Open Source // Open Society

Making open source culture more accessible to governments, established businesses, startups, and the public.

[See below for a special limited offer]

os//osIf you know me at all well, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of Open Source. I run Linux on my laptop (OK, it actually runs in a VirtualBox on Windows), and I believe that I negotiated the first Open Source software development contract with the New Zealand Government in 2003. This week’s Startup of the Week is not your traditional two-hackers-in-a-garage startup, but rather a conference and community that has the potential to turn New Zealand into a world leader.

Open Source // Open Society ran its first conference ran last year, and the organisers and participants were so thrilled with the results that they’ve committed to making it an ongoing annual event. The main purpose is to celebrate open source culture and its potential impact on wider culture and society. There are four basic principles: Participation, Collaboration, Transparency, and Freedom to innovate, and they can disruptively transform the way we interact with each other, the way we do business, and the way we govern ourselves as a society.

This conference is not only for beardy Richard Stallman wannabes. The speaker lineup includes some serious firepower from government agencies like Statistics New Zealand and the US Department of Homeland Security, businesses like Catalyst IT, Enspiral, and Silverstripe, and civil society organisations like Action Station and Figure.NZ. Personalities like Mark Jennings, Evan Henshaw-Plath, Bernard Hickey, Max Rashbrooke, and former prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer will also be taking part. And the people backing the conference are equally diverse, including MBIE, Victoria University, Flick Electric, iWantMyName, Te Papa, and others.

Anthony Cabraal
Anthony Cabraal

According to cofounder Anthony (Ants) Cabraal, New Zealand is the perfect place to have this discussion. “We have a really progressive public sector, we’re ambitious, and we’re ready to lead the world in designing new ways of collaborating to bring about more open government and more democratic engagement.” And Kiwis have a knack for contributing – I don’t have any stats to hand, but I’d venture to guess that New Zealand is near the top of the table for highest number of open source contributions per capita of any country.

Silvia Zuur
Silvia Zuur
Linc Gasking
Linc Gasking

Ants says that the idea for OS//OS started in 2014 when Github planned to come to New Zealand to hold their first user conference outside of the United States. Linc Gasking had a vision to take advantage of this and turn it into something much bigger, just before leaving the country to focus on 8i. With not much time left before the conference was scheduled to take place, Ants and cofounder Silvia Zuur managed to “catch the grenade just before it hit the ground” and turn the conference into a resounding success, with 380 people attending.

Ants says that scaling from year one to year two has been really interesting, building the brand, and establishing a trajectory and direction. Everything about the conference will be bigger and better this year – more sessions, more speakers, more workshops. This year, in addition to the conference, there are three additional associated events. The first one was Open Data Day which took place on 7 July. There will also be a Collaboration Café on 18 August, and an Open Source Hackathon at Enspiral Dev Academy on 20 August.

For a conference like this to work, it needs a really strong voice from innovators, people willing to think outside the box, and startup entrepreneurs. In other words, people like you. It will be a rare chance to learn from and connect with global leaders in open source thinking for technology businesses, and extend your networks across the tech, business and government sectors.

SPECIAL OFFER

To that end, we can give you a special offer of half-price tickets to OS//OS for subscribers to this blog. In order to qualify, you need to be a registered subscriber – just fill in the form on the subscribe page, and respond to the confirmation email. We’ll send out the promo code and instructions to subscribers only on Thursday 4 August. But be in quick – we only have 15 tickets to give away.

If you miss out for some reason, you can get full-price tickets from the OS//OS site.

Hopefully this year’s OS//OS will be a hit, and we’ll look forward to many more years of conference like this that bring together the government, tech, and innovation communities. I’ll see you there.

Linewize

Cloud managed content filtering for schools.

LW_logo_stackedManaging Internet access at schools is a very hard job. On the one hand, you don’t want students accessing inappropriate content, or spending their time and the school’s bandwidth frivolously. On the other hand, you don’t want to restrict their learning opportunities, for example by blocking information on breast cancer, and you also want to teach students how to think critically about their own activity so that when they leave the protective environment of the school, they’ll have the skills to keep themselves out of harm’s way. You’d want such a service to be easy to use, administrated centrally, give teachers some discretion about what is or isn’t allowed, run on just about any hardware, integrate with Google Apps For Education, be really cost effective, and most importantly, help students learn from their choices.

That’s Linewize. The product is a cloud-managed firewall which doesn’t merely block all content that’s nominally off-topic, but rather gives both teacher and student visibility over the student’s allocation of time and attention so that the student can learn to behave responsibly with guidance. Rather than just creating content barriers that can inevitably be broken or bypassed, this product teaches kids how to evaluate and be accountable for their choices – a far better paradigm for creating critically thinking decision makers and content creators of the future. As a strong proponent of an Open and Uncapturable Internet, I believe the experiential education aspect of this product is a philosophical watershed.

Linewize is currently deployed in over 100 schools in New Zealand ranging from 70 to 2,800 students, and have customers in over 30 countries, growing at roughly 20% per month.

Their revenue model in education is simple: schools are charged ~50c per student per month with volume discounts. Sales are conducted mainly through channel partners, who are attracted by configuration setup and maintenance and the ability to cross-sell higher value services. There are some direct sales as well, as a result of schools downloading their open source firewall and then wanting to plug into the managed service.

They have a variety of other higher value managed network access services for business and government, using Managed Service Providers (MSPs) as a channel. One interesting use case for businesses is creating visibility of how employees are spending their time online. Early next year, they’ll be releasing a retail consumer product that allows parents to monitor and control their kids’ wifi usage. This is becoming a significant issue, as kids bring home their BYOD devices from school into a domestic environment that’s a lot less safe than schools.

Linewize brings together four things that I love: Open Source (their basic firewall, Open Edgewise, is GPL),  experiential education, cloud-based managed services, and a highly scaleable global business model.

Cloud managed networking is rapidly becoming a big thing – look no further than the rise of SDN and Google Fi for examples of how these kinds of technologies are radically changing the way we think about network management. Linewize isn’t on the bleeding edge, but it’s well ahead of the curve. The resulting benefits are lower cost, lower reliance on specialist knowledge within organisations, and greater resilience.

Michael LawsonScott NoakesCofounders Scott Noakes and Michael Lawson are a strong team, and have been working together for the last six years. Before Linewize, they took Adscale Labs from startup to major trade sale, serving 300 million ads per day mainly in Germany along the way.

Scott says that things are about to take off in a big way, as they will soon announce an OEM distribution agreement with a major international player that will dramatically increase their footprint overseas, and particularly in the US market.

Linewize has been bootstrapped and funded by the founders, and has just hit break-even. They’re planning to raise capital in the first half of 2016 to fuel international expansion.

They’re also on the lookout for a customer facing network support engineer, so please contact them directly if you know anyone who might be interested.