The New Way To Do Business: FairSoftware

When you’re looking to bring in a few new people to work on a project with you, and your budget is limited, how do you get more people to join your team? Revenue sharing offers you the opportunity to hire people for a project you are working on with the promise that they will receive a portion of the earnings in return. As your business makes sales, your team will be paid their percent.

Alain Raynaud and his partner, Christope Leroux have come up with a revolutionary way to start building a business on teamwork, FairSoftware. As the name suggests, their website makes it easy for any business to fairly distribute portions for earnings to those who contribute to the project in one form or another.

I have had the opportunity to ask Alain a few questions about FairSoftware and learn a little more about the potential it holds.

What is FairSoftware? What inspired its creation?

FairSoftware is the place to start and grow your virtual online corporation. Whether you are a software developer or website publisher, it only takes a few clicks to incorporate, hire other project members and start sharing revenue.

We got the idea for FairSoftware while trying to solve a real-world problem. Christophe, my co-founder, was running his own small software company. Literally from home, with very limited resources. When I visited him, we brainstormed: how could he get more people involved in his software project, considering that he had no way to hire anyone? With my experience from Silicon Valley startup, we found the obvious answer: we needed stock-options for micro-companies. That initial idea changed a casual afternoon conversation into twelve hours of passionate discussions.

How long did it take to go from idea to launch?

We had that initial meeting in Spring 2006. So it really took more than two years to go from idea to reality. We spent a lot of time figuring out all the angles. Everyone who goes to our site says it’s very simple and crisp. But there were a lot of complex issues that we had to figure out. We really followed Mark Twain’s quote: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” So we spent a lot of time to make it look simple.

What previous experience did you have that you were able to apply when you created FairSoftware?

Christophe was our ideal target customer and we all had extensive experience in the software industry, so we knew what we were getting into. I also had enough business and legal experience to avoid many early pitfalls. We come from a culture of computer hackers, corrected by more than ten years of corporate experience. I think it’s a great blend.

What is the Software Bill Of Rights?

The Software Bill Of Rights is the legal agreement that makes FairSoftware possible. When you create a virtual corporation with our site, we don’t really file paperwork for a C corp in Delaware or anything else. That would cost real money and defeat the purpose of an online-managed corporation. Instead, you enter into this legal agreement, the SBR, that is an agreement between you and the other members of your project. So it gives you the feel of a corporation, such as decision-making and revenue-sharing, without the constraints.

Some people have questioned whether the Software Bill Of Rights is enforceable or not. First, let’s be clear: we spent a lot of money with top-notch Silicon Valley lawyers to make sure we get it right. Such a critical legal agreement is not something you design on your own. Second, it’s quite clear that we were inspired by Open Source licenses to design the SBR. Open Source has been very successful at getting together people all around the world to work on a common project. We added revenue-sharing to the mix.

Why is FairSoftware different from other options available?

There are not that many alternatives out there. Either you work on your own, or you create a real company. Somehow, corporations are one of the few things that didn’t make it online yet. We sometimes get confused with services like elance that do outsourcing. We are very different: a short-term contractor is not the same as an employee, especially a co-founder. Their motivations are almost opposite.

What kind of feedback have you received since the alpha launch of your website on September 9th?

We opened the site the day of our presentation at TechCrunch50, in front of a thousand journalists and investors. Traffic to the site in the following days was great and we signed up close to 1,000 entrepreneurs in the first few weeks.

But what was the most pleasing were the individual comments we received: there was a strong need out there, and no one to fill it. So we received many enthusiastic messages. People gave us new ideas, new sectors we had never thought of. Just to give an example, our site could be very useful to develop entrepreneurship among minorities, but it’s not something we had sought. It’s great to see that what you do can be used by so many people in so many different ways. It really shows how important it can become.

I saw on your website that you have openings for software developers. What are you looking for in someone and what are some of your requirements?

We are still a very early stage company, so what matters most are developers that do well with very small, dynamic teams. It’s also a great opportunity to write significant code that immediately impacts people. Technically, our language of choice is Java, but that’s not nearly as important as being a good coder who understands what users want.

Do you have any goals you’d like to reach over the next year?

We need to convert the initial extraordinary interest we received into success stories, to show that the model works and that people truly can make a living the FairSoftware way. Based on the first few weeks, we are very optimistic.

Who (or what business style) do you think will benefit the most from using this software?

Our initial target was what is called “micro-ISV”. There are hundreds of small software programs being sold online today, which fill many niches. They are often written by one or two people max. For that scenario, we are perfect.

We are also going to focus on the other way to make money online: ads. If you write a blog and try to optimize how much money you are making, you’ll find out quickly that it’s extremely time-consuming. That’s where our value comes in: the best way to make time is to get help from someone else. But who would create a real company, hire a law firm and an accounting firm, to manage two or three people working together on a semi-professional blog? FairSoftware is the right alternative.

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