Sopler, an Open Source project in the startup world


Back to my hometown for holidays and found the opportunity to join Open Coffee Thessaloniki L meetup. I would like to share some thoughts on the rise of entrepreneurial events, accelerators, competitions etc in Greece, but for the moment will focus on the presentation of Sopler, a "free/open source, social and collaborative web application that helps you make to-do lists".


So who are those guys?

A core team of people who come from the Greek Open Source community and who completely understand the values of freedom and respect users' rights, security and privacy. I remember Anastasios at FOSDEM 2011, student of a field not directly relative to Computer Science, advocating for OWASP and recall Alex as a Fedora contributor back then. Meeting Kostas at this year's FOSDEM made it clear that Sopler will always be a user-centric open platform.


Why is Sopler special? - Stating the facts

You might think of Sopler as yet another social {shopping, party, holidays} list-* startup. If this is the case maybe you should also know that they are 100% Open Source under the AGPL license (code can be found here), being the second official open source Greek startup only to (online Arduino IDE) Codebender -re mounia!-. Sopler is hosted for free at ~okeanos GRNET's cloud service based on the Synnefo IAAS - and will be hosted there until Anastasios turns 31.
Winning the 1st Prize at Firefox OS App Days Athens in January was when Sopler really took off! First, Sopler was made available to the Firefox Marketplace and promoted as a Featured App for a week, leading to 2000+ installs for Firefox OS users alone. Just yesterday they shipped an Android app which was, like the Blackberry one, contribution of a volunteer! iOS app is in the making, feel like contributing?
I guess the 8-day visit to Poland for hub:raum Krakow WARP provided lots of insight feedback on how to create a sustainable business monetizing on an Open Source project.
Plus, being among Mozilla's projects at Transifex localization platform can get you translated in 25 languages in a few weeks!
Btw, did I mention the ~50% retention rate?


Explaining Sopler to the startup world

Useful concept, long time dedication (even if revenue is zero), award winning team, support from an emerging community and huge organizations, functional multi-platform implementation, noteworthy traction.
Unfortunately none of the above was clearly advertised in the pitch. Elements that would have made any of us (or possible investors) look in awe at what Sopler managed to achieve in the last five months. On the other hand, emphasis was given to specific features of the platform and the social network part which is in the making, with only intuition leading the way, since it is not supported by analytics or market research.

First question from the audience? Probably you guessed right:
"Can you really make money out of an Open Source project?"
Seriously, have you ever heard of Arduino, Wordpress, Wikipedia, Mozilla? A startup is a company that experiments with business models, some of which are completely compatible with Free/Open Source licenses!

What if somebody steals your source code?
Well then he can have it, but not use it for commercial purposes.

Then how can you use that code for a profit-making product?.
Hmmm you are free to use multiple licenses, or create additional features which are not open source, but users can access them in a freemium model way.

I see, but still can't understand why make it Open Source at first place?
Because technology should be that way! As a developer I'd like my users to completely exploit what I've made for them, learn from it, adjust it to their own needs, share it with their friends, push improvements back to upstream.


Still a lot to see

Unless we find a way to turn Open Source software development into a sustainably profitable occupation, closed source companies will pop up and dominate the market, create vacancies and acquire talented graduates. It is a vice circle that restricts people from working/contributing to Open Source projects and users from fully taking advantage of their rights.

After all, this is why Sopler is so special in its own way. My respect to the team, their beliefs and their efforts.


P.S. Didn't do it intentionally, but ~okeanos, Codebender, Sopler, Synnefo and Transifex mentioned above are all truly remarkable Greek Open Source projects/startups! Add Longaccess (and partially Skroutz) to the list.
Follow them, use them and contribute to them!
Visiting Thessaloniki? Take a look at tech communities events aggregator skgtech and Open Thessaloniki open data collection platform for civic innovation.


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Creative Commons License This work by Isaakidis Marios is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Based on a work at misaakidis.github.io