The proprietary/open balance in startup mode.

Marine Institute Ireland, Strategic_Planning_S...
Image via Wikipedia

I’ve written some before on our efforts to peer-produce Shouldess Inc. (^shldlss), the developer of VenTwits and the for-profit cohort of the Social Venture Commons (^svc). We’ve decided to launch early and iterate rapidly with VenTwits and its group focused cousin GroupTwits (to be turned on soon). We’re also planning to open source our code once we’ve rebuilt a core based on how people actually use it.

I believe in the principles and power of peer-production but am finding it a constant tension as we build the for-profit startup. A big part of that I’m sure is my experiential conditioning. What’s been most recently tested is how much of our business strategy and development plans should be in the public domain.

Taylor Davidson, who is stepping up to help on the financial modeling and strategy side asked me point blank. I fumbled some lame answer that didn’t really say anything. As I’ve sat with it now for a couple of days, I’m actually questioning what if anything should be kept private. It comes down to speed of execution and I also think that the more broader the engagement the greater defensibility we have – provided we execute. If people are a part of it, they’ll rally to support it.

What do you think? Is there anything that should be kept private? Why? What are the risks? What are the benefits?

Right now I’m feeling ready to open everything up and push this experiment even further.

Foolish or fruiful?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

8 thoughts on “The proprietary/open balance in startup mode.”

  1. Intellectual Property has value, and it should not be wasted because this is ultimately how you are going to generate a revenue.
    I agree with you that we should try to open as much as possible to the outside world, but you have to be careful not to throw the baby with the bath water. There are issues of What and When and I believe that everything should be considered on a case by case basis.
    I think of this in terms of ecosystems, and you have to decide what the other stakeholders need to have access to in order to add their contributions to the ecosystem. And you have to know exactly what is the value that your venture brings that will give it a revenue stream to guaranty its sustainability over time.
    If the value is a piece of code that does magic, then you keep that private. If the value is expertise in open source, then you keep that. You can publish code, and you can help people for free to a point, but you otherwise charge when people need your expertise.
    When it comes to business strategy and development plans, I believe that it is the same. If sharing information does not jeopardize the core value that your venture brings, then you are probably better off sharing it with stakeholders, or even make it public. If one of the core value is how you unfold the story, then it should not be shared. And of course timing is key in all this. What you give away today may be less than what you give away once you have established traction.
    One additional constraint: in all ventures, there is the venture itself, which has a life of its own and a place of its own within a given ecosystem, and then there are the people behind the venture, other stakeholders. So what the venture does is one thing, and then what you do for yourself as it relates to that venture is another thing.
    This will also impact what can or cannot be done by the venture, as the venture cannot work against the stakeholders. So sharing information with stakeholders does not necessarily mean making it public.
    Having said this, and as I mentioned earlier, I like as a rule the idea of starting in favor of sharing everything, and then restrict only what really needs to be protected.

  2. Marc, again a great contribution. Thanks again for taking the time.

    The two points that really struck me in your comment is taking the ecosystem perspective and the bit about understanding the core value. Feels like it's coming at it from two sides. The ecosystem side is all about what is most necessary to be offered up to enable the system to participate, leverage, build. The value side is drilling down to the core of what actually generates the value in the first place. And honestly, with the pace of things that understanding is evolving. It looks like the meaningful IP is actually in the delimiter, not the code. More on this when we get our next site up. How's that for half-open?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *