Making a Career out of Open Source

Peter Zaitsev
Peter Zaitsev co-founded Percona and assumed the role of CEO in 2006. As one of the foremost experts on MySQL strategy and optimization, Peter leveraged both his technical vision and entrepreneurial skills to grow Percona from a two-person shop to one of the most respected open source companies in the business. With over 140 professionals in 30 plus countries, Peter’s venture now serves over 3000 customers – including the “who’s who” of internet giants, large enterprises and many exciting startups. Percona was named to the Inc. 5000 in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Peter was an early employee at MySQL AB, eventually leading the company’s High Performance Group. A serial entrepreneur, Peter co-founded his first startup while attending Moscow State University where he majored in Computer Science. Peter is a co-author of High Performance MySQL: Optimization, Backups, and Replication, one of the most popular books on MySQL performance. Peter frequently speaks as an expert lecturer at MySQL and related conferences, and regularly posts on the Percona Database Performance Blog. He has also been tapped as a contributor to Fortune and DZone, and his recent ebook Practical MySQL Performance Optimization Volume 1 is one of’s most popular downloads. Peter lives in North Carolina with his wife and two children. In his spare time, Peter enjoys travel and spending time outdoors.


1. Making a Career out of Open Source Peter Zaitsev, CEO, Percona April 27, 2019 Percona University Sao Paulo © 2019 Percona. 1

2.Who are you ? Open Source Open Source Aspiring to be Software Software ones ? Founders ? Contributors ? © 2019 Percona. 2

3.Premise of this talk You Love Open Source You want to make a living doing what you love © 2019 Percona. 3

4.What is your Passion ? Open Source in general Certain “space” Certain Open Source Project © 2019 Percona. 4

5.Basic Choices Freelance Get a Job Start a Company © 2019 Percona. 5

6.Picking “space” and a Core Project Hot project in hot space generates a lot of opportunities They may, or may not last © 2019 Percona. 6

7.Bet on a Winner “Winner Takes it All” May be more than one, but small number of Technologies © 2019 Percona. 7

8.Ecosystem Core Project Creates “ecosystem” Opportunity for many smaller projects to thrive Think Linux, PostgreSQL, Hadoop, Kubernetes ecosystems © 2019 Percona. 8

9.Niche in Thriving Ecosystem Can be great focus for Independent Developer © 2019 Percona. 9

10.Open Source Project vs Product Any code on Github can be called Open Source Project Many Projects are focused on their Developer(s) Developer writes what he feels that May not care about documentation, compatibility, QA May not care about user and customer support © 2019 Percona. 10

11.Product – Commitment to Users and Customers Clear Licensing Lifecycle, Compatibility Promise, Upgrades Builds/Packages Documentation Free or Commercial Support, Bug/Issue Handling Security Issues Remediation Quality Assurance © 2019 Percona. 11

12.What is your interest ? Not Every developer interested in the everything it takes to do the product © 2019 Percona. 12

13.Looking into the Choices © 2019 Percona. 13

14.Freelance – Positives Easy to get started Chose what projects to take Can try part time while having other job Can start our own project paid by customers Can develop long term customers and make a good living © 2019 Percona. 14

15.Freelance – Negatives Actually Writing Code may be small part Finding Customers, Negotiating, Collecting, Admin takes a lot of time Many small customers – high overhead one large customer – risky Burnout is common © 2019 Percona. 15

16.Take a Job Company Using Open Source Software Company releasing Internal Software as OpenSource Company Building Open Source Software Product © 2019 Percona. 16

17.Company Using Open Source Software Widest Choice of Companies May be able to contribute some code to Open Source Projects Contribution Policies vastly different between companies Ask on the interview if it is important for you Some companies may restrict contribution even in your free time Contribute to the projects with Bugs Reports, Documentation etc © 2019 Percona. 17

18.Company Releasing Internal Open Source © 2019 Percona. 18

19.Company Releasing Internal Open Source Contribute Code to Open Source Project Often Focus is Internal Customers Community Participation and Personal Brand Development Start the Company based on such product in the future © 2019 Percona. 19

20.Company Building Open Source Product Focus on building Open Source or somewhat Open Source Software Customer Focus in the Product © 2019 Percona. 20

21.Company Stage Early Stage Later Stage • Be at the Project Roots • Stability • More Influence • Clear Processes • More Risk • Less Influence • Variety of Roles • More Corporate • Growth Potential • Equity © 2019 Percona. 21

22.Start Your Own Company Not just Engineering Skills needed! Are you Entrepreneur ? Do you have Business Minded Co-Founder ? Marketing and Selling is a hard job which Engineers often do not appreciate © 2019 Percona. 22

23.Do you need to be Project Founder ? It helps a lot but it is not a requirement RedisLabs great example of company which was NOT started by Redis founder © 2019 Percona. 23

24.Basic Choices Services Product Company Company © 2019 Percona. 24

25.Services Company Can grow out of individual freelancing Can be relatively easy to bootstrap Easy to maintain Independence/Complete Control Low Margin Quite Competitive Business Can be great Lifestyle company but unlikely $1B “exit” © 2019 Percona. 25

26.Product Company Build Product around Open Source Project Funding (Often Venture Capital) is typically required Products are often only partially Open Source If Successful Very large exits are possible © 2019 Percona. 26

27.Current Company Market Capitalization Elastic - Cloudera - MongoDB - $6B $2.9B $7.2B RedHat sold Pivotal - to IBM for $4.9B $34B © 2019 Percona. 27

28.Whatever Path you Chose Invest in Building Personal Brand © 2019 Percona. 28

29.Some Ideas Produce Content • Blog ? Podcast ? YouTube Channel Participate In Community • IRC/Slack Channels, Forums, Conferences Write a Book • Even self published book looks really good Write Some Code • Maintain Great GitHub Profile Get Social • Develop Offline Network, Twitter Following, LinkedIn Connections © 2019 Percona. 29