have an anemic presence there.

That's the power of open source.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.



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