17–19 October 2016: Conference & Tutorials
19–20 October 2016: Training
London, UK

Inside the open source sausage factory: Lessons learned from decades selling open source

Matt Asay (AWS), kelly stirman (MongoDB)
16:05–16:45 Monday, 17/10/2016
The business of open source: From project to product
Location: Buckingham Room Level: Non-technical
Average rating: ****.
(4.67, 3 ratings)

Prerequisite knowledge

  • Familiarity with a variety of open source businesses (Red Hat, etc.) and licensing approaches

What you'll learn

  • Explore how to build a 21st-century open source business without selling your soul. . .or your software


From the outside, open source companies try to appear to be Fine Upstanding Open Source Citizens™. However, inside the sausage factory, hard decisions and trade-offs are constantly being made. Drawing on nearly 15 years of working for some of the industry’s best-known open source companies, including MongoDB and Canonical, Matt Asay and Kelly Stirman explain how to build a 21st-century open source business without selling your soul. . .or your software.

Matt and Kelly describe the fundamental struggles every open source business has and explore how different companies have dealt with them (e.g., which features will be open versus closed, which license to use, etc.). Matt also details why he decided to move on and why maybe you should consider doing so too. Selling open source is brutally hard, requiring trade-offs that minimize much of the magic of open source development. The real trick is to build businesses that depend upon open source software but not upon open source software sales.

Photo of Matt Asay

Matt Asay


Matt Asay is a principal at AWS, helping to drive the company’s open source strategy, among other things. Prior to AWS, Matt managed Adobe’s developer ecosystem initiatives. Previously, Matt was Adobe’s vice president of mobile strategy and held a range of roles at open source companies, including vice president of business development, marketing, and community at big data database company MongoDB; vice president of business development at real-time analytics company Nodeable (acquired by Appcelerator); vice president of business development and interim CEO at mobile HTML5 startup Strobe (acquired by Facebook); COO at leading Linux and cloud vendor Canonical; and head of the Americas at content management startup Alfresco (acquired by private equity firm Thomas H. Lee). Matt is an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI) and holds a JD from Stanford, where he focused on open source and other IP licensing issues. He writes regular columns for the Register, TechRepublic, and InfoWorld.

Photo of kelly stirman

kelly stirman


Kelly Stirman is the VP of Strategy at MongoDB. Kelly works closely with customers, partners, and the open source community to articulate how MongoDB is quickly becoming the world’s most popular database. For over 15 years he has worked at the forefront of database technologies. Prior to MongoDB, Kelly served in executive and leadership roles at Hadapt, MarkLogic, PeopleSoft, GE, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.