26–28 October 2015
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Bootstrapping a business around open source

Ninh Bui (Phusion), Hongli Lai (Phusion)
9:40–9:55 Tuesday, 27/10/2015
Location: Auditorium
Average rating: ****.
(4.10, 20 ratings)

Open source projects often start out as something developers work on in their spare time to scratch their own itch. What happens however when fortune 500 businesses start to rely on those projects as well? Those businesses might need frequent updates of your software to be able to leverage cutting edge technologies or reliable support when facing incidents at 4:00am. Suddenly, your pet project is now the project you spend the most time on and there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in a day anymore to maintain it as is. You are now faced with the difficult choice of trying to take things to the next level by fully committing to said project or to let someone else maintain it. Most shops don’t accept “thanks” as a currency though, so how are we able to continue to pay the bills if we decide to double down?

This talk will tell the story of how two 20 somethings in college decided to take their open source app server Phusion Passenger to the next level by bootstrapping a company called Phusion around it back in 2008. Passenger currently powers over half a million sites, and is trusted by companies such as Apple, Sears, NBC Universal and many more. If you have ever entertained the idea of building a business around your open source project, then this talk is for you. From business models to marketing, we will share our experiences in setting up a company like Phusion (your mileage may vary!).

Photo of Ninh Bui

Ninh Bui


Ninh Bui is the co-founder and CEO of Phusion, a company that specializes in offering top of the line app deployment and server monitoring/scaling software.

When Ninh is not writing software, designing UIs or organizing conferences he can be found mashing Shoryukens at Street Fighter 4 tournaments like a World Warrior. Ninh holds a degree in Computer Science from the University of Twente.

Photo of Hongli Lai

Hongli Lai


Hongli Lai is the co-founder and CTO of Phusion, a company that specializes in offering top of the line IT products and services to high profile clients.

Prior to founding Phusion, he has had the pleasure of working on a myriad of open source products such as Ruby, Ruby on Rails, and Autopackage, where it’s perhaps worth mentioning that the latter is being used by the Dutch Tax Department.

From his computer science study and work, Hongli has also become well versed in a variety of computer languages and paradigms and also possesses an (almost) uncontrollable hunger for knowledge. In particular, his current interests lie in the domain of Software Engineering, where the emphasis is put on software architecture.

Comments on this page are now closed.


8/11/2015 23:40 CET

Thanks for sharing your experience.
And cool drawings in the sheets.

27/10/2015 12:12 CET

Hey Guys, thank you very much for your Talk, really enjoyed it.
Where can I find the book you written, I could not find it on amazon –I looked like business around os?
Best Regards,