October 11th, 2011, 01:19 PM
Open Source Option
I am a university professor that has developed a system using mobile technologies to assist people with disabilities. I'm not a good business person and I love the idea of open source development. I think that using open source will allow others to really expand on the concept we created at the university. The problem is, my university is interested in making money and I have personally invested a reasonable sum into a spin off business. How can I turn my project and product into open source and still recoup the money I and my university invested in the project?
I appreciate any insights folks may have on this topic.
October 11th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Open source is different from free. You can sell a software product and still have it be open source; the up side is you make money, the down side is you're not going to get much in the way of community contributions.
Many companies that offer free open source products make money through providing support contracts. However, obviously offering a support contract would require you to actually provide support to people who purchase it, so there is an on-going non-trivial time commitment that would need to be invested in this.
Some free open source projects make money through donations, although unless your product is widely popular don't expect to receive much.
Some companies offer multiple versions of an open source product, one free version and one or more paid versions (with more features, better support or different licensing terms). This is probably the approach that would work best for you. The free version has an additional benefit of advertising your paid versions, and it's likely to encourage community contributions provided your product is popular enough to actually generate a community.