This thursday, 7th of December 2017, we had the last lecture for our course Open and User Innovation with another very interesting guest lecture by Cristina Gadibadi. The topic was ‘Learning from Failures’ based on Cristina’s experiences as a serial entrepreneur and her last failed startup ‘Get Deals’. In this blog post, I am listing some of the key things I learnt from the presentation.

  1. Speak the customers’ language: The majority of the Swedish population is good in communicating in English. However, as a Swedish company, when trying to on-board clients it’s important to communicate with them in Swedish. It’s their first language and the one they are most comfortable with. While Cristina talked about language in a specific context, the learning can be applied in a much broader sense. As an entrepreneur, it’s important for clients to truly understand the value proposition and to be able to do this successfully, we have to speak their language. To put it more simply, if customers do not understand, they do not buy.
  2. Be smart at outsourcing: It’s really cheap but really difficult to manage remotely. There are a lot of operational issues when outsourcing projects to foreign countries. Hence, when outsourcing larger projects, it’s better to approach companies rather than freelancers. While companies are more expensive, they have established procedures and are more likely to meet our demands. Freelancers on the other hand can be really good for shorter projects (e.g., Logo Design, Short Video etc.)
  3. Bootstrapping is hard: If one does not have enough money to bootstrap a company, it’s best to look for venture capitalists (VCs). VCs provide funds to run a company in exchange for equity or ownership stake. Cristina puts it very well saying ”It’s better to own a part of your dream business than no dream business at all”. Moreover, VCs bring in a lot of valuable experience and knowledge.
  4. Try Guerilla Marketing: Most startups have zero to little funds to spend on extravagant marketing. As entrepreneurs, we need to be more creative in such a situation. Cristina mentioned ‘guys in the amazon holding a sign for Get Deals’. While this has nothing to do with the product, it’s cheap, different and more memorable for the customer.

Go Entrepreneurs!

— Shivam Verma

During a recent presentation in the Open and User Innovation course, some of my friends presented the topic of User Behavior and Free Innovation wherein they discussed ‘What motivates free innovators ?’. Combining my learning from the class and my experience as a Free/Open Source Software (F/OSS) contributor, in this blog post I reflect on what motivates software developers to contribute their time and effort to building free software products.


Intrinsic Motivation –

In general, Intrinsic motivation refers to the inherent motivations of doing a task. It’s possible that there are no other outcomes that motivate the ‘free innovator’ other than the satisfaction of being able to complete a task and having fun while doing it.

It can be further divided into the following two categories:

  • Enjoyment Based – Much of open source software contribution is motivated by the satisfaction of being able to ‘fix’ a certain bug with a software and being challenged while doing it. A task that is within the skillset of a programmer but also challenges their creativity provides the most engaging experience.
  • Community/Obligation Based – Larger F/OSS projects have a very strong sense of bonding and community. It’s very common to see the most experienced contributors of a project helping an absolute beginner in getting started with code contributions.

Extrinsic Motivation – 

Extrinsic motivation refers to the external aspirations of a developer other than the aforementioned intrinsic motivations. For example, the immediate need of a bug fix motivates some to contribute to the projects they use. I personally, have fixed bugs in an open source software because I needed to use it in my project.

In addition, developers might have long term motivations such as learning how to code better. Most F/OSS code contributions are reviewed by experienced programmers which helps novice programmers in improving their skills. F/OSS contributions are also a great way to build a strong network in the programming community which could lead to better job opportunities and career advancement in the long run.

From my personal experience of having interacted with a number of F/OSS contributors over the past few years, it’s a mix of these extrinsic and intrinsic motivations that makes F/OSS a very successful Open Innovation model.

A more thorough analysis of this topic backed by data is available here. I would encourage everyone remotely interested in Open and User innovation to go through the article. It explains very clearly the motivations of ‘free innovators’ and the learning can easily be carried over to many more areas in addition to F/OSS.

— Shivam Verma