Advice to Students on When to Start Your Company

I was listening to Dave Kellog and Thomas Otter’s most enjoyable The SaaS Product Power Breakfast podcast, this time about a VC-turned-entrepreneur (in his fourties), and it reminded me about advice that I give to my students. Heads-up: The funniest ageist comment by a student, ever.

Research has shown repeatedly that the biggest chances of success for a startup are with founders in the age range of 40-50 years. Thus, the rational thing for my students to do is to learn, in industry, well-paid, and start their companies in said age range, and for VCs to invest predominantly in companies with such founders.

Yet, there are all kinds of enticements for starting your company as early as possible. The Thiel Fellowship (of $100K) is for students who are willing to drop out of college for it, the startup school model pioneered by Y Combinator caters to young(er) people, and any self-respecting university these days has an incubator that tries to motivate students to start-up (rather than pair innovation with experienced industry people).

Why is this? I ask my students.

My own answer is that VCs are biased towards younger people, because the returns on investment have a much higher standard deviation (are much more likely to fail, but if they win, win much bigger). Of the GAFAM and BAT founders, none were significantly older than 30 years; many much younger. And many VCs like the bragging rights from having found the next Mark Zuckerberg.

There are other explanations possible, of course. The funniest answer to my question that I ever got came from one of my students:

Maybe VCs don’t like to fund fourty-year old entrepreneurs because they might die soon?

He said it with a straight face.

Pattern Discovery and Validation Using Scientific Research Methods (TPLoP)

Abstract: Pattern discovery, the process of discovering previously unrecognized patterns, is often performed as an ad-hoc process with little resulting certainty in the quality of the proposed patterns. Pattern validation, the process of validating the accuracy of proposed patterns, remains dominated by the simple heuristic of “the rule of three”. This article shows how to use established scientific research methods for the purpose of pattern discovery and validation. We present a specific approach, called the handbook method, that uses the qualitative survey, action research, and case study research for pattern discovery and evaluation, and we discuss the underlying principle of using scientific methods in general. We evaluate the handbook method using three exploratory studies and demonstrate its usefulness.

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Whose Open Source Freedom is it Anyway?

It is 2021 and there is still a lot of fighting about “freedom” in open source software development. Here is an analytical breakdown of the issues.

Freedom can refer to people or artifacts (source code). When it refers to people, it is typically freedom of choice regarding what to do. There are three main roles in open source: The original programmer, an intermediary (another programmer or a software vendor), and the users or customers of the vendor. I’m simplifying, but this matches the distribution use-case in which license clauses put the most obligations on people.

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Open Source Software Engineering the Eclipse Way (Wayne Beaton, IEEE Computer Column)

I’m happy to report that the 15th article in the Open Source Expanded column of IEEE Computer has been published.

TitleOpen Source Software Engineering the Eclipse Way
AuthorsWayne Beaton, The Eclipse Foundation
PublicationComputer vol. 54, no. 6 (June 2021), pp. 59-63

Abstract: This article explains how open source software development works at the Eclipse Foundation. It dives into engineering best practices, providing insights from one of the most successful open source foundations of today.

As always, the article is freely available (local copy).

Also, check out the full list of articles.

Podcast on Product Management and Commercial Open Source

Thomas Otter and Dave Kellogg of The SaaS Product Power Breakfast had me join their show and discuss product management, commercial open source, and cloud service strategies. It is out already as a podcast (local copy). Check it out and make sure to subscribe to their show!

Show notes

There were a couple of references in the show you might like to have the links to.

  1. The commercial open source course as taught at UC Santa Cruz, starting June 21st, 2021.
  2. Our Harvard business school type free teaching cases for product management.

If I missed a link, let me know, and I’ll add it.

The Future Resurgence of Copyleft

In 2009, half of open source code was licensed under the GPLv2 license, the canonical copyleft license. Every other license had less than 10% market share. Over the years, the MIT license and other permissive licenses kept climbing at the expense of the GPLv2. As of today, the MIT license is the leading license with more than 32% market share in absolute numbers, with the GPLv2 license having fallen below 20%.

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