This is about learning, not from mistakes, but from a … well … empirical approach to “partnerships”.
When I started up the company 10 years ago, we weren’t on anyones radar. Self funded, running out of my basement. Yeah, real big threat there.
I noticed something though. During our time operating, first as an LLC, then as an Inc., we attracted a range of … er … partners and others. Many of whom would come to try to, for lack of a more accurate way to phrase this, pry ideas, plans, and IP/designs out of us.
At first, I paid it no heed, happy to work with others, pleased to be in control of my own destiny and all that.
But I noticed, over time, that we were getting more and more requests. At the lowest level, you could imagine this being “free” consulting. Thats what people wanted. Give them ideas, review and improve the concept.
They of course would promise (and then later fail) to send business our way. And when we called up to inquire as to projects, our inquiries were quickly brushed aside and new questions on “how”, “what”, “where”, and “why” came about.
We stopped being so free with our time and efforts. Never gave our designs/IP away. We are a business, not a charity. Not a collective for the betterment of society. There are people whose well being depends upon my ability to bring in revenue. This happens when you are responsible for sales as well as most everything else.
It grew. People were noting that some of the stuff we were doing was very good, and they wanted us to share it with them. For free. Tell em how to build it.
Others noted we were really good at optimizing system design to maximize performance of various codes for benchmarks. And they wanted us to share with them how we did what we did. For free. Tell em how to build it.
These inquiries ranged from subtle digging, to overt bullying. If they made promises, never was there a follow through. There was no path to revenue for us that we could really exploit. Our “partners” wanted it all for themselves.
Some of our customers tried this stuff too. Worldwide perpetual, royalty free licenses for software were demanded. Ownership of IP we developed while providing consulting services or support was insisted upon, covering not simply the work we were doing, but … well … everything.
So over time we looked at what was happening and articulated a number of core principles and policies based upon them. I won’t go through them all here, just one.
Our first, and probably most important core principle is that we do not help or teach potential/actual competitors how to better compete against us, under any circumstances. Its real easy for us to savage other peoples crappy designs and stacks. Its much harder to beat a good design, and a good stack. Competing against ourselves is very hard.
Read moreone of the curious features of our history