Last year was the first time I heard of an open-source startup as SaaS.
I didn’t even understand what it meant. How do you monetize such a thing?
Everybody can come, take your code and compete with you.
I couldn’t even understand how we get from GitHub stars to customers 🤯
But that was one of the craziest growth I have ever seen in my world of entrepreneurship.
If you are planning on building a SaaS, make it open-source.
There’s a high chance that you are like me, a developer that consumes open-source but has never been a part of the open-source community - when’s the last time you contributed anything?
If that’s true, then you don’t know what an open-source community is.
I had built startups before and usually had to build the community around me.
But in open-source, it was different. There is a community already just looking at where to contribute to. This is exponential growth; it’s better than any marketing.
99% of most of the enterprises we signed said they heard of us from a friend.
It’s true, but it doesn’t matter. When people take your code, they expand the market - that’s good. In the end, the best marketing/product wins, and we will dominate the market :)
People always try to create their blue ocean inside of their red ocean - with open-source, you can. Let’s look at Cal.com. They are an open-source alternative to Calendly. They have gained massive growth, enough even to replace Calendly in the future. Once you tap into open source, you have removed your competition and created a new market. Here are a few reasons why:
- Developers can use and integrate them into their internal systems.
- Developers can see your code and gain your transparency and credibility.
- Developers can change your system to their needs.
I joined Novu in 2021. I met the founders in a coworking space, and we worked on different products. They had the same product as today but as a normal B2B SaaS. It didn’t work for them, and I was sad seeing this. But one day, something changed. They pushed some of their code to GitHub and posted an article about what they want to build on the DEV community. They got trending on GitHub with 2000 stars in 4 days and raised $6.6m (after covid) in a month.
I sold my company (I was working on back at the coworking space), and two months after that, I joined the company 🎉
We have grown from 2k stars to 20k stars. It’s very uncommon for companies to grow at such a speed we have even signed a partnership with GitHub. And closed a few enterprise deals (in the first year).
We did an entire year of growth, a sprint from week to week of bringing traffic and community member to our GitHub library.
Many people asked me how we did it since:
- We almost have no followers on social media
- We never ran any ads
- We barely have any SEO.
I feel we were kind of cheating because, really, nobody understood how we were growing so fast.
Do you know this magical moment when you write a tweet, and suddenly it becomes super trendy? Until today, it happened to me once (actually, a pretty stupid tweet). It’s definitely not happening a lot, and it was not in the context of any agenda.
How good would it be if you trend every week? How much growth would you get from that? We did it repeatedly, over and over - just not on Twitter. We did it on GitHub.
Almost any marketplace has this trending thing:
And they all have the same concept - get a lot of sales in a short period of time, and we will promote you - it’s good for them, they make more money.
But the GitHub marketplace (trending tab) is a bit different.
It works on the activity of your GitHub library. The more engagement you have (from different resources), the higher chance you will trend - and with each of those trends, we got thousands of stars and users.
With Novu, we got from 2k stars to 24k stars.
I had a chance to work with a few more companies. Here’s some of their growth.
I have set on a mission to help people grow through open source by giving weekly knowledge.
This newsletter is good for you if:
- You are considering open-sourcing your product (or building a new one).
- You are considering opening a by-product and open-source it (to reflect on your main product).
- You are in tech and want the growth without the stars / without GitHub trending.
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