Brussels Summer Team Retreat

Conversation about Business Model

Proposal (Xavier)

  • OC should be a way to bring together all groups (climate change, citizen initiatives, open source)

  • Outside of the open source initiatives, they doesn't have a Github

  • OS community today only needed financial contributions. (though they're also looking to surface other types of contributions)

  • Citizen initiatives need contributions, not just financials

  • Our business model is not aligned with this new goal of surfacing all types of contributions because we'll always push financial contributions

  • The concept of hosts is really hard to explain, which is a big constraint for growing

  • ==> We need to introduce a hostless version of OC

  • A place where people can record their finances (donations, expenses)

  • Free to use under 10 contributors.



  • Good point about barriers (ex: hosts are complex) and surfacing all types of contributions

  • What's the evidence that citizen initiatives are going to be a growth for us?

  • Citizen initiatives don't have money, they'll never have

  • There're already a lot of tools (nation builder), you can't do a tool that works for everyone

  • Dealing with random contributions is not easy (a bounty to design a logo without context isn't going to work)

  • The question about who hold the money is the core problem that we're solving with fiscal hosting, it's the cool feature of OC (still we need to make it easier/clearer)

  • Manual recording of transactions is tedious, what's cool today is that it's automatic. If it is not the case why don't we have more people using this feature?

  • Many groups exist because the concept of host exists


  • Transparancy is not a big enough painkiller (without automatization)


  • Like the fact to speak from the user's perspective, not from our perspective

  • --> In this way OC's homepage is too complex, too much from our point of view

  • To Alanna: right there's lot of tools, but is there good ones to have a platform to create the matching (matchmaking)?

  • Pricing model: cool that it's based on service but then we're not linked to the financial success of our collectives anymore

  • The host process only needs to be explained to a certain types of users, but we should have smart default


  • How does this business model helps collectives?


  • We should better explain the concept of hosts rather to remove it (host is the magic)

  • On the business model, it's good enough. It could be simpler (only one fee) but it's easy to understand. It incentives collectives to grow.

  • What do we want to achieve - growth of... number of collectives? Contributors?

  • If we want to scale, we need to grow in our niche of open-source but also outside

  • We can't be sustainable just by growing a little bit


  • Citizen initiatives don't have money, they're not willing to spend it

  • Grassroot groups don't want to pay for anything

  • ==> Hard to see the business there

  • There's not perfect tool because it's hard to build

  • Manually adding transactions is tedious, it needs to be automatic

  • On one side we have a community that already gives us funding, that we already understand

  • Removing the host that by design respond to their needs is dangerous

  • We can improve things with design of the connect stripe account or choose host flow

  • Of course there are overlapping features, but it's hard to prioritize for one or another

  • Worry about splitting focus, we can't do everything

  • Splitting focus like this today may break us

Answers on feedback, discussion

  • Xavier:

    • Do we want to be the best platform for open-source? Github rules here, they may work with us or they may kill us.

    • Or we could turn OC into the platform for fiscal sponsorship. But for example Women Who Code didn't bring much money in.

    • Because of the current business model, many people see us as a fundraising platform and we'll never be as good as others like GoFundMe because they're more focused, they don't have the complexity that OC has.

    • On the point that citizen initiatives don't have money:

      • They should be on OC to easily get grants, money from orgs through gift cards

      • Alanna: we should go the other way arround - bring the grants on OC and collectives will come

    • We should offer automated ways to create expenses

    • Existing tools (like spreadsheets) miss the ability to attach documents (eg. invoices)

    • Unless there is a clear added value of being part of a network, asking 10% is a no go

  • Pia:

    • We should let users plug their own paypal, stripe...etc

    • Improving things for hosts would help everyone (including OSC, our current users)

  • Xavier: How are we charging hosts?

    • Should depend on number of contributors?

    • ==> Monthly subscription

    • Alanna: we need a clear pricing model for hosts

    • Octoben:

      • Management is what you would pay for

      • Having a fee is a good structure because it depends on the amount your getting

      • Ex: 25$/month to manage funds that you get outside of the platform

    • Xavier: Let's move away from the assumption that a collective has one host. A collective can have zero, one or multiple hosts. Shopify model for hosts: pay nothing upfront, you pay to add funds.

  • François: what's the timeframe? Is this the next priority? Why would that make us sustainable more than other plans?

  • Pia: We cannot let our existing users down

  • Xavier: money will go to the climate, this is the future

  • Octoben: two models

    • We could target hosts. Using OC would reduce their work load.

Xavier's conclusions

  • A collective can have zero, one or multiple hosts

  • We got to charge hosts based on their number of collectives

  • Grants should be on OC, but we can't take fees on it

  • Will work on a new proposal

Ben Nickolls (Octoben) Notes on OSS Sustainability

OC as an indicator of people who want to use a project and how many people want to pay a subscription

OC as a way to provide a service / as a pricing gateway

Distribute money to their dependencies

if we can’t add value ourselves how we can enable others to add value?

As you go down the stack you give less.

BYS first level dependencies

Options to tweak the algorithm

Pledge to collectives

Support the whole ecosystem - pitch to create groups of projects that can offer standardized benefits.

What can projects do together: roadmap / standard documentation / where can you find documentation in this community / create efficiency within a group of projects.


Share that opportunity with other.

Give projects the option to sign up when you create a collective

Free for open source projects

Charge companies

Dependencies will root for you

email to your dependencies saying, XX joined the program every time octobox receive a donation through the program / tweet this.

Make it more obvious on the collective page that you have the option to sell a service = Tier TYPE

customize the algorithm using check boxes

Group Dynamics

We support our community through this bundle.

Modus Create Day Notes.

What is a sustainable model to balance out the commercial and open source community?

Digital Transformation

The new social contract for employment is not guarantees employment, is skills accretion, your public personal brand as a developer matter, companies that give you access to brand, company as a platform not a company, while you work here you gain skills and market value. Access to talent for digitally enabled mission. Value as applications not as content. From employment to skills accretion

Objectively vetted developers: knowledge, methodology, language,

OSS —> create professional services / support / certificate /

Jay: Risk for a lot of business outlive the value

Risk in vue it not being oriented as a business

Confidence that OSS are set up to growth and scale

Businesses want free or low cost, accelerates and moves fast enough to support customers.

  • can I engage with a legal entity?

  • can I enter into a contract for training / support / insurance SLAs?

  • communities are set up for success and sustainability

making sure the technical founders have a place to learn / framework to run open source as a business/ training / support contracts / organizing towards growth and sustainability

learn how to make your oss sustainable

making it easier for community to attract different kinds of talent

Value OC can produce:

Awareness: - visibility on who’s who in the community / executives look into OSS / awareness to the new philosophy / MC as a company is what it is…

Qualifying: -

Work itself: OC can help manage the scale / growth of a OSS collective / Incubator - run the community as a service. labour turnover is 10 times what it was

Advisory board to help OSS manage scale - Incubator

Recruiting: you need to be seen as an active member of the community

Companies will be more interested in connecting with OC if they see it as a pipeline for their recruiting - top level software architectural decisions are being made based on who’s applying.

Look at recruiting budget for add placement

Access to labour in different regions through the open collective vetted developers program, access to a team

If there’s no entity there’s no business

How can we enable communities expand so they have the skills and resources to solve these problems by themselves?

OC can articulate a network / partner ecosystem where we are vetting companies.

business acumen as a service vs enable communities so they can be put in the position to help themselves.

how to articulate these two approaches donation vs commercial

platform for matchmaking

giving the companies real state on the collective’s page where they can offer their services.

your brand in the market is the collective brand of the team’s contribution to open source


6/12M horizon:

hiring directors / director of engineering

centers of excellence matched to collectives

strategic hiring + community of freelancers

Co-branding / Awareness about MC and their services.

International conferences / marketing or co-marketing

Gift Cards (MC)

How much can push to OC - if you guys are creating a platform - to see developers profiles / certifications / GitHub handles / docs for the community / broker some funding through the collective to create a definitive / official training guide for the release we can train. If you create that training we can sell that training to our partners we some rev share. Vetting MC as a partner. MC does the consulting, the collectives do the content, and there’s a rev share. Assets & IP / Content.

Yearly planning matching - frictionless communication. / Do we chat once a month?

Professional Services Partner for your collective

Referrals / a marketplace / quality providers

regional events - as a function of recruiting and thought leadership - run by OC that MC could support / leverage.


In companies it’s about recruiting.

Feature acceleration

The main question for this companies is more, can it perform for us?

we ran a program where we get pipeline development

Directors get educated in your bounty program


We surface on the profile that someone has succesfully merged a bounty - if there is a review.

So cos can go in and say, this person had a bounty merged on OC I can hire them to do something maybe OC is not doing but we want to see.

Also is a data point in the building a profile that cos can look at / certification

Building a profile on OC (MC would pay for access to this)

  • non code contributions

  • bounty program in OC

  • workshop/content

Marketplace for vetting / certifying

Experiential education


As @cuiki pointed out in the Team Retreat in NYC in September 2018, the current homepage gives the impression that Open Collective is a tool for Open Source Communities. Many people think: "this is not for us".

Pia also pointed out that she doesn't like the current homepage and would love to see a new version.

Right now our homepage is too much about the "vision" and "philosophy". It should be more explicit in terms of product. What is it? What features does it offer? What does it enable me to do? Or as octoben put it: "Today's homepage is not user focus, it's theory focus".

As the Open Source Collective gets more and more independent, it's a good opportunity to refocus the homepage on being the platform for collectives in any vertical.

There are multiple actors that we could address:

  • The core contributors (people who lead the community)

  • The backers (individuals/organizations)

  • The hosts

We want to address first the core contributors since they are the ones who take the decision to create an open collective. We also want to hide the complexity of "hosts". Anyone should be able to create an open collective and host it themselves. Then the backers who want to sustain communities And finally the hosts, which represent a bit "Open Collective Pro".

Some catch phrases we came up with:

  • Make your community (financially) sustainable

  • Sustain a community

  • Make the world sustainable, one collective at a time

Team dynamics: How to work better together?

Session facilitated by Alanna. Those are the notes taken by Xavier.

What are your highlights?

Alanna: Highlights:

  • Fits my lifestyle having a child

  • Really aligned with my values

  • I'm a geek about this stuff

  • Very fulfilling for me

  • So relaxing to work on someone else's startup, less stressful

  • love interviewing collectives for the blog

  • Great to hear stories and how OC helps


  • communication still needs work, need to chase on Slack


  • Sometimes I feel it's too much but really excited about what we do

  • rollercoaster, it goes in waves, part of the job


  • boring work, not moving fast enough


  • Love that OC genuinely wants to help Open Source Community. Many other players are just in this for the business opportunity, less genuine.


  • Tough couple of last years, working for big companies without passion

  • Great to find a team passionate about design and the mission

  • So radical and futuristic, challenging

  • I'm a process person


  • Also great to work on someone else's startup after being on the other side. This is about the upside without the downside. I still have the feeling of "running it"

  • Struggle: where should I step in or stay out? I don't want to be involved in product/strategy

  • Managing + coding; need to find the balance

  • Love when we ship something that is improving the product

  • Don't like when we have old half baked feature, creates confusion.


  • Love the mix that OC brings to my life

  • Aligned with my values

  • Great to help OSS and citizen initiatives

  • Love that we are ourselves OSS

  • Love that I can be flexible with my work

  • Lot of work but happy to work on OC

  • I like to see improvements on frontend but also more hidden things

  • Didn't like how we executed on webhooks, we need to improve our process


  • Finally stopped feeling being onboarded


  • time difference

  • I have to work it out, cannot have someone to unblock me. Demoralizing, feel pretty burned out.


  • Seeing the end of the feature that I'm working on

  • So valuable to share screen


  • Seeing more citizen intiatives using OC

  • Feels good to be able to help them in their mission to make a change in their community

What about team dynamics, meetings, processes?


  • Love reviewing design / UX

  • Love that we start building a community of external contributors

  • Love that we are uber transaprent, very little difference if a t all between being part of the team or an external contributor; we know no border.


  • I like the Europe / NZ meeting facilitated by Alanna

  • I like using github issues


  • I love how we use reeveryone's input to prioritize, even if ultimately Pia & Xavier take the decision


  • I like that we are lightweight, we can move fast

  • We are not afraid to try new things. "The Open Collective Way"


  • Passion of the team / community

  • Team is open to ideas, doesn't matter where they come from.

  • Lot of communication, decentralized.

  • I love the opportunity to experiment


  • Great to have github issues with all the info so that external people can engage

  • Could also be used for more strategic conversations such as the roadmap

  • Could use Github Project for that

  • Open Calls (weekly) / office hours


  • We are getting unblocked faster

  • We are all very accessible/ available but in a balanced/respectuf way

  • Autonomy

  • Really like Friday's demo, need to advertise it better


  • Honnest communication, ok to hear bad feedback

  • Lot of autonomy

  • We trust each other's capabilities

  • Slack works

  • Documentation improved

Dislikes about team dynamics


  • Wasted time on design where I feel I could have point out issues earlier

  • Figma doesn't work for feedback

  • We need to define ahead of time the decision maker (locomotive) ahead of time


  • Process is too lightweight

  • We need to dig deeper

  • Sometimes we need to close topics, take hard decisions

  • More productive to take decisions, settle things and move on even if not everybody is happy with it


  • We have different point of view. Doesn't mean there is right or wrong, it's ok


  • Clear focus is important

  • Eveyrone has equal opportunities to comment / provide feedback (need to define time for conversation, time for decision, time for focus work)


  • We need a conversation closure mechanism, we have a hard time letting go and let someone take the decision


  • Priorities not clear, I feel left out of the loop on priorities conversations

  • Somethings things get lost on slack

  • We are not always dog fooding our own platform


  • Improve onboardig with screensharing to show me the code

  • I'm not always sure about the process (do I need to request review on my PR?)

  • Would be good to have regular calls


  • We need to take complexity into account when prioritizing

  • We can improve feedback between development and design

  • Some feedback only comes once we start coding


How do we do more of the good things, less of the bad things?

  • more open calls

  • clarify decision maker / locomotive / quality review process

  • onboarding remote contributors

  • advise process: get feedback from expert and people who are the most impacted

  • we need more project retrospective: what did we learn? It's ok to have failed, it frees you to take the lead safely without fear

  • Could use Twich to help onboarding

  • open data page with links to drive, videos, ...

  • We need a new "team page" and share our values, the "open collective way" (that should use our own "contributors" sections of a collective page to eat our own dogfood)

  • we need to tell the story of the diversity in our community of contributors

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