Last Friday was the 6 month anniversary of Nextcloud, a good opportunity to look back and reflect on what we have achieved since we started. I also have some interesting news to share, including that Nextcloud GmbH is a profitable company already!
Half a year ago a most of the ownCloud engineering team including myself started the Nextcloud project. Our goal was to take lessons from the past and create a next generation open source project with a better, more stable company behind it. Those were very ambitious goals but I’m happy to report that things have worked out better then what I was hoping for!
With Nextcloud we wanted to create a more sustainable ecosystem with the right balance between stakeholders’ needs, both technical and business-wise. When done right, both the project and the customers win. I tried this when I started ownCloud but unfortunately I wasn’t successful.
The good news is that it is working very well this time! Nextcloud has gotten a huge community traction as well as massive commercial interest. Let me cover the different areas in more detail.
Nextcloud has become the most active project in our space and we’re still growing fast.
This is because we do a few things right:
- Nextcloud does not assign copyright to a single commercial, for-profit entity (Contributor License Agreement). So contributors don’t have to give up the rights on their code and transfer it to another entity. The way Nextcloud handles this is similar to a lot of other open source projects, creating a fair and level playing field for customers, partners and other participants. Obviously, this is appreciated.
- We decided against an open-core business model, making Nextcloud is 100% open source and free software without proprietary enterprise features. As Gartner points out, open core is at best a marketing tool: customers get none of the benefits of open source and contributors don’t get ownership over the project they built together. With Nextcloud, customers have legal certainty and no vendor lock in while contributors are equal members of the project they participate in. Again, something our customers and contributors love.
See also our blog on why AGPL is great for business users.
- Our hackatons and company meetings are open for people from the outside. We already organized four hackatons in the last 6 months with a significant number of community contributors and partners attending.
- We organized our first Nextcloud conference hosted by the TU-Berlin in Berlin. To be honest this was an ambitious project for such a young community. But it turned out really well with more attendees than expected. Great keynote speakers and nice press coverage. That includes the launch of the Nextcloud Box we did there which was a huge success.
- We revived our Meetup culture. We have now regular meetups in more cities than ever before. I especially want to mention the new meetups in Stuttgart, Frankfurt and Tirana!
- The strong focus on open collaboration is also super attractive for partners and customers. This is still not normal for most software companies.
And does this all work? Yes it does. Look at the community activity statistics. We are are already the most active project in our space and still growing fast. I’m so happy that Nextcloud is back on track as a real open source project, similarly structured to what I learned during my time at the KDE community!
The next big area that I want to cover is Nextcloud as a product itself.
- We created a completely new brand including name, Logo, CI, and so on. And it is a great brand, fresh and relevant, and people love it!
- We released Nextcloud 9 well ahead of schedule, the first though limited milestone in our history.
- With Nextcloud 10 came significant improvements all over the board. The goal was to release all the enterprise features as open source but it also included a lot of new features that are not available elsewhere.
- I’m happy to announce that we will release Nextcloud 11 this month. I don’t want to spoil the surprise here but it will be the biggest and most important release so far with big improvements in speed, reliability and very significant features.
- More information will be available later this month. Please everyone, help test the beta which is already released. It’s 100% open source of course!
I’m happy that Nextcloud is fully AGPL again, the license that I picked at the beginning when I founded ownCloud. This gives everyone legal clarity and guarantees real benefits and freedom to all users and contributors. We don’t mix potentially incompatible licenses which might become a legal minefield. We are committed to protect and defend this license also for our contributors if needed.
6 month ago we also founded a new company called Nextcloud GmbH. The idea was to learn from the past and make this a real sustainable company. It is build to provide a long term home for core developers and a guarantee that the product will be developed and maintained for a long time. Everything at Nextcloud GmbH is build to be a sustainable business. Nextcloud Gmbh doesn’t exist to be sold and it isn’t designed and optimized for an exit. We are completely self funded and we don’t depend on any external investors. This gives us an amount of freedom to do the right thing for the project, company and the people that we never had in the past.
Transparency is key. We do everything in the open. The only exceptions are customer data and legal topics. We even develop our main website in github and we get very significant external contributions from the community. If you’ve seen how our website has evolved and then see who is doing the work, you’ll be looking at another example of the strength of community. I don’t know a lot of companies that have that level of openness!
To really benefit from what the open source model has to offer, we decided not to just be open core for marketing purposes but follow the 100% open source model successful companies like RedHat, SUSE and others are leading with.
Our customers notice and appreciate this, as feedback we got from partners and customers shows. We received significant contributions in both code and other input. This is because the customer or partner knows their work won’t end up in a proprietary product which then makes them pay for their own work later on. Customers also like that they don’t have a lock-in in Nextcloud because it is completely open source. They pay for our excellent expert support and services, like with other real open source companies, and we constantly have to prove our value. And we do, seeing how business is going!
Business wise, confidence in your business model pays off. We are already well over 20 employees and that is only counting full time employees, not partners or freelancers.
The amount of customer interest we get is unbelievable, we still have a hard time processing all the incoming requests and sending out quotes and contracts quick enough. And yes, we’re looking for help! People clearly really like what we are doing.
The big news that I want to announce today is that as of last week we already reached profitability. This is crazy after only 6 months, long before we planned. You might remember that we secured initial funding for three years, which means we will be able to continue to pursue an aggressive growth strategy, investing more in nextcloud and customer satisfaction while maintaining a sustainable business over the coming years.
Investing means hiring and we have a big number of job openings – if you’d like to work for an awesome, innovative, open, young and very healthy company, send your resume!
We’re also looking for partners who want to help bring Nextcloud to an even wider user base – you can use the contact form to talk to us about this.
So what is next? I’m really happy that everyone in the Nextcloud community shares the same vision and idea. We want to enable our users to secure their data, protect their privacy and fix their data handling and communication problems. And that is exactly what we will keep working on, double speed!
Join the Nextcloud community for the 6 month and the next 10 years: make a difference