Open source Locify was a big decision for me. I've thought a lot and made some recapitulation. It's not just about open source. And it's a little bit personal, of course and it's a little bit unstructured. I will take it from the ground up, as usual.
Just basic facts:
- October 2007 Locify founded
- April 2008 first public beta
- October 2008 we run out of (my own seed) money
- All of us had to search day job for money
- still approx every 6-8 weeks we release new version with a lot of new features (see changelog)
- today - February, Thursday 12th we released Locify as open source in version 1.0
- version 1.1 with offline map support scheduled on the end of February
Small addition: Locify is founded in United Kingdom but all developer team (and me) lives in Prague, Czech Republic (Europe).
My initial idea
Simple idea about mobile application as a browser with the ability to get and sent users' location. We will be open, we can attract attention of web developers which want to create location based applications for mobile phones. It will be interested for mobile operators, big sites, broad range of webservice providers. We'll get a lot of users and after that we will add some business models - basically transaction support (if the developer of some service on Locify wants to bill for his service or data) and custom branding (create branded clients for network operators etc.). This can be interesting to some investor or angel. We planned to get investment of approx. $100K to work for 1 year and to show that it is really sustainable idea and that we are able to develop business model. And then get bigger and ..and.. and.. (you know).
And there my mistakes begins
I was not able to explain SIMPLY what we are doing. I hear you saying - "Get out of the business! This is prerequisite condition for a company founder!" Oh yes, you are right. But can you say "I know how to do it (or I will learn it)" or "I cannot do this"? If you fall back on the second "I cannot..." you will never do anything. The Path is the Goal (I think I've first heard it in conjunction with Steve Jobs and Apple and then from reading about Zen).
Back on Simplicity. In fact we thought that we are explaining it simple. Maybe sometimes too simple. But it STILL was too difficult. We was inside and did not see that even "GPS" is not the common term.
The second mistake was, that we promoted "framework". What?! We did not package our "framework" to something which can respond to basic questions, such as "How can I use it NOW" or "What exact benefit can it have for our users NOW". Locify is too general, too adaptive and that's not advantage if you talk to potential investor or device manufacturer or network operator. Better to say - it IS advantage but you have not to make it a key (selling) argument. Like computers on the begining - "can do anything" is blahblah, but "can help you write letters and count taxes" is interesting (for majority or people).
I know that I made all major mistakes entrepreneur has not to do. I do not want to compare but nice article about FluidDB from Robert Scoble and about why they are unfundable remind me that many others have similar experience.
I mentioned this mistakes (above many others) just to demonstrate that "it works" (read it as: "if you do not do some of this basic rules right - it works and you will not get funded" :))
It's not so dark
When we spent all money I've invested to Locify, my first thoughts was: it's the end. I am not programmer and now I do not have money to pay them. But I work with extraordinary people. Especially Destil, Menion and Fabian. They believe to Locify and stayed. They had to find other day job (the same as me ... still searching) but are still very committed to Locify and I think that their day has to be 30 hours long at least. Destil orchestrate open sourcing and client development, Menion is now finishing support for offline maps (will be released on the end of February) and Fabian is playing with geo-location API (GLA) so services written for Locify will be compatible with GLA supported browsers. Thanks to them! Locify is about it's people.
With such breaking point as a "no money" we had to re-think our strategy and goals. And we recognized that our planned business models (as I mentioned above) are not in conflict with opening the source of Locify client. In fact - many benefits are here - for both sides. I suddenly understand much more from The Cathedral and the Bazaar from Eric S. Raymond (introduced to me by Roman Stanek, great goal-focused and open-minded entrepreneur, and I wasted the opportunity to learn something from him 9 years ago.)
Locify helps to add location to web services for mobile users and make it pretty easy. And still there are more than 70% of users which does not have smartphone. Locify means no risk when you consider to develop service for your user's. Locify has a great people. All these facts make me sure that it was not wasted time and Locify has a future.
Locify lives on enthusiasm. But still there are business plans and models. Locify is not slowing. Just take breath for next challenge.
David Cizek, founder
PS: Please share your opinion (but not on my english :))