Could a brand adopt the "open source" model (think Linux) and still pay the rent?
Our goal is to reduce the negative impact of advertising (especially outdoor advertising) on our planet. We have developed or adopted several very simple products that we use to do this such as reverse graffiti and sand printing. These are techniques that we have not and do not want to claim intellectual property rights on as it would only hurt our big picture goal.
We currently work with a licensing model but many of those we speak to are concerned with having protection so that others can not copy them. It's a bit of business 1.0 thinking while we are a business 2.0 business.
The ultimate solution would be to have an "open business" model that would allow everyone to do what we do thus increasing the overall impact. The challenge is; could a brand have an "open source" model and still pay the rent? Linux and many other open platforms have done quite well but I cannot find a single example of a "business" or "brand" that is open source like. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts or see some examples. It is a radical idea but it fits with our mission and our vision but end of the day we still need to eat.
Jim - you may also want to look at a 'franchise' model. I see that you are active in some European countries but you could appoint franchisees in others, licence your tech/process/way-of-work for free but charge for central support based on volume of business. Franchsees may have other businesses that can pay their bills and yours would be the green feather in their caps and also help with CSR/Sustainability targets? Basically, use the need for CSR compliance to push your product.
1) Don't say "open source" - that's not what you're modelling here. There are very specific advantages that software has that you can't mimic in your business model. It's like being a monkey that's trying to mimic the defensive tactic of a rhino's charge - apples/oranges here.
2) You're shooting yourself in the foot, and you don't even realize you're holding the gun.
Here's the problem: As I read through your responses to everyone else' comments, there's a common theme in your response. You don't want to do anything to slow adoption of your methodology, but you still want to grow your business.
Well... you can't have your cake and eat it too. Empowering competition in a net-zero game (which is effectively what you're operating in when you are competing for a fixed amount of business' budgets) is going to throttle your growth.
I'm not sure how your licensing model can be so complicated, but I'm sure it's the trade-off of trying to answer a question on here (feel free to contact me with more details so I can help in a more detailed way).
Superficially, I'd pose this question: what version of your business is going to best push the agenda you're aiming for over the next ten years? The one that's struggling to grow, or the one that has a strong revenue stream which allocates a portion of it's funds to advancing the agenda?
It really sounds to me like you've got a great vision and maybe even a cool offering, but are having a seriously hard time in building an execution plan that takes you from "start" to "vision". At the risk of sounding a bit self-serving - if you haven't got this problem figured out by now, you probably need to bring in help (i.e. strategic consultants like me). There's obviously some poor assumptions being made within your business that's holding you back, especially around the idea of what it means to ultimately achieve your goal of propagating this green marketing initiative. Being open doesn't always spur growth and being closed doesn't always mean hostile to competitors.
I really think you need a fresh pair of eyes to help you assess what's going on at a level that just won't happen on these forums.
Perhaps instead of trying hard to convince the businesses, your campaign to revolutionize the industry should start from its customers. Businesses don't fear trying something radical, they fear it will backfire and get rejected by their customers or abused as in this case.
Create crowd sourcing campaigns that prove to the contrary, case studies you can video tape and show as proof. What you need is the customers not you to convince the companies you work with that this is beneficial for all and how exactly will everyone benefit.
Come up with a go around the gate keeper (in this case your clients) campaign where you sell this concept directly to your clients' prospects, get them excited, then reverse engineer by showing your clients how to get involved in the process so the responsibility doesn't weigh as a risk factor.
Wow, only two days in Mosaichub and already I have gotten a wealth of great advice!
Thank you all for your thoughts and advice. I know it is tricky and complex thing we are trying to do especially because we are looking at doing things in a completely new way - business 2.0 so to speak.
I hope you will not mind if I continue to pick your brains. End of day one of my biggest challenges as the Founder/CEO is that I am forced to use the other side of my brain! Business is not my strong point, creativity and cheerleading so to speak is. Sometimes those two do not mix well.
but luckily there are platforms such as this where I can open myself up weaknesses and all to a group of people who obviously share many of the same values in terms of openness and willingness to help others.
Thank you so much for your advice, knowledge and help!
There are lots of companies that "give away" their product but almost all finance this by selling ads. In the non-IT space companies give away razors to sell you blades. Linux is a free platform, but Red Hat, for instance, makes money using the free Linux and selling valued add-ons and services. If you're going this route then you'll ned to out-execute all your competition.
"Open Source" does not mean "free"!
You can apply /offer NO rules nor limitation (including all right to resell, and reuse) to the instructions/process/code of a particular asset (software or techniques) while NOT charging for access to the asset (software or technique).
You can apply /offer LIMITED rules and limitation (including NO right to resell, yet FULL right to reuse or freely distribute) to the instructions/process/code of a particular asset (software or techniques) while CHARGING A FEE OR NOT for access to the asset (software or technique).
A few other answers mentioned providing your Techniques Not just Open Source... but also FREE, and then providing ancillary services... such a materials that might be needed for reverse graffiti and sand painting... or Support and Assistance on applying and using your Techniques. Perhaps create a community where individuals can share their experience using the Techniques... and provide an upgraded subscription service where you provide alternative Techniques or New Techniques.
There are a myriad of ways to move forward where.... you can still eat.
You are correct. Other technologies or technology based businesses have adopted the open source model and can still pay the rent, but most take an open source technology and/or ally with a design community -- Postgres comes to mind (database) or provide products or services based on that open source technology.
Brands or Businesses that open sourced their core differentiators have not done as well as most like to take advantage of free technologies. You need to find a way to protect the reason people should buy your product while still finding a way to open source your technology to perhaps encourage innovation.
All the best
I believe you are referring something that is not software and your reference to open source is by example. But before I talk about non-software, software open source makes its money from the services related to the open source and possible commercial licences e.g. WordPress Askimet.
IP is one of Patents, Trademarks or Copyright. I believe what you are talking about is not taking out a patent on your process? If you don't you still have copyright and possibly an unregistered trademark for protection. And you can still limit usage of them without closing the business model I think and in that way grant usage rights that would produce revenue.
But we'd need more information about what this is to advise more. However you'd be better off getting professional legal advice.
I can think of two broad categories of open-source products:
-- Agricultural products. Vegetables, fruits, grains. Many of these are branded, but many are not
-- Common services. Plumber, gardener, housecleaner, nail salon, web design. These people are often viewed as interchangeable even when they try to set themselves apart.
In these cases, "open source" means "commodity." Sounds like you want to become a commodity, easily available, no barriers to use, yet have people select your products for use because they are special and unique.
Yet your users want to protect what they adopt from you (perhaps by customizing it, a la Android?) to allow them to build and sustain their own brands. It is unclear to me how their desire to protect their brand relates to your goal of reducing the negative impact of advertising.
The universal problem with an "open source" commodity model is that it is inherently low margin, so it can only work for huge companies (or subsistence operators). Or for companies that are paid in other ways, e.g., by selling advertising! It's tough to pay the rent, as you say, for small and midsize operations. That's why they want to differentiate and brand and protect. Branding requires promoting your brand.
Not sure whether this helps you or not. More specifics would help me understand your need.
The key to open source *business* models is that people buy a lot more than the thing which is open source. Take Linux as an example. Hobbiests like something that's free, but business users need 24/7 support, compatibility testing, firm releases, etc. That's what Redhat provides for fee... all the other "stuff" around the stuff.
You might do the same. Suppose you created some sort of "certified" logo that people could use. That's the brand. You need to build it and, in doing so, you build business for your partners... so they are willing to pay you. That's just one example. Include with your brand links to "certified" companies... so you can help drive business to them. And so on. Remember, drive around what people are buying (perhaps the good feeling that it's green) rather than what (you think) you're selling.