The company Feaser and the OpenBLT bootloader project are two separate entities with a co-dependence. The goal of this article is to zoom in on this relationship and to explain why this relationship results in both entities to thrive.
Feaser is a company founded in 2003 by me (Frank Voorburg) with the mission to provide quality services and products to the embedded software industry. Although Feaser has successfully completed hundreds of projects for its clients since its inception, one of the key success factors was that the focus was not just on client projects. Time and funds were always made available for internal research and development activities, even if it meant saying no to a lucrative request for a new project.
The OpenBLT bootloader is one of the results of Feaser’s R&D activities. It grew out of the proprietary Loader2Go bootloader product. Although Loader2Go was well received by its users, it never managed to capture the masses. Instead of letting it go to waste, it was decided in 2011 to open up the source code and release it to the community under the GNU GPL. More information on the history of the OpenBLT bootloader project can be found in this blog article.
As the project grew in both functionality and popularity, Feaser received an ever increasing number of project requests to perform OpenBLT bootloader integrations and customizations for clients. This lead to a new idea: Wouldn’t it be great if Feaser could dedicate itself 100% to the OpenBLT bootloader project? The only obstacle to reaching this goal was that the income generated from the OpenBLT bootloader project through client projects was not enough to keep both the company afloat and keep sponsoring the OpenBLT bootloader project.
This was a dilemma, because an open source project can only survive if you keep giving back to it. Otherwise it becomes out-of-date and no one is interested in using ancient software. The solution to this dilemma was to switch to a dual-licensing model. Most clients do not want GNU GPL software in their product due to the responsibilities that come with this license. Since Feaser is the sole-contributor and copyright holder, the OpenBLT bootloader could also be offered under a commercial-license in exchange for a moderate fee. Instead of pocketing the extra income generated by license sales, it is invested back into the OpenBLT bootloader project. At this point in time, it enables me to dedicate up to 50% of my time to OpenBLT development, maintenance and marketing.
It has now been about two years ago since the switch to the dual-licensing model and Feaser’s full-time commitment to the OpenBLT bootloader project. The results are quite amazing. The popularity and user base of the OpenBLT bootloader is consistently growing, leading to more license income for Feaser, and consequently more sponsoring for the OpenBLT bootloader project. This co-dependence between the company Feaser and the OpenBLT bootloader creates a synergy that not only benefits both entities, but also all users of the OpenBLT bootloader. A true one plus one is greater than two scenario.
The future of both the OpenBLT bootloader project and Feaser looks bright and I can’t wait to see where it leads to. I definitely want to thank all the users of the OpenBLT bootloader for their interest, support and feedback. It wouldn’t be possible without you.