Open source has eaten the world, evidenced by the myriad major deals that have gone down in open source town in recent times. In 2018, IBM snapped up enterprise-focused open source software maker Red Hat for an eye-popping $34 billion, while Salesforce bought Mulesoft for $6.5 billion a year previous. And just yesterday, Cockroach Labs, maker of the open source distributed SQL database CockroachDB, raised $160 million at a $2 billion valuation.
Founded in 2019, Openbase’s raison d’être is to surface the best open source packages across hundreds of categories, displaying data on weekly downloads, monthly commits, and even GitHub stars. There are other search conduits that serve a similar function, for example GitHub itself and open source package registries such as NPM, PyPi, and Maven; however, Openbase goes further by offering granular categorization and search filters and deeper insights around development activity, popularity, and maintenance. But more than that, Openbase is also opening things up to user reviews. “Think Yelp for open source,” founder and CEO Lior Grossman told VentureBeat.
A graduate of Y Combinator’s (YC) summer 2020 program, Openbase today announced it has raised a $3.6 million in a seed round of funding led by Zeev Ventures, with participation from YC and 20 angel investors, including notable figures from the open source world such as Heroku’s former CEO Adam Gross, Docker cofounder Sébastien Pahl, and Netlify founders Mathias Biilmann and Christian Bach. Yelp CEO and cofounder Jeremy Stoppelman also participated in the round.
The company said that it has grown its platform to more than 500,000 developers a month in just over a year, and hopes to build on that through its “unique analysis and insights of packages that aren’t available elsewhere,” according to Grossman. This includes displaying a package’s star count evolution (i.e., has it improved or deteriorated?), the average time between major and minor releases, and how long it takes to resolve issues.
The issue of online reviews is something of a thorny subject across the online world, with review bombing and similar antics often used to nefarious ends. Indeed, many open source developers work completely for free in their spare time, so it’s entirely conceivable that a platform such as Openbase could deter developers if the review system is misused. Grossman said that the company “takes reviews very seriously” and has put measures in place to counter some of the potential downsides.
“We currently moderate each and every review that goes on the platform, to verify the authenticity, legitimacy, and quality of the review, and we’ll keep doing that for the foreseeable future to ensure high quality of reviews,” Grossman said. “We have built an entire back-office system specifically for the purpose of moderating reviews.”
Additionally, there is a flag button that “allows users to report problematic reviews,” with Openbase investigating each case by itself. Such a system might not be sustainable in the long run, though, which is why the company may delegate some of this responsibility to the community as it grows. “Right now, most of this work is done internally, [but] over time we would like to involve the community more in these efforts by appointing community moderators,” Grossman said.
The business of open source
While Openbase has yet to implement a business model, Openbase will be entirely free for developers to use. The company eventually plans to introduce a subscription model for vendors, so that companies spanning the API, SaaS, infrastructure, and developer tools space pay for more customization, “enhanced call-to-actions,” and to have their package promoted throughout Openbase.
Ultimately, Openbase could serve as a valuable inroad to qualified leads. Although it doesn’t work with companies directly, it does claim to serve developers across the spectrum, from indies and freelancers to employees at Facebook, Google, and Amazon. “With 500,000 developers visiting Openbase every month, we’re at the decision point for billions of dollars in IT spent,” Grossman said.
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