Proprietary to Open Source: Giving Away Six Million Is Hard

I have the privilege of speaking at SXSW tomorrow morning at 9:30 AM. I first gave the talk on converting our software from proprietary to open source at SXSW V2V in 2014. While much of the message is the same, I’ve been through more, learned more, made even more mistakes and learned from them, and I’d love to help other leaders AVOID my mistakes.

Proprietary to OS: Giving Away Six Million Is Hard


The journey for Tendenci going to Open Source seemed like it was going to be simple. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was very hard, and a cost me a lot of relationships, friendships, employees whose potential I felt we hadn’t even begun to push yet. And as I type this Tendenci is emerging from a crisis with EOL (End of Life) for our old proprietary version – the last cord that needed to be cut. We just thought we would dictate the timeline when in fact that hasn’t been the case.

There is a huge gaping hole in the market for The Open Source Solution for Associations, non-profits and NGOs. Because internationally price is a very real issue and if we want to make change, there has to be a free option that is multi-lingual and multi-cultural and affordable. Yes there is still a TCO to FOSS software, but nothing like the costs of proprietary software. And in my opinion Linux is more secure than the competition which isn’t just a benefit, it is a crucial requirement if you are using the software open source in a different country that snoops on your communications.

You must control your data. And over the last several years we have seen our P&L dip negative for the first time and now slowly come back up into the black. And the trend continues as you simply can’t compete with passionate people working on a solution and sharing resources.

But my talk tomorrow is about the transition. What have I learned that I can help others with. That is my goal. To serve the audience. To help you be smarter than me when it comes to navigating through the transition. Because it isn’t “going open source”. It’s taking a “proprietary mindset” and changing it into an “open mindset” and that can, quite frankly, be terrifying to many of us.

And I’ll leave with a photo from Austin from last night as SXSW is many things, and one of them is beautiful. Hopefully my talk will add to everything that is sxsw as that is my goal. It’s corny, but I really do want to make the world a better place.