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Open Core Models

Can Open Source and Business coexist?

🧵1/ OK, This is interesting. Nodemailer's developer, Andris Reinman, shared his shift from open-source idealism to a thriving business, EmailEngine. A tale of lessons, shifts, and success.

🧵2/ His new approach is the Open Core Model. You offer a core version of a software open-source, while additional services (such as hosted services) are paid offerings. I would even say @nextjs is partially open-core, given its strong ties to the @vercel framework.

🧵3/ Starting with a radical open-source ethos, Andris prioritized reach over revenue, using permissive licenses for projects like Nodemailer. A noble yet financially unrewarding path.

🧵4/ The turning point? A startup using Nodemailer was acquired for $500M, leaving Andris to ponder the value of his contributions against his financial struggles.

🧵5/ Transitioning to EmailEngine, Andris adopted the AGPL license and a strict CLA process, aiming to safeguard his work and finally monetize his efforts.

🧵6/ The initial business model was a mix: AGPL for free, with a subscription for an MIT license. Despite high hopes, the reality was a modest €750 in 1.5 years.

🧵7/ A pivot to a professional UI and a license key system marked a new era. EmailEngine moved to a commercial license, balancing public access with revenue generation.

🧵8/ The shift paid off, with subscription sales jumping in the first month. Incremental price increases further boosted revenue, debunking fears of losing customers.

🧵9/ Today, EmailEngine's steady MRR allows Andris to focus full-time on the project, a dream realized. The lesson? The value of evolving from free open-source to a sustainable business model.

🧵10/ Andris's story is a reminder that adapting and finding a balance between open-source ideals and commercial needs can lead to both personal and project success.

🧵11/ A journey from open-source purism to profitable business, Andris Reinman's experience with EmailEngine is a playbook for developers navigating the complex path from passion to livelihood.

🧵/End: Andris's tale underscores the importance of flexibility, strategic shifts, and the courage to monetize one's hard work. A valuable lesson for open-source developers everywhere.

How I turned my open-source project into a business

Open Source vs Source Available