How to Scale Open Source Software

published By Parth Chhaparwal , March 16, 2024

India’s developer community, currently the second largest globally, is projected to surpass the US by 2027. In 2023, 3.5 million Indian developers joined the GitHub community, bringing the total to 13.2 million. The widespread adoption of open-source technologies among the Indian developer community is notable, with 85% of the country’s internet running on open-source software (OSS). However, the community’s contributions to building such software remain limited. Companies like Postman, Hasura, AppSmith, and Signoz are trailblazers in open-source innovation, and the time is right for entrepreneurs to embrace this model. Despite the potential, a common challenge we have observed among Indian entrepreneurs building OSS products is scaling open-source communities. In this article, we are sharing our learnings from founder conversations that will help entrepreneurs build and scale OSS communities.

Mechanics of open source network effects

Today’s developer tool entrepreneurs recognize the value of cultivating open-source communities around their products. With this approach, they drive product adoption, gather user feedback, and improve their products. Consequently, a new product-led go-to-market strategy has emerged, characterized by the creation and growth of open-source networks. 

An open-source network is characterized by 3 contributors within the network

  1. The project creator is the entity that wants to kickstart an open-source network around a centralized vision. Usually, this is the startup that wants to increase the adoption of its products via an open-source community. The main role of the creator is to write the first lines of code, set an overarching vision for the project, and make efforts to get contributors and users onto the platform. Creators are usually a few in number.
  2. Contributors are developers who add to the codebase of the project and expand its scope and performance. The incentive for them to spend their time and contribute is rarely monetary. Usually, it is the belief in the creator’s vision, the willingness to learn and apply new technologies, and the drive to improve the project for self-usage that drives contributors to improve the codebase. 
  3. Users are individuals who utilize the open-source code in their products according to the scope defined by the creator, which can include both commercial and non-monetary applications. Users are essential in promoting the widespread adoption and application of the open-source project.

To understand the dynamics of an open-source network, let’s examine a minimal viable setup consisting of a creator, a contributor, and a user. These three roles must be mutually beneficial and provide incentives to sustain the network:

  • The creator sets the project vision and mission, which invites the contributor to add to the project codebase. A contributor enhances the codebase, making it more attractive for creators to invite additional contributors and users. 
  • Once the open-source code becomes usable, a user applies it to their products. In return, the contributor benefits from the growing community and the product feedback provided by a user, helping improve the codebase. 
  • A user may also contribute to the project’s reputation by writing reviews, making it easier for creators to attract more contributors and users. Creators might offer personalized support to users to further strengthen the network..

As an open-source network grows and attracts more contributors and users, its potential for success increases. A crucial turning point occurs when super-users join the platform, as they act as both contributors and users. Super-users contribute to the codebase, use it in their products, and improve it, ultimately enhancing the overall value of the open-source repository. Once a substantial number of super-users are involved, the creators can shift their focus from expanding the network to capturing monetary value, by providing personalized support to these superusers.

Strategies for scaling open source networks

We’ll now discuss what are the best practices followed in scaling and launching open source software. There are 4 critical steps involved in scaling an open source network, namely, launching an OSS project, building a community, scaling it, and finally monetizing the product.

Launching an OSS Project

Documentation + Open Source License + Base Code

There’s a lot of effort that has to be put in before you actually launch your open source project. The more prepared you are for the launch, the lower the barriers would be for building your open source community. 

At this step, there is only one entity, that is the creator of the project, within the network. It’s critical to define the project goals and the target audience, similar to what you would do when you build your pitch deck for a startup. This creator’s vision has to be documented as your first entry to the README file, which is the dedicated document for anyone who wants to learn about the project. While the vision is what the project has to look like in a span of several years, there always has to be a starting point, which in this case, would be a functional base code contributed by the creator, that solves for atleast one use case contributing to the overall vision. Given that the code is will be pushed into production, the README file has to be expanded to included the software’s installation instructions and usage examples. 

The creator now has to choose the open-source license and establish community guidelines for the project, to define how the community’s code can be altered, managed and utilized. There are several types of licenses which projects can choose from, depending how they want to use the source code in their projects (derivative code). Several open-source stalwarts, including Apache, Mozilla, and GNU, have launched different versions of these licenses. 

The last step involves choosing  a hosting platform for the code and the documentation, consisting of the README and other file. Github is the most popular hosting platform for open source projects. WIth all this, the creator would now be ready to launch their open-source project.

Building the community

While scaling network effects, starting it is often considered the most difficult step. Given the cold start problem of starting a network, there’s no right answer for how do you do so. Fortunately, for open-source networks, this allows you to be extremely creative in getting your first contributor and users. 

It’s important to create awareness about your project in advance of the official launch date. This involves having an effective and consistent content strategy: blog posts, tutorials, or video demonstrations showing the software’s capabilities and use cases. But just creating content is not enough. It must be directed toward’s the ‘ideal developer profile’ of the project -individuals who possess both interest in the project’s domain and the necessary technical skills to contribute.. E.g. For an open-source LLM for biological modeling, the ideal developer profile would be researchers within biotechnology labs at universities, skilled in bioinformatics. For example, if the project is an open-source Large Language Model (LLM) for biological modeling, the ideal developer profile might be university-based biotechnology researchers with expertise in bioinformatics. 

Open-source events serve as valuable platforms for connecting with skilled and experienced developers in the field. Given the global nature of open-source networks, attending these events can significantly contribute to finding initial collaborators for specific projects. Notable Asia-focused events include Open Source India (OSI), fossAsia, ReactIndia, Angular India, and PyCon India.

Once a suitable number of developers have joined the network, it’s crucial to open it up to end-users. Building a strong reputation on platforms such as ProductHunt, HackerNews, and Reddit can help attract the initial wave of users to the network. By engaging with these communities, you can effectively showcase your open-source project and drive user adoption.

The metric for success in this step becomes achieving the milestone of a 1000 stars on GitHub., which indicates that the community is flourishing with a strong feedback.

Scaling the Community

As the open-source network gains momentum, it’s essential to maintain balance and engagement among contributors and users to prevent potential collapse. Creators must establish clear practices and institutionalize processes to ensure consistency and project identity. Some key steps to achieve this:

  • Hire community managers: Managers will help bring together the growing community of contributors and users, facilitating effective communication and collaboration.
  • Evolve and refine documentation: As the network expands, the documentation should become even clearer, providing comprehensive guidelines for new developers.
  • Optimize creator-developer communication: Creators often use platforms like Slack or Discord to interact with contributors and community managers. These channels enable efficient communication and help resolve doubts quickly.
  • Provide ample resources for newcomers: A successful open-source network should offer enough resources for new developers to get started while maintaining a balanced interaction between creators and community members.

As the center of the network shifts from the creators to the contributors, it is important to create consistent incentive structures for developers. Typically, this involves establishing a mentorship program between experienced developers and new developers. There are certain formal programs like the Google Summer of Code, which empowers experienced developers within an open source community to mentor and share the project’s culture with the next generation of developers joining the community. Other modes of recognizing and appreciating high-performing contributors includes contributor badges, shoutouts on social media, or even leadership roles within the project.

By offering mentorship and recognition, creators can ensure a supportive environment that nurtures growth and attracts talented developers to the open-source network. This helps maintain the network’s long-term success and relevance within the development community.

Monetizing the OSS Project

There are several ways to explore monetization while staying true to the open-source spirit:

  1. Open Core Model involved offer a free, open-source core version. Additional functionalities can be added for a fee. This model applied to both business and consumer end users.
  2. Donations and Sponsorships set up on platforms like Patreon, Open Collective, or GitHub Sponsors help the creators accept donations from individuals and organizations who value your project.
  3. Paid Services such as professional training, consulting, or custom development work related to your software become a source of revenue for these projects. 
  4. Freemium Model provides a limited free version of your software with the option to upgrade to a paid version that removes limitations.

Understanding an open-source project’s monetization strategy involves considering three essential aspects:

  1. Community’s needs and expectations to ensure that the approach doesn’t introduce barriers that may distance the contributors core users. 
  2. Project’s maturity to ensure that its foundation, community engagement, and demonstrated value are at their maximum
  3. Long-term sustainability for development, maintenance, and user support.


Building and scaling open-source networks is a journey that requires strategic planning, dedication, and continuous engagement with your community. By understanding the roles of creators, contributors, and users, you can foster a collaborative environment that enables growth and innovation. To ensure sustained success, create clear practices, incentivize developers, and tailor your monetization strategy to your project’s needs. By leveraging the power of open-source networks and communities, developers can now establish a bottom-up, product led growth strategy for adoption of their products. At Venture Highway, we are big believers in open-source as a catalyst for innovation and global adoption. We look forward to meeting entrepreneurs building such products and utilzing the open-source growth motion to their full potential.

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