You Have to Have Skin in the Game

Periodically I receive inquiries from people in the startup community who are exploring an idea or want an estimate on how expensive this particular idea may be to implement - as is common in the entrepreneurial community I’m happy to pay it forward (because I received help like this when I was just getting started too) and review a pitch deck, specification, or business plan and offer my advice if the person is someone I’ve interacted with online, in-person, or is referred through someone else I know.

Most of these pitches are doomed from the start. It’s not because the idea is terrible (although many often are) or because there’s some impassable barrier to market entry. It’s because the founder has insufficient skin in the game and thus, they’re not going to behave successfully. Why is that?

Skin the Game

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Introducing Sdkbin - The Marketplace for Software Developers

Sdkbin - the marketplace for developers

I’ve written several posts recently about creating sustainable open source projects by treating them like proper businesses - my journey for the past 5-6 years since founding Petabridge has been a quest to find a way to create sustainable, profitable business models built on top of the open source software I’ve spent the last 6-7 years developing.

The greatest obstacle to building sustainable open source businesses today is creating the infrastructure required to sell products + services; fulfill those orders; handle billing; and hardest of all - get discovered by customers. Each of these areas requires building repeatable systems in areas that are mostly unfamiliar to software developers.

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The New Rules for Playing in Microsoft's Open Source Sandbox

Here we go again. “The Day AppGet Died” - the short version: OSS developer fills a hole in the Windows ecosystem, Microsoft offers him a job to work on this kind of product inside the company, ghosts him, releases their competing product which appears to have borrowed heavily from his designs, doesn’t attribute original developer’s work, Internet gets mad, Microsoft gives a non-apology apology, and maybe some kind of resolution.

The moral of the story:

David Fowler and Damian Edwards, some of the leaders of the .NET ecosystem at Microsoft, more or less concurred:

How to Build Sustainable Open Source Software Projects

In my last post about “The Next Decade of .NET Open Source” I alluded to a future blog post about open source sustainability. This is it.

Petabridge logo - a .NET OSS company

Some background: in January 2015, fresh off of the very public failure of MarkedUp, my first company, and the total destruction of my life savings at the ripe age of 29 - I founded my current company Petabridge. We’re five years old now, growing rapidly, and we’re entirely self-funded.

Petabridge is a business built entirely around supporting the users of its .NET Open Source projects, primarily the Akka.NET project, which I founded out of necessity in order to build a real-time marketing automation product at my previous business.

That’s the origin story of how I got here and why I’m delighted to hear others start talking more actively about...

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How to Configure Visual Studio to Use SourceLink to Step into NuGet Package Source

I love SourceLink - it’s fast becoming a standard practice to include SourceLink support in all open source NuGet packages in order to make them easier to debug. We’ve included SourceLink support in Akka.NET and some of our other projects for some time now.

However, I’m embarassed to admit that I’ve never been able to remember how to get this to work properly each time I switch machines or projects. So, I decided to document how to do it.

Before you go through the trouble of configuring Visual Studio to support SourceLink you’ll want to make sure that the third party package you’re trying to debug actually supports it.

The official Microsoft documentation on SourceLink has some guidance for how to do this, but odds are high that popular NuGet packages (i.e. ASP.NET,...

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The Next Decade of .NET Open Source

Over the past week there’s been a ton of chatter about the state of the .NET ecosystem and, more specifically, as to whether or not its OSS ecosystem is healthy and sustainable over the long term.

I won’t bother with the details, but the substantive criticisms amount to:

  1. If you build a popular OSS technology in .NET Microsoft will simply cannibalize it and roll it into a 1st party feature (i.e. Entity Framework cannibalizing NHibernate, built-in DI in ASP.NET Core, etc;)
  2. .NET users are still overwhelmingly Microsoft-centric - i.e. if Microsoft told its users to store all of their passwords in plain text at least 30% of them would blindly do it because Microsoft said so without considering any second opinions;
  3. The .NET ecosystem doesn’t built anything “cool” - there’s no innovation here and thus no real way to attract fresh ideas and younger talent to the ecosystem; and
  4. ...

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Problems and Solutions with the .NET Foundation Maturity Ladder

This is largely the text of an issue I posted related to the .NET Foundation’s new proposed Maturity Ladder for .NET OSS projects. I am fully supportive of the .NET Foundation’s stated mission and wrote this in the hopes of trying to help it achieve that through a little tough love.

After reading (.NET Foundation Directory) Jon Galloway’s reply here I want to raise a fundamental problem that exists with the .NET Foundation in its current form that makes some portions of the ladder proposal distasteful, in my eyes as both the proprietor of an independent .NET OSS business, a project contributor, and as someone who deeply cares about the success of the .NET OSS ecosystem as a whole (it’s why I started Petabridge.)

Microsoft and the .NET Foundation are effectively joined at the hip. Its day to day operations and run by largely by Microsoft employees...

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It's Just Not a Big Deal

In my professional life, I’ve actively conditioned myself to tolerate and accept risks when necessary. Risk tolerance is something that can be learned and taught. But risk tolerance is fundamentally a contextual matter - two people with identical means and skills can have totally different reactions to the stressors risk presents.

There are people who will go skydiving but won’t ever, ever leave their stable corporate job that they hate because the alternatives terrify them. There are people like me who won’t jump out of a perfectly good plane, even at gunpoint, but feel totally comfortable entering work situations even with uncertain economic outcomes.

I’m generally confident and assertive, but my biggest regrets in life have come from situations where I failed to be either. In these moments I make a common mistake: when I weigh my choices, I invent additional possible negative outcomes that don’t actually exist.

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The High Price of Comfort

Chief among the values prized by fellow millennials is comfort. It’s reflected in our more casual dress and our increasing preference for impersonal forms of communication, such as text or Slack. Our desire to form self-reinforcing informational and social bubbles, where we can limit our exposure to different and potentially disagreeable ideas, is fundamentally driven by a desire to avoid discomfort.

Our comfort fetish began with the “self esteem” movement in the early 1990s, when we were elementary aged-children. It culminated into the (rightfully) maligned “participation trophy” culture. And the trend simply continued on under its own momentum from there, leading to the rise of Safetyism and other developmentally self-destructive movements. The pursuit of comfort above all else puts us in a position where we simply sit through and endure the bad hands dealt to us by circumstance.

As I touched on in my previous post, millennials...

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What We Leave Behind

It was roughly a year ago this week that I fled California in pursuit of greener economic pastures. I came to Texas an economic refugee; despite running a successful business in California for a number of years I watched my profit steadily fall beneath the relentless tide of cost of living inflation, taxes, and so on.

It’s a move I’d been wanting to make for years but timing and circumstance stayed my hand until April 2017. And it was a difficult choice too - I was leaving behind my family in California, who are a short drive away from where I lived in Los Angeles. And I really loved LA itself - it’s a great city where you could do something different every day and not see a tenth of it by the time you die.

I made the choice to leave, happily, because it’s backed by intention: I’m not...

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