The Open Source CEO: Paul Doscher (Part 18)

This eighteenth installment in the Open Source CEO Series has us talking with Paul Doscher, CEO of Business Intelligence startup JasperSoft.

Matt Asay Contributing Writer
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.
Matt Asay
3 min read

Paul Doscher, CEO of JasperSoft, has proved me wrong. Two years ago when I joined as an advisor to JasperSoft, I worried that a company so new to open source (despite the Jasper community on which it was built) would struggle to truly get open source religion.

Paul, however, has adeptly made the shift from CEO to open source CEO, with JasperSoft doing exceptionally well in the market in consequence. In this eighteenth installment of our Open Source CEO Series, I talked with Paul about the transition.

Name, position, and company of executive
Paul Doscher, President and CEO, JasperSoft, an open source Business Intelligence company.

Year company was founded and year you joined it
JasperSoft was originally founded as Panscopic Software in 2001. I joined the company in February 2004 and led the open source transition which resulted in the launch of JasperSoft in April 2005.

Stage of funding and venture firms that have invested
We just completed a second round of financing as JasperSoft, which was led by new investor Scale Venture Partners. Existing investors DCM, Morgenthaler Ventures, and Partech Ventures all participated in the round.

Background prior to current company
Previous to JasperSoft, I was executive vice president at Thor Technologies, a leader in secure enterprise provisioning. Prior to Thor I was EVP of worldwide sales for VMWare, the leader in virtual computing for Intel servers. And previous to that I was general manager for the Americas at Business Objects, and vice president of the America's Alliances organization at Oracle Corporation.

My prior experience led me to believe that Business Intelligence was ripe for the disruptive pressure that a comprehensive open source alternative would provide, and that was clearly the best alternative for Panscopic.

Biggest surprise you've encountered in your role with your company
Regardless of the size and level of activity of the community, you still need to sell the value of the products or services to the leads generated from your marketing programs. Open source is not a cure-all: you still have to sell value, of which open source plays a key role (but not the only role). Also, and related to my first point, there is still a functional bar to cross relative to the commercial competitors (i.e., you need to be feature complete and functionally competitive in the sector of the market you choose to play in).

Hardest challenge you've had so far at your open source company
Setting the right culture and priorities consistent to the open source philosophy for high volume, lower ASP [Average Sale Price] transactions. This is very difficult because you effectively have to deprogram your new hires from the lessons they learned under the old software model.

If you could start over again from scratch, what would you do differently?
My focus on Day One would be implementing the infrastructure and metrics to understand the flow of downloads to registration to opportunities to customers so the scalability of the business would be easier to manage and forecast.

Top three pieces of advice for would-be open source CEOs

  1. Focus on community development
  2. Learn as much as you can from the companies that are already "successful," i.e., MySQl, SugarCRM, Alresco, JasperSoft etc. on topics like community development, business model, pricing and packaging. Don't try to re-invent the wheel.
  3. Focus on solving one problem well in your target market and build brand awareness and a strong reputation for quality from there.
Also, don't be afraid. The software industry is changing and it's a brave new world. Experiment.

Great advice, Paul, especially coming from someone who had to merge a proprietary software company (Panscopic) with an open source community (Jasper), and figure out all the intricacies associated with such a merger. I know it was difficult, but it sounds like you and the company are the better for the experience.

Next up in the Open Source CEO Series...Pete Childers, CEO of Zmanda.