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Weaveworks' lessons for open source business leaders

Weaveworks CEO Alexis Richardson talks about the company's beginnings and ultimate end, and offers up some ideas on how to help the businesses of open source software succeed.

The shuttering of Weaveworks' doors might have just come down to bad timing.

The startup was early to Kubernetes, having launched in 2014 with a focus on building technology that supported application development. Two years later, it released Flux CD, a popular open source GitOps project that it eventually donated to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF).

But launching at a time when large enterprises didn't have a deep understanding of Kubernetes created a bifurcated business model for the company. At the open source end, Flux CD was generating a flurry of activity. At the commercial end, Weaveworks was stitching together unique bundles of software and services for customers, which translated into a hard-to-sustain revenue stream.

Just as Weaveworks began solving that problem by building a path from free Flux CD to a paid version of the software, the COVID-19 economy softened and IT spending slowed dramatically.

In February, Weaveworks founder and CEO Alexis Richardson took to LinkedIn with difficult news: Weaveworks was shuttering its commercial doors.

"The company was turning over double digit (>$10M) revenue and had more than doubled the number of new product logos in 2023," Richardson wrote. "However this sales growth was lumpy and our cash position, consequently volatile."

Meanwhile, Flux CD's open source popularity continues.

In Episode 3 of IT Ops Query: Tech's Tragedy of the Commons, Richardson and TechTarget Editorial's Beth Pariseau look back at Weaveworks' beginnings and the ultimate end of its commercial operations.

They also take a closer look at the CNCF, a project that began as a way to advance container technology and, according to Richardson, has succeeded in bringing together ideas, people and technology. Now, he said, it also needs to help projects like Linkerd and the companies behind those projects such as Buoyant flourish. And he has a few ideas for changes that could help the CNCF do just that.

Nicole Laskowski is a senior news director for TechTarget Editorial. She drives coverage for news and trends around enterprise applications, application development and storage.

Beth Pariseau, senior news writer for TechTarget Editorial, is an award-winning veteran of IT journalism covering DevOps. Have a tip? Email her or reach out @PariseauTT.

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