Aroha is love if you give it away, give it away, give it away
Aroha is love if you give it away, ‘cos it comes right back to you.
It’s just like a magic penny, hold on tight and you won’t get any
Lend it, spend it, give it away, and it comes right back to you.
– New Zealand children’s song
First up an explanation for the song excerpt above – I’m a firm believer (perhaps a throwback to some distant hippie past) that philanthropy is a good thing. I’m also a firm believer that philanthropy and profit are in no way mutually exclusive, in fact giving things away is often a smart move from a profitability perspective – sometimes the more you give away, the more comes right back to you.
Almost two years ago I wrote a post that suggested there was a potential for SaaS vendors to open source core aspects of their offering and, in doing so, to both build a community of passionate people, and create a profitable and sustainable business. The post garnered a few comments but I’d pretty much forgotten it until hearing that Intuit (disclosure – Intuit is a consulting client) are creating an open source community for developers to work together to create SaaS applications.
By way of a reminder, the Intuit Partner Platform (CloudAve analysis here) allows developers to write applications using any programming language, host them on any cloud infrastructure, and to chose to connect them to the Intuit Partner Platform and market them to Intuit’s existing small business customer base. In my opinion it’s a platform play for the future – one that doesn’t dictate but allows vendors to come play up to the level that works for them (be it the just billing/federation/authentication or the full gamut of infrastructure services).
Alex Chriss, Business Lead for the IPP, says that “the [open source] site will host and provide early access to code, toolkits and documentation for the Intuit Partner Platform. By collaborating, sharing and improving platform components, developers can build their own businesses faster and easier and take advantage of the work of Intuit and their peers when building applications.”
Of course there is Intuit’s own self-interest here – that’s the profit part of the philanthropy/profit equation. But rather than vainly attempt to tie up every opportunity for themselves, Intuit are actively encouraging others to build applications, some of which will appear on the IPP but some which undoubtedly will not. It’s the quintessential “all boats are lifted in a rising tide” example.
Proof of the pudding of course is in the eating, and in this case that proof is how much Intuit manages to convert outsiders into loyal open source contributors. By way of an example, Intuit tells of VerticalResponse who provided a sample Ruby SAML gateway that enables authentication between the Intuit Partner Platform and their application. Allan Keller from VerticalResponse says that contributing code makes sense for them;
First it will help other developers integrate their applications with Intuit’s platform and bring more users to it. In addition, we expect to benefit from future code contributions the community will provide. Everyone benefits here – developers and customers alike. We’re all working hard to develop great small business apps, and sharing code with Intuit’s developers and others can dramatically speed up development of additional features and enhancements to our offerings. And in the end, that really benefits the customer.
The first real test for this strategy will come next month at the IPP CloudJam Intuit is hosting to encourage third-party developers to collaborate on a number of open source projects as well as work on federating to the IPP. CloudJam will take place Aug. 11 – 13 at Intuit Mountain View and will also be available online with live webinar sessions taking place throughout the week. If the already length attendee list is anything to go by, there is some real interest in this latest move by Intuit.