Open source and Small Business
So while I’m working on Atmosphere to make it easier for Business to use Free and Open Source software, I need to have some insights of the common perspective of Open source software from Small Business owners (or at least people related to it).
My quest on finding insights
Small business facebook groups
My first thought was to find small business in facebook groups about small business.
I did find two types of groups, very spam-full public groups and private groups with gate keepers.
The private groups seem to be few, my search keywords are not great, those groups aren’t that helpful either because founders needs are so varied depending on many factors and getting into one of those groups is super generic non-helpful.
I found one (unexpected) facebook group that was interesting, I think it is unexpected because it is run by the founders of an app (TidyApp) that offer matching cleaning services to Airbnbs, Hotels, etc.
I tried posting offering help any small business interested in me giving advice on how to choose software that could automate anything in their business, but my post was super long and included a link, the gatekeepers never approved my post, so yeah, nothing happened there, probably I have to pay gatekeepers to allow my post or change it.
I’ll try again that strategy to understand small business later, but I have the feel that I have to drill down into industries and probably niches to be more effective.
Small business reddit community
More active, still generic, but way better than facebook groups, the moderation is more effective since it is a question based community, completely ad free, and not controlled by gate keepers wanting you to pay for space.
My strategy there was different, I just wanted to understand what is the perception about Open Source with strangers in reddit in the Small Business community, so I posted a quite open question, you can check it here.
The information I got from the question, that I think is important:
- There is no need for business to care about the openness of their software unless it is a clear benefit, many times it doesn’t matter at all.
- Use cases are very generic, they work, yet the steps to do match what you need, are not clear, yet worst, most of the times you have no one to ask for help (because you’re on your own™ — or that’s the feeling).
- Some open source projects are very good, yet to make them just work™ upfront costs for many small business are quite high and don’t make sense(since it requires customization and paid support).
- Monthly support plans are generally not clear or they just don’t exist.
- Some top of mind open source software is libre office / open office, (gnu)linux distributions and android.
My next steps
This was a good exercise, it allowed me to have a raw idea of the “reddit-generic” thinking of using open source in business, and confirm what might seem obvious right now, I need to go down further into industries/niches to see which use cases make sense with the great software that currently exists, help users to get started, customized and get feedback. So the next steps:
- List possible industries/niches where there are interesting small business to help.
- Rate them by online reach-ability (to make my work easier).
- Get to know them, understand pain points and help them. My one-on-one help strategy might work better there.