Woke up this morning, blogosphere alight with about 40 blogs on the topic. Many of the article quote yours truly's "white paper" where I had written "I for one do not believe there will be an OSS billionaires club". I had written that in 2003, quoting a panel where Linus was talking at Stanford, back in 1998.
That was what, 10 years ago?
We asked ourselves the exact same question, which in itself is part of the answer. It intrigues me how the OSS community seems to recycle the same topics and if they were news items (Linux on the desktop! Aliens make billions from FREE software!).
Each time we discuss the topic with passion, intelligence and ultimately, short memory. Do we suffer from collective 10 years amnesia? We look like fish in a bowl, at every turn of the bowl we look like we have never been here and we ask with bewilderement, 10 years later, "where are all the OSS billionaires?". Let's go for another round, shall we?
In retrospect, I am glad we were on the money, at JBoss, in more ways than one, with "Professional Open Source". Our insight was to "PAY PEOPLE FOR WORK". What a fucking concept. I needed a PhD in difficult stuff to come up with that one.
I am proud we set an example for many young developers where they understand they can make a living at their passion. I still don't think the OSS billionaires club will be big, possible empty for the next 10 years unless Larry Ellison decides to buy RHT and stand alone in the club. I think we will see the emergence of privately held OSS companies as partnerships. Large ones. Public markets have minted billionaires, large consultancies will make money for a few select partners that are "equity partners". It is a cash flow business, a nice one. Larger than lifestyle companies, smaller than public companies.
Well I am personally not doing bad these days, and thank my lucky star every morning. A lot of my JBoss friends are doing just fine. See you in another 10 years gold fishes. Hopefully someone will have beaten the game by then. Look to build large privately held partnerships boys and girls, beware of VCs, drop me a note for help.