How to build a business in Hobbit Land - the Silverstripe example

How do you build a global business in New Zealand or some other off-the-beaten-track place? Silverstripe gives an example.

I recently spoke with Sigurd Magnusson, the intrepid chief marketing officer for Silverstripe, a New Zealand-based, open-source content management company. Silverstripe is a programming framework similar to Ruby on Rails, but for PHP5, allowing developers to quickly write website features using modern programming practices that are gaining popularity through Ruby and Python but not often used yet with PHP.

In a large crowd of open-source web publishing tools/content management systems, Silverstripe prides itself on an innovative and intuitive editing interface (and a prime slot in Google's Summer of Code last summer). It's also a finalist in Packtpub's CMS awards.

Silverstripe has an uphill battle, however, due to its location. New Zealand, home to hobbits and beautiful landscapes, is not the center of the software industry. Or any industry. It's simply not cost effective to hire a direct sales force in a country as spread out as New Zealand is, which leads to open source:

Hence the BSD license. Get as many people using your product, loving it, supporting it. BSD being your channel to market.

Open source and the BSD have done well for Silverstripe so far, as Sigurd remarked:

To demonstrate how compelling this has been, SilverStripe as a company has been using open source ever since we started back in 2000.

But more great stuff has happened in the last six months we've been truly open source, than in the preceeding six years when we were "just making great websites," namely:

  • Made more money. More people notice us, giving us more clients to choose from, so we can choose better clients. Larger clients see the buzz around us, and then have confidence to work with us....

  • Had more fun. Having better clients means more mutual respect, which leads to less mundane, and less stressful work. Supporting a community and collaborating with people around the world is motivating, as is seeing your work/code being put to use all over the world.

  • Made a much better product. The process of documenting and readying your code for public consumption in itself is quality-inducing. Then add the fans who test your code, and the few who submit patches and contributions back. The product gets better. Then approach Google to be in the summer of code, and gain ten full-time progammers for a while, and see your product double in feature set. I can't believe anyone else would do it any other way.

And as you can see, the three items above are a heavily-overlapping venn diagram. There's money, fun, and product quality throughout. It also pushes the industry forward.

More money, more fun, better quality. My own experience with open source has been the same.

Download the code. If you like it, use it. Contribute back to it. That's the open-source way.

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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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