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 (Adobe), 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 vice president of mobile at Adobe. With more than a decade in open source and its application in big data and mobile, Matt most recently ran community, marketing, and business development at MongoDB. Previously, he served as vice president of business development at real-time analytics company nodeable (acquired by Appcelerator in 2012); vice president of business development at mobile HTML5 startup Strobe (now part of Facebook); chief operating officer at Canonical, the Ubuntu Linux company; general maanger, Americas, and vice president of business development at Alfresco; and part of the team that helped put Novell on its open source track. Matt is an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI). He holds a JD from Stanford, where he focused on open source and other IP licensing issues, an MA from the University of Kent at Canterbury, and a BA from Brigham Young University. Matt is a regular columnist for ReadWrite, 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.