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Re: Donations, was: Re: [Openvpn-users] Bridging Fun

  • Subject: Re: Donations, was: Re: [Openvpn-users] Bridging Fun
  • From: Ged Haywood <ged@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 17 Jan 2004 00:00:35 +0000 (GMT)

Hi James,

On Fri, 16 Jan 2004, James Yonan wrote:

> I think it's excellent that we're having this thread


> In the US, where I live, there are a number of fairly successful business
> models that are largely based on giving something away for free and then
> trying to make money based on donations.

There is at least one similar business in the UK, it's in the north of
England and it's an offshoot of one in the USA.  As it happens I bought
(er, did I buy it? :) something from them a few weeks ago. I can't judge
its success, but a while after I received the goods (two connectors for a
GPS receiver) they emailed me to ask me if I'd paid using someone else's
credit card.  At least I think that's what they asked me.  Of course I was
very happy to give them the cheque number, the date and the amount.  :)

OTOH I have almost 20,000 business customers within a 30 mile radius
of the stationery business that I run in England.  And I know exactly
who has paid (and when) and who hasn't.  Or at least my computer does.
There are those numbers again.  But they're not just numbers, they're
orders of magnitude!  For goodness' sake look at them!

> the open source process ... resulted in a product that is already
> competitive with many commercial solutions.

As I said, the product is good.  No problem there at all.

> "running a business has very little to do with having a good product".
> I think it is exactly this attitude that has lit a fire under the
> open source movement

This is not an attitude.  This is an observation, a simple fact of life.

> developers and engineers at last have found an outlet for their
> creative and technical abilities that encourages and rewards
> technical excellence.

I'm not sure that other outlets don't exist, but you're straying from
what I think is the point and that's because you don't have the first
idea of what a business is about.  I'm sorry to put it so baldly, but
again, that's just the way it is.  It's not about the product at all.
It's much more about you.

When you start a business you don't do it in a vacuum.  You enter a
world of staggering legal complexity.  To begin with, businesses can
only exist by virtue of laws passed to permit them to exist.  Then if
they want to do anything they have to investigate and comply with all
the laws that are there to cause them to do it without (for example:)
creating problems for public services; breaching government policies;
causing damage to the environment; putting the health and safety of
employees, the public, or the consumer at risk; permitting religious,
racial or sexual harassment; causing employees to work excessive hours;
breaching duties of confidence or any regulations about the misuse of
computers; unfairly competing with other businesses (ring any bells?);
the list is endless.  And of course they have to account to government
so that they can be taxed.  (I don't quite see how those donation-based
businesses manage to do that but I suppose there must be a way :).  And
of course they will probably have to pay their employees when they are
(or they say they are:) ill and unable to work, or have a baby, or...

You have to be on top of all that, or one day someone will come along,
show you some credentials, and then explain what you have to do, when
you have to have it done by, and exactly what will happen if you don't.

If you want to get into a business you will have to do your homework.
if you do start a business, I hope it will become successful.  And if,
in later years, I am lucky enough to be able to ask you, I know you'll
agree with me: that the making of the product was childsplay compared
to the running of the business.

Unfortunately I might not live that long (just age, nothing more I hope)
but that's something I've already come to terms with.