April 7th, 2023
We were among the first 20 teams ever to run through the Open-Source Accelerator by Github. Read about our experience and if we would do it again:
In December of last year, we completed a rather brief questionnaire to apply for the inaugural batch of the GitHub Open-Source Accelerator. With not much information available, we went ahead and applied, hoping for the best. The timing couldn't have been more perfect, as both Matti and I had just wrapped up our freelance gigs to start working full-time on Formbricks.
As Christmas, New Year's Eve, and my birthday passed, we continued working diligently on Formbricks, iterating to pinpoint the right niche offering. Over the preceding months, we had learned what wouldn't constitute a good venture case (Typeform open-source), what wasn't technically feasible (building blocks for all form and survey solutions), and what was too narrow to start with (PMF survey only).
January and February came and went. On the 22nd of March, we received an email from the GitHub team:
Needless to say, we were thrilled! We were selected from over 1000 open-source projects, alongside renowned and popular projects like Nuxt, TRPC, and Responsively App. Here is a summary of what we got:
What the GitHub Accelerator offers on paper
✅ Ten sessions with well-known figures from the open-source community (Wednesdays)
✅ Ten optional co-working sessions (Fridays)
✅ 20.000 USD equally divided among core maintainers
✅ One-on-one session with the GitHub team to align on goals and objectives
What we also gained
👌 Network of builders, maintainers, and founders in the open-source space
👌 Solid connection with GitHub (including a warm introduction to GitHub's venture arm 😏)
👌 Enhanced credibility in the open-source community, thanks to association with such a significant supporter of open source
I mean look at all these happy people:
Here's an overview of the ten sessions and their relevance to us as a venture-focused startup:
Week 1: Kick-Off, Licensing 101 and setting up with Abby
Great to meet everyone, Abby is a great host and the licensing session was very useful. We had already decided on our license but it was useful nontheless.
Week 2: Finding Sponsors with Caleb Porzio
This was a really fun one! Caleb is a driven entrepreneur with many ideas and loooots of experience monetizing his two main projects Livewire and Alpine.js. Come up with a way to monetize a popular OS project, Caleb scaled it. Not suuuper relevant for us though.
Week 3: Taking Funding: Brian Douglas
Brian is building OpenSauced and shared his journey of raising VC as an OS startup. Lots of great insights, Brian is super approachable 😊
Week 4: Evan You: Sustainable Open Source
Evan You famously created Vue.js (which is on track to pass React in GitHub ⭐) and Vite. Evan had a lot of useful Do’s and Dont’s for us, great session!
Week 5: Didn't happen due to Maintainer Summit.
Week 6: Mike Perham - Starting a Software Business
Mike is an absolute legend! With SideKiq he makes over 300k USD per month 🤯 He was very open and down to earth. One of his best advice: If a customer annoys you, stop serving them. He was able to pull this off because he has been blogging about Ruby for years and is well-known in the community. And, obviously, his solution kicks ass!
Week 7: Duane O’Brien and Dawn Foster: Working with Enterprises
Lots of useful insights around how enterprises handle open-source, barriers for corporate use and how to handle corporate sponsorships and donations. The notes will come in really handy down the line!
Week 8: Marko Saric: SaaS-side of Open Source
Marko is the marketing co-founder of Plausible. I think everyone in the SaaS space knows Plausible since they hit 1M ARR bootstrapped. Marko also blogged a lot about Plausible which really helped it grow in the first years. Gifted marketeer, great session!
Week 9: Governance with Shauna Gordon-McKeon
For us this wasn’t super relevant as Formbricks is ruled by a BDFL (Benevolent Dictator For Life) i.e. us but the discussion among the teams was really insightful. Helped us a great deal to understand the challenges of purely community-driven projects.
Week 10: VC Funding and the legal Side of OSS with Erica Brescia from Redpoint
Ericas talk was really impressive and so is she: Founder of Bitnami, COO of GitHub and Board Member of the Linux Foundation all happened before she started as an investor at Redpoint Ventures. Her deep insights from both the founder and the VC perspective are invaluable!
GitHub Demo Day: All teams presented what they achieved during the 10 week programm. It was great fun to present Formbricks, you can watch it on Youtube.
Would we do the GitHub Accelerator again? And should you?
Yes, absolutely. The sessions were excellent, we met a handful of inspiring builders, and the 20k USD was a helpful financial boost. The application process might evolve, but since all of your code is open-source anyway, you might as well throw your hat in the ring.
Gratitude to Kara, Abby, and the entire GitHub team - we learned a lot! 😊
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