This article was published on October 3, 2016

How startups can use open source software to compete against the big guys

How startups can use open source software to compete against the big guys
Scott Gerber
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Scott Gerber

Scott Gerber is the founder of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young Scott Gerber is the founder of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at

Although established giants like Microsoft have proprietary software and systems, much of today’s internet is built on open source software. So it’s only natural that companies, startups in particular, are going to build their tools with it too.


Curious about how new companies are using open source to change the business landscape — and be successful despite large tech companies dominating the market — I polled a group of startup founders from YEC, asking them the following question:

How will open source software change the way  SMBs are able to do business or compete against giants?

Brand stories will shine 

Aaron SchwartzOpen source software not only lowers the cost of starting a business, but it also affords more customization. Startups need to stand out, and customizing the experience so it is truly “yours” means that you can provide a unique experience for your fans. Whether that means it’s more fun or more streamlined, when you wow your customers they’ll share your story. – Aaron SchwartzModify Watches

More disruption with custom software 

John HallOpen source software allows more small businesses in industries that haven’t yet been completely disrupted by technology to create agile software with a small team. This kind of access is what helped my team create our own content marketing software to better service our clients in-house. We did it with a small dev team, and we aren’t alone in that. I think we’re going to start seeing more companies use open source software to create custom tech solutions to fit their needs and make them more competitive against industry giants. – John HallInfluence & Co.

More collaborative building 

Dave NevogtOpen source software enables everyone with the skills (not just the job) to collaborate and build onto existing software programs. It removes a few steps from the build and allows smaller companies to create more quickly than large companies who try to do everything in-house. As more and more open source software emerges, and more small businesses build on top of it, the interconnections between software will grow and improve together. It will be like a web of connected tools that are constantly improving and going in unexpected directions. – Dave

Opens the door to doing business with large, established brands 

Kristopher JonesApplication program interfaces (API’s) have made it inexpensive to leverage large data from businesses such as Twitter and Google to build complementary services on top of the larger ones. For instance, Tweetdeck created a service on the backbone of the Twitter API that lets users view multiple timelines in one easy interface. Twitter thought the tool was so valuable that it acquired itSearchMetricsleverages several Google API’s to provide insight into SEO visibility and keyword rankings. SearchMetrics has raised over $30 million to help advertisers better understand Google rankings. – Kristopher

Access to a powerful community and better tools 

RahulGiants are already feeling the threat from open source software, which has been arming smaller companies with the tools to compete on a large scale. Open source allows for smaller companies to have a free reign on building applications that are not restricted by proprietary software, and have a go at unrestricted growth and a faster access to market supported by a much larger community building automation tools for quicker product iteration. The giants are now gradually starting to adopt open source. – Rahul VarshneyaArkenea LLC

Allows for rapid innovation 

Firas KittanehCertain technologies take months if not years to build. In a closed software world, thousands of developers build the same tools in pursuit of the same goal. That, in my opinion, leads to a lot of waste and lost productivity. In an open software world, one team can focus on building one particular software for everyone else to use while the thousands of other engineers allocate their energies towards creating thousands of other unique programs. – Firas KittanehAmerisleep

Offers improved customizability 

Nicole MunozThe ability to customize your software application is one of the most attractive benefits of open source. Open source software opens up the market to small businesses because it puts them on the same level playing field as the giants like Google and Microsoft. If everyone has an open source program out that’s fully customizable, it’s the little guys who might end up with the advantage because they can personalize their service better. – Nicole MunozStart Ranking Now

Small businesses can compete on ideas and execution 

Vik PatelWhen proprietary technologies dominated, it was easy for big companies to maintain their market position by locking customers into their solutions. With open source software and easily available cloud infrastructure, it’s much easier for startups to build competitive alternatives with standard technology available to everyone. Because it’s quite possible to replicate development and production environments on any cloud server, customers are free to move. The best execution wins when vendor-lock-in isn’t an issue. – Vik PatelFuture Hosting

Creativity flourishes 

Shalyn DeverOpen source software gives small companies a creative edge. Having open source software allows all kinds of different talent to contribute without having them to compete as they would at Google and Microsoft. It’s an inexpensive way for small companies to acquire creative, customizable software and stand out from the competition. – Shalyn DeverChatter Buzz

Lowers barrier to entry 

Duran InciOpen source software allows small companies to deploy highly capable digital platforms and compete without having to purchase prohibitively expensive multi-user licenses from software giants like Adobe or Microsoft. It lowers the barrier to entry and allows these small companies to invest elsewhere instead of on expensive software. – Duran InciOptimum7

Improves agility 

Ismael WrixenSmall companies tend to be more agile and faster with adapting new technologies. This means that, when a new tool comes along, you can take advantage of it before others do – especially since the giants have proprietary software they’ve developed and have to use. Given the right circumstances, this could prove to be a major advantage for forward-looking small businesses. – Ismael WrixenFE International

Access to more technology 

Angela RuthWhen all the technology available meant investing in a large platform, small companies could not access the type of technology that would allow them to compete against the giants. With open source software, these small companies can gain access to the technology they need in an affordable way, which means they can change how they operate with more data and tools to provide solutions that consumers may prefer over these giants that simply dominate because they have an endless supply of resources with which to do so. – Angela RuthDue

Easy access to solved problems 

Vishu RamanathanOver the last 10 years, the open source community has completely replaced the entire web stack: OS, Database, Application Framework, App Server, Web Server, everything. Most startups, like mine, are 99 percent open source and 1 percent custom development. This lets us focus all our efforts on the 1 percent that makes us different and helps our customers. You used to have to either pay for all that stuff or do it yourself. – Vishu RamanathanBuildout Inc

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