I have been blogging about my experiences running a company around OpenNMS for over six years now. While I love the medium that is the “blog”, it is not exactly the best vehicle for having a detailed, complex and nuanced discussion. For that nothing beats being face to face, but in a pinch e-mail will do.
Over the last week or so I’ve exchanged some e-mails with Luke Kanies, the Puppet master. In those e-mails I went into a lot of detail over my ideas for open source business models, including (gasp) entertaining the possibility that it might be possible to combine both commercial software and an open source project, a la “open core“, although I don’t think any of the current vendors I’m aware of can pull it off.
The scenario I described was rather “detailed, complex and nuanced” and I know that if I posted it here it would just be taken out of context and I’d be labelled a hypocrite. Luke replied:
This wouldn’t make you look hypocritical in my eyes; it would just make you seem more pragmatic.
That comment really stuck in my head because, quite frankly, I don’t think it is possible for me to be more pragmatic.
At The OpenNMS Group we have no investors – no millions of dollars in VC money burning holes in our pockets. In order to survive we have to worship at the alter of pragmatism. Despite this lack of investment, in 6 years we’ve gone from just me in my attic to eight people in three countries. Gross revenues are up 2000%. The only way to do that is by being as practical as possible, focusing on our mission to “Help Customers, Have Fun and Make Money”.
To me, being practical doesn’t mean sacrificing your principles. If my goal was to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible, I would have done things differently, but I don’t think it is necessary to exploit every possible opportunity to be successful.
I think that many in the business world take the opposite viewpoint. They would rather take every opportunity, use every trick in the book, and gamble in hopes of the quick payoff, rather than take a longer approach that could yield more over time.
To me that is the very opposite of pragmatism.