We launched in 2009, and have always been licensed on a commercial basis. This means that we've been able to bundle top notch support in with license fees, and continue to develop the product based on user feedback. I really love the idea of things being open source and there are definite benefits of being so, but in reality it is very hard to make that model pay.
Instead we've gone for the paid license route, meaning that we could - when we were also doing client work - ensure that Perch was a "first class citizen" and not abandoned for stretches while we chased client projects. As the customer base grew, we could dedicate more time to it.
It's still a tough business to be in, but we've carved out a bit of a niche in it. We aim squarely at small design agencies and freelancers who are rapidly building smallish sites for clients. They buy multiple licenses per month and know that we're around to support them and also that we listen and consider features that they need.
But that was a mistake and this led to the situation we are in right now.
And of course, we can only offer limited support to our free users because it would just kill our business otherwise. We'll work on improving our onboarding process and be more agressive in terms of marketing to generate more revenues that every one will benefit from in the end.
We actually only hear from about 25% of our customers and only 10% raise more than one query, but if you take a look at our forum you'll see a lot of the support we get isn't even anything to do with our product. We're now experts in the horror that is shared PHP webhosting, we end up helping people with their CSS.
So we have a license fee that covers support. People can come into our forum and we'll help them out. As a business focused product that is massively important. If a designer has used Perch to create a site for their client and they have trouble adding the free blog add-on for example, they need to know they can come and ask us about it. That's the biggest difference between us and a "free" product, you get help when you need it.