Open Core is an open source business model that has been growing in popularity in recent years. In Open Core there is (1) an open source project, and (2) one or more commercial products that sit on top of or extend that project.

Open Core provides the benefits of building and delivering open source, while also being able to create products and services that generate revenue for the company. The theory being, they can then continue to invest in the project, creating value for everyone: open source users and customer alike.

Sounds logical, right? Well, many businesses, including GitLab, Mattermost, Hashicorp, and others are indeed using the model successfully.

Here’s the rub though: Open Core has been a rather controversial model for some folks in our broader community. I don’t think though that this because the model is fundamentally flawed, it is because many businesses are simply not doing it right.

Why?

Because Open Core is not a technology problem, it is a culture problem.

The best Open Core businesses have been able bridge and connect together the very different cultures of open source and business, and companies such as GitLab and Hashicorp are great examples of this.

OK, then, how do you do this?

Well, I created a video that digs into this in detail. In it I cover the six core areas businesses who are using an Open Core model should focus on:

  1. Does the market and industry want your project and products? (remember, Open Source won’t save a subpar product)
  2. Who are your target audience?
  3. Do you have open, accessible, project infrastructure?
  4. What is the relationship between the community and the company?
  5. Are you building strong, dependable trust and relationships?
  6. Do you have open, accessible, inclusive leadership?

With each area I dig into a series of practical recommendations that I have learned from working with a broad range of open source and Open Core organizations for how to do this well. There is an enormous amount of nuance in this topic, and I tried to unpack as much of this as I could in this video in very practical and applicable terms.

Here is the video:

I would love to hear your thoughts: be sure to share them in the comments on the video!

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