A multiple case study of small free software businesses as social entrepreneurships

Title: A multiple case study of small free software businesses as social entrepreneurships

Authors: Ann Barcomb (Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg)

Abstract: Free/libre and open source software are frequently described as a single community or movement. The difference between free software and open source ideology may influence founders, resulting in different types of companies being created. Specifically, the relationship between free/libre software ideology and social entrepreneurships is investigated. This paper presents seven case studies of businesses, five of which were founded by people who identify with the free/libre software movement. The result is a theory that small businesses founded by free/libre software advocates have three characteristics of social entrepreneurships. First, social benefit is prioritized over wealth creation. Second, the business’s social mission is not incidental but is furthered through its for-profit activities, rather than supported by the company’s profits. Third, the company’s success is defined in part by the success of its social mission. Free/libre software entrepreneurs who recognize their activities as social entrepreneurships can benefit from the existing literature on the unique challenges faced by socially-oriented businesses.

This contribution to OpenSym 2015 will be made available as part of the OpenSym 2015 proceedings (or companion) on or after August 19, 2015.

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