How do Open Source Companies Make Money | Business Models & Case Studies

Open source software has been around for many years, and it has played a vital role in shaping the software industry. Open source software allows anyone to use, modify and distribute software freely.

With the rise of open source, there has been a significant increase in open source companies. However, many people wonder how open source companies make money.

In this blog, we will explore the different business models of open source companies, case studies of open source companies and the advantages and challenges of open source business models.

Open Source Business Models

Open source companies have various business models to generate revenue. Some of the most common business models are:

1. Selling support and consulting services

Open source enterprises may assist their customers adopt and use their products successfully by offering support services. This includes a wide range of duties, including as addressing technical issues and giving guidance on how to modify their product to match their unique needs. The fact that these services are usually provided as subscriptions enables firms to generate ongoing revenue.

Additionally, consulting services give open source businesses a chance to make money by offering specialized knowledge in fields where their clients might lack the requisite resources or abilities. This might range from custom development to instruction and training.

2. Selling proprietary add-ons and extensions

One of the various ways open source businesses may generate revenue is by selling exclusive add-ons and extensions. These are additional features or capabilities that are available exclusively to clients who pay for them and are not part of the free software.

To keep the open source aspect of the core application while attracting paying customers, businesses must find a balance between offering enough value in their proprietary add-ons.

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3. Custom development

With this approach, open source software is modified to meet the particular needs of certain clients. By doing this, open source enterprises are able to use the core open source technology while also providing customized options that consider specific customer demands.

Open source businesses may build long-lasting relationships with their clients through customized development, which encourages repeat business and consumer loyalty.

Additionally, the company’s open source solutions may be improved by including new features and technologies that are tested on bespoke development projects.

4. Cloud-based services

Cloud-based services have completely changed how businesses work because of their adaptability, scalability and affordability. Because cloud services provide a platform for providing clients with value-added services, this has given open source firms additional revenue-generating possibilities.

Open source companies offer a wide range of services like software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS),

5. Enterprise-grade features

Offering enterprise-level functionality is one way open source businesses may make money. These sophisticated features are often created for big businesses with complicated IT infrastructures. These features typically include security, scalability, high availability and support.

6. Dual licensing fee

In this model, the same software is available under two separate licenses

  • Exclusive commercial license
  • Free and open source license

Users have access to the source code and are free to change and distribute it under the terms of the free and open source license.

However, a user has to buy the exclusive commercial license if they wish to use the program for business or if they want access to more features and support.

Companies like MySQL, Qt and MongoDB have adopted this business model to create large profits while preserving the advantages of open source software.

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7. Donations & Crowdfunding

Donations are a quick and efficient method for the community to help open source businesses financially. On their websites, a lot of open source organizations have donation options that let users make one-time or regular contributions. Donations may assist businesses with covering costs like server bills, hiring developers and marketing campaigns.

Crowdfunding enables companies to raise larger sums of money. Open source companies have raised money for the development of new products and features by using websites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter.

8. Partnerships and sponsorships

Partnerships may take a variety of forms including joining up with other companies, jointly produce and market items, collaborating with service providers and provide clients comprehensive solutions. Through partnerships, open source firms may get access to new markets, obtain complementary technologies and utilize the skills of their partners.

On the other side, Sponsorships provide open source businesses access to funding from groups who appreciate their goals and the worth of their goods. Grants, gifts and other financial contributions are all possible ways to obtain this assistance.

9. Selling data

The data generated by open source firms’ products and services may be used to create new revenue streams. To understand user behavior, preferences and needs better, they may gather and analyze user data.

Third-party businesses looking for user demographic data may purchase this information or receive it from you. Open source companies may also use data to create customized marketing or advertising campaigns.

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Case Studies of Open Source Companies

Let’s now examine a few case studies of successful open source businesses:

Red Hat

Red Hat is one of the most successful open source companies. They work together with other software developers and give their open source programs enterprise-level support. Red Hat generated around $3.4 billion by 2020.


The Firefox web browser was developed by Mozilla Corporation. They earn money by collaborating with search engines and other companies that use their search technology. In addition, they get contributions from private individuals.


MySQL is a database management system available as a free download. They offer high-quality services and support for their products. Sun Microsystems spent $1 billion to acquire MySQL in 2008.


Docker is an open source container platform that enables programmers to create, share and manage distributed applications. They generate revenue through their enterprise edition, which offers additional features and support.

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Elastic provides a search and analytics engine that is open source. Their enterprise edition, which has more features and support, is how they make money. Elastic generated $608.8 million in revenue in 2020.


GitLab is a platform for open source code collaboration. The way they generate money is through their enterprise edition, which offers additional features and support. GitLab, a SaaS business, levies a similar monthly membership fee for its service.

Advantages and Challenges for Open Source Companies

Community EngagementMonetization
Faster InnovationCompetitive Pressure
Better Code QualityLack of Control
Talent AttractionLicensing Issues
CollaborationPerception of Inferiority
Increased securityCompetition
Lower costsIntegration
ScalabilityLegal issues


Open source companies have various business models to generate revenue. These models include service and support, dual licensing, open core, donations and grants, SaaS and custom development and consulting. Successful open source companies like Red Hat, Mozilla, MySQL, Docker, Elastic and GitLab demonstrate the viability of these business models.

Open source business models include advantages like lower costs, more innovation and collaboration as well as community building and marketing, but they can have disadvantages like unstable income sources, problems with product monetization and increased competition.

Nonetheless, the future of open source companies looks bright, as open source software continues to play an essential role in the software industry.


What are Open Source Companies?

Open Source Companies are the businesses that offer software-related products or services that are built on open source software that is available for free distribution and modification.

How do Open Source Companies make money?

Open Source companies can generate revenue in a number of ways including, by charging for premium features or editions of their software, charging for support and services for their Open Source software, charging for expert training and consulting services, charging for customizations and integrations for customers and charging for advertising or sponsorship.

Can Open Source Companies charge for their software?

Yes, Open Source Businesses can charge for their software as long as they comply by the terms of the Open Source Software upon which they are based. While some Open Source licenses permit more flexibility, some, like the GPL, mandate that any software developed using them must likewise be distributed under the same terms.

What are some examples of successful Open Source Companies?

Some examples of successful Open Source Companies include Red Hat, MongoDB and Elastic.

What are the benefits of using Open Source software?

Open source software often costs less than commercial software since it may be downloaded and modified without restriction.

Can Open Source Companies compete with traditional software vendors?

Yes, Open Source Businesses can compete with traditional software companies, and in some circumstances, their reduced costs may give them an advantage. Open Source Companies must have a sound business plan and the ability to set themselves apart from their rivals due to the often intense competition.

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