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The Business of Selling Free Software

Neelan Choksi

Making Community · Extended
Tuesday, 14:30, 40 minutes | Ballroom D


An oxymoron? Is Marc Fleury's "professional open source" alive and well today? Or is it just a disguised marketing campaign? Can investment in Eclipse tools and frameworks continue to thrive without an established set of business models? Or is Eclipse open source akin to subsidized public utilities funded by large software companies? Why bother with QA when you have open source?

It's 2011 and the question is still outstanding. Can anyone but Red Hat make money selling open source software? There have been several notable financial open source successes, mostly acquisitions. There are still dramatic questions about the economic viability of open source, and answers to these questions will define the undercurrents that steer the direction of open source ecosystems like Eclipse.

In this talk, Choksi will discuss the changing open source landscape from vocal minorities that drove costs lower to where open source is now a vehicle for innovation. Additionally, Choksi will discuss the financial viability of open source and the realities of today's open source where the Joker and the Riddler have been replaced by IBM and HP and the citizens of Gotham are the users of Eclipse.

Neelan Choksi is the President & COO of Tasktop Technologies, where he leads Tasktop's business efforts. Tasktop, the company behind the popular Eclipse Mylyn, has received numerous awards for technical and business excellence including being named a Gartner Cool Vendor and an Eclipse Community Award. Neelan also assisted Tasktop as an external board member and advisor for past 3 years before joining fulltime in 2010.

Previously, Neelan was the CEO of Lexcycle, the company behind Stanza, one of the most popular e-book readers for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Lexcycle was acquired by in 2009. Prior to joining Lexcycle, Choksi was the COO at SpringSource, the company behind the popular open source Spring Framework. Choksi joined SpringSource in 2006 and helped lead the company through the transition from a services company into a product company which involved raising 2 rounds of venture capital as well as several acquisitions. In 2008, Choksi left his day-to-day role at SpringSource but remained on the board until the company was acquired by VMware for $420M in 2009.

Neelan was co-founder and president of SolarMetric (acquired by BEA Systems in 2005), a leading object relational mapping provider. At BEA, Choksi lead the effort to open source the Kodo product as Open JPA. He has also worked for TechTrader, Andersen Consulting Strategic Services, and Exxon Research & Engineering. He is a graduate of MIT (and was part of the often-publicized MIT Blackjack team), Stevens Institute of Technology, and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He frequently speaks about the business of open source as well as eBooks and has given keynote presentations at conferences including O’Reilly Tools of Change and Tools of Change Frankfurt, BookNet Canada Technology Forum, New Zealand’s The Future of the Book, and The Spring Experience. He has also spoken at OSCON, BEAWorld San Francisco, EclipseCon, South By Southwest Interactive and a variety of other events on the business of open source.