At the Linux Foundation LinuxCon event, Dirk Hohndel gave a keynote to a packed room about what it takes for open source companies to shine in the crowded market for technology products. Dirk says that it takes four things to succeed in this crowded market of software and the devices that run the software, and you really need to have all of them right if you want to be successful:
Your first hurdle is to come up with a vision for your software: What does it look like? Who will use it? How will they use it? You need to dare to think out of the box and come up with something new and unique to leave the legacy software behind.
You need competence to achieve that vision. You should plan to hire a few experts in addition to working with the open source community. Everyone claims to have competence, but in open source, you can see whether or not the people you are working with really are competent.
You need to be serious about your efforts and be committed to making it work, especially in a highly competitive field, like software for consumer devices. Customers want to be assured that the product will continue to exist. This is one of the reasons that Intel turned Moblin over to the Linux Foundation to make sure that people knew that the Moblin project was much bigger than just Intel alone.
Focus is the hardest one of these to get right. There are so many distractions and detractors who make it difficult to succeed. In open source, you often have many options, and picking a single solution can be very difficult.
For all of the open source projects or companies who are just getting started, spending some time making sure that you have a clear vision, the right group of competent people, commitment to making it work, and a deliberate focus will go a long way to becoming successful and standing out from the rest of the crowd. Anyone can have a vision or an idea, but it takes real work to make that vision a reality.
Sean Michael Kerner wrote a great review of Dirk's keynote with some additional quotes that you might also want to read for more details.