Thursday, May 17, 2007

The club of the 1,000,000 downloads

I was looking at our stats on ObjectWeb today and I saw we passed 1,000,000 downloads also there (the number on OW does not consider our initial downloads in SourceForge). Almost 800,000 of them happened in the last 18 months.

A couple of years ago, when I was raising Series A funding (nope, not the Italian soccer league, the first round of Venture Capital funding), I used the boom of our downloads as the key to convince investors we were going to get big. John at Sugar did the same. Everybody in open source did it. Downloads were the key metric.

The question I have now is "does it still matter?"

Probably, it does... At least as a threshold to separate successful open source projects from wannabes. However, when you get to the club of the 1,000,000 downloads, I feel it just does not matter that much anymore.

I am not sure how many open source projects we have in the club (but it would be fun to count them) and how many commercial open source projects (another interesting statistic). However, if you are a commercial open source company with 1M downloads, it does not matter if you have 2M or 3M of those at the end of the year. What now matters is if you were able to translate that into sales...

I have a feeling VCs do not invest in downloads anymore (and I would like to see Larry's statistic including only Series A deal). They are back investing in sound business models and customer traction.

Actually, my sense is that VCs are now looking at revenues more for open source companies than for any other company. You have to prove you can make money, if you are an open source company. If you are YouTube or one of the thousand Web 2.0 company, you are off the hook. For now, until the wind will change...

Bottom line: if you are out there working hard to join Funambol in the 1,000,000 club, make sure you do not forget the top line ;-)