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> Unfortunately, our observation is that the ratio of commercial to free users is about 1 to 25.

That's a ~4% conversion rate. Anyone have data for any similar OSS software libraries with a free tier?




We ( https://sheetjs.com/ ) started from a series of open source projects (our largest https://github.com/sheetjs/js-xlsx has more than 15K stars) and offer a slew of related solutions, including more advanced builds of our open source offerings as well as complementary software.

The ratio of customers to open source users is largely useless. To "convert" users, you need to offer something above and beyond what is available in the open source offering. Unless you have something compelling, people won't "convert" out of altruistic desires. Unfortunately that's not how business works. We found many companies deciding to fork our open source libraries before even considering contacting us (for example, the John Deere homepage https://www.deere.com/en/ uses a forked version of our open source offering)

To "increase the conversion rate" you have to either improve the value of the commercial offering or cripple / remove the open source offering. They seem to be doing the latter.


Most people simply don't understand how enterprise companies work.

You think you have plenty of money to spend and it's easy to get licenses for software. Nope. It's often harder than being in a small business. Licenses often mean lengthy RFPs with extensive Legal and Procurement involvement.

Need to try and sneak things under the radar if you want to get them to buy your products.


This is a good point. To add some colour to this. In my experience it's not that there's no money to spend. There's tonnes of money to spend, but there's also tonnes of people to spend it. The result is within the company you develop experts, people who know how to get access to the budget. Every year those experts spend a non-trivial amount of time making sure they get the company's budget. They spend tonnes of money, whilst the average employee never sees any cash in their entire tenure.

So in some ways it makes sense to make your enterprise price incredibly high - because the people within large companies will either be able to spend loads of money, or non at all. Very few will be anywhere in between (and will find it very difficult to pay or continue to pay over time).


Related, search for free cheap and dear in this clsssus Spolsjy article:

https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2004/12/15/camels-and-rubber-...


It is also important to take the price point into consideration. Many large organizations have special rules for small (<$100) expenses.


> To "increase the conversion rate" you have to either improve the value of the commercial offering or cripple / remove the open source offering.

I'm not even sure if that would have much influence: the line between paying and non-paying might be just the divide between companies where it's hard to get paid licencing approved and companies where it's hard to get unpaid licensing approved. The key to a high commercial open source conversion rate might be targeting industries where lingering distrust of open source is still common.


> To "increase the conversion rate" you have to either improve the value of the commercial offering or cripple / remove the open source offering.

Certainly you can easily jump to "100%" conversion rate by dropping an open source offering so there's no conversion to rate, but never forget that conversion rate is a bad metric to optimize in this case. You can have a very high conversion rate of a very low number of users very easily, and that doesn't mean you get paid more at the end of the day, though.

Removing/crippling an open source offering can backfire in simple and obvious ways such as killing community goodwill, or crippling any conversion rate momentum you have in existing marketing efforts and conversion paths. It can be a quick way to shrink your entire audience for the project.

So yes, the ratio of customers to open source users is largely useless, but I'd say more for the same reason that any ratio metric fails to account for magnitudes of scale, rather than necessarily blaming individual users on either side of the "conversion fence".


Seeing you around, I wonder: is Handsontable's soon-to-be-released Spreadsheet Viewer [0] using SheetJS (Pro [1]) / js-xlsx or is related in any way?

[0] https://handsontable.com/spreadsheet-viewer/ [1] http://sheetjs.com/pro


Maybe they tried to contact but you didn’t reply? This happened to us, twice.


Dual licensing with AGPLv3 and a commercial license might also work.


One thing that might help is to have pricing front and centre.


Honestly depends on the price and the type of customer you are after. On a personal level I agree with you and when I worked at smaller companies with tighter budgets no price meant no sales. However with enterprise level sales price is almost never the stumbling block, having a sales team that can customize the offer to fit into your particular companies sales process is what makes or breaks a deal.


Not the same area, but the norm for installable user-oriented desktop software with a trial option is between 1-2%. If you get to 5%, it's good. 10-15% is phenomenal.


It was even worse for CKEditor:

> From these thousands of businesses and millions of downloads, a very small group (less than 0,5%) decides to enter into business relations with CKSource.

Source: https://github.com/ckeditor/ckeditor5/issues/991

However, the difference is that all CKEditor 4's plugins were open sourced and licensed under a permissive set of GPL2+/LGPL/MPL licenses. So the project was funded by a combination of support, SLAs and commercial licenses.

With CKEditor 5 (a completely new project) we chose GPL2+. I will be able to tell you how it worked for us in a couple of years


VCV (https://vcvrack.com/) converts 2.6% of its free users to customers of its commercial plugins.




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