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As part of ebizQ's Open Source Software (OSS) "Talking to…" series, I "met" recently with Roy Russo and Tom Elrod, founders of LoopFuse.

It was the name that caught my attention and the fact that I am always looking for OSS applications because applications-as opposed to more infrastructure software-are the key to the success or failure of the OSS movement. This is the part of the article where my template says to note the interviewee's corporate title. Roy and Tom say they have none, other than co-founders. They haven't got around to picking hard and fast roles yet. They are too busy getting their OSS marketing-support solution company up and running from a standing start after leaving JBoss after the Red Hat acquisition in the summer of 2006.

Therein lay the ingredients for a good OSS entrepreneurial story: Roy and Tom are building a solution rather than another piece of OSS infrastructure using community, they're not afraid to start from scratch, and they have JBoss company and technology experience. Tell me more!

Tom Elrod and Roy Russo first met at an Atlanta-area email marketing company in the late 1990s, where Tom was the Java guru and Roy was a "more traditional programmer." They went their separate ways and met again at JBoss, where Roy had dual role marketing and development roles for JBoss portal, and Tom-who had once headed the Atlanta-area Java users group-began as a contributor and then became one of the earliest employees, taking the lead on JBoss Remoting.

Despite their chief-cook-and-bottle-watcher face forward, the two are firm believers in "professional open source," which was the JBoss mantra in its early days. This of course makes sense because of marketing-support product, which they call a demand generation application, is all about effectively marketing OSS, and measuring that effectiveness with hard numbers. As an ex-marketing guy, I have always been concerned with the seeming disdain that the OSS community has for marketing. OSS purists instead seem to prefer a false hope in a "Build It and They Will Come" Field of Dreams mentality. That is not an issue with Roy and Tom.

In fact, if you're thinking of starting your own OSS firm, they'd not only like to help you do your demand generation, they'd also like to give you some advice based on their JBoss and now LoopFuse experiences:

  • Get used to hearing "no."
  • Believe in the inevitability of your company.
  • Use your competitor's strengths against him and exploit his weaknesses.
  • Listen to your customers/community.
  • Build a superstar team whose members complement each other and all believe in the vision.
  • Always be selling.
  • Do your homework.
  • Build a business plan.


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