January 25, 2008

Open Source Meets Business Congress founder boosts OSS in Europe

Author: Joseph Eckert

This week Richard Seibt, the final CEO of an independent SUSE, held his third Open Source Meets Business Congress in Nurnberg, Germany -- birthplace of SUSE. Seibt says the event plays host to 720 people, 60% of whom identify themselves as "c-level decision makers" and 20% of whom say they are "IT professionals."

The Congress lasted three days. The first day was the Investment Summit, intended to instruct attendees on "why to invest in open source," and featuring keynotes from venture capitalist Larry Augustin and IBM's Bob Sutor. During day two, CEOs from Likewise Software, ez Systems, and Liferay, among others, delivered technology keynotes, while the afternoon was filled with workshops containing open source companies discussing collaboration, the desktop, business intelligence and more. Day three included keynotes from Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft as well as "best practices" discussions from -- among others -- the German Post Office.

But the Congress is just a piece of what Seibt is doing for open source. Besides serving on several boards (including as chairman of Open-Xchange), Seibt also chairs the European-wide Open Source Business Foundation, a place, he says, for open source companies to come for support.

"Best practices in open source -- learning, teaching companies how they can generate value for themselves and their customers," is the way Seibt describes the Congress as well as his other initiatives.

"Open source has nothing to do with free," he maintains. "It's about getting your solution easier, testing it on the fly, then choosing (or not choosing) to adopt it for your business."

The support of the foundation takes many forms -- including a European Open Source Business Award of €75,000 as well as an "Open Source Business Association." Foundation workgroups explore topics ranging from patents and licenses to education and training. Seibt has also recruited several coaches to help open source companies prosper. Coaches are available for subjects such as business plans, getting investors, technology approaches, and even business introductions.

"We need, as a community, to be borderless," said Seibt. "A lot of technology has, and will continue, to come out of Europe -- especially with Eastern Europe, including Russia, adding so much. We need to look at the technology and not judge it before hand on the country from which it came.

"Open source really had its birth in Europe, and there is a lot still coming from Europe. In the US, the sales cycle is so much shorter, so if an open source company can make it there, they can make it big -- and I want to help them."


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