Georg Link, co-founder of the Linux Foundation CHAOSS Project, recently joined the Bitergia team as our new Director of Sales. These are great news for Bitergia. Do you want to know why? Let us share our story!
For this section, we interviewed our Bitergia CEO, Manrique Lopez, who answers a few questions about how everything started, how Bitergia has evolved as a company, and why having Georg on board will be a key for Bitergia business success.
Can you tell us how Bitergia started?
After years of research analyzing open source software communities and development processes, people from LibreSoft (a research group at University Rey Juan Carlos) founded a company called Bitergia (Why the name? That would be a longer blog post). Why leaving the comfortable University life to enter into the wild enterprises world?
During the years of research, the founders of Bitergia had forged a community around their free, open software tools to analyze open source development, and companies were asking for some detailed reports. So, why not taking the risk of going for business? Seven years ago, one of the first customers was Samsung (yes, from Korea). We wrote about this in one of our early blog entries, which is still one of the most viewed and mentioned blog post in Bitergia history.
From the beginning we saw that our market was outside Spain. The “think global, act local” approach wouldn’t work for us. And time has proven us to be right. Today, more than 90% of Bitergia customers are from the United States of America, and none from Spain.
What were your memorable milestones in Bitergia’s journey?
Time gives you perspective, and it’s fun to remember our first customers, like OpenStack Foundation, Wikimedia Foundation (both still clients), Liferay Inc. or the first conversations with Red Hat (now with IBM) willing to become client just 2 years after funding Bitergia and still being a customer since then.
It hasn’t always been easy, and we have been go through many ups and downs. Clearly, US companies and organizations have been an important market for us, forcing us to travel a lot.
Where is Bitergia now and why is having Georg on board key for bitergia business success?
To ensure that we are able to give the best service possible, we need to be close to our customers. Many people told us to move to the USA. At first glance, seems to be the easiest alternative, but it can’t be easy if that means uprooting our families. We value our local community and don’t want to ask Bitergian’s families to make such a big effort for the company. Thus, we needed to take a different approach.
We have tried different approaches and the best one came from the community we created. In 2017, the Linux Foundation announced CHAOSS, where GrimoireLab and Bitergia have been founding members. Among the different founding members were people from University of Nebraska at Omaha. And one of them is Georg Link, a very active, and passionate CHAOSS community member. When Georg finished his PhD and said he was looking for a position, it was clear to us: we want him on our team.
Georg not only has the knowledge to understand how Bitergia analytics services can help companies and organizations, but he also has the skills to help us improve our sales and consultancy actions in the USA.
Georg does not live in the Valley, but why would we need that? He lives in the middle of everything, and close enough to Madrid (only 7 time zones difference). What else do we need?
For this section, we interviewed Georg Link, Bitergia’s new Director of Sales. He tells us about his past, how he studied business in university, completed an apprenticeship as a banker, became involved in open source, and why he wanted to join Bitergia.
What typically surprises people about you?
Some people can guess that I am German, although my accent is said to have only residual traces. The first surprise for people is that I grew up on the premises of an 800 year old castle in a small village outside of Braunschweig, the sister city of Omaha, NE. To be precise, I grew up in the farm house that belongs to the castle. Looking out the window of my childhood room, I could see the moat and the battlements of the castle. My family moved there when I was 3 years old, because my father was hired as the CEO of the castle.
Something more current that people are surprised to learn is that I frequently go hot air ballooning. I am friends with the owner of Scenic Wind Balloon Tours and I crew for him as a volunteer, because he asks me to help during perfect weather only. Occasionally, I get to join in the basket and go up to see Omaha from the air. An absolutely amazing experience.
What experiences impacted your career?
I admit that my LinkedIn profile is only a short version of my experiences and glosses over many important experiences. For example, I was exposed to the inner workings of businesses at a young age through my father. As the CEO of a business, we would talk about business and strategy over dinner. As a teenager, I would help out in his business, especially around marketing and customer service. For example, I built the company website and engineered the customer purchase experience.
This was the start of my freelance career because other companies asked me to help them with their web presence. The pinnacle of my freelance career was building a Customer Relationship Management system for a small company in the energy sector, which is still using my platform to this day.
I am also very grateful for the German apprenticeship model. I was an apprentice at Bankhaus C. L. Seeliger, a local private bank, and earned my banking certification. This gave me insights into all aspects of business, from serving customers, to evaluating businesses and optimizing internal processes using information technology. In parallel, I earned my bachelor’s degree in business administration, with a focus on banking.
How did you come to start the CHAOSS project?
My journey to starting the CHAOSS project is rooted in my passion for open source software and resulted from unique opportunities that I was presented with during my PhD studies. I came to open source after I bought my first computer when I was 14 years old. I read the Cathedral and the Bazaar and went on to explore open source communities.
Fast forward to my PhD studies. When I joined the PhD program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, I was intrigued to learn that research into open source was possible. I joined Matt Germonprez’s team. The focus of our research was corporate engagement in open source and we talked with many industry experts on the subject. Through this work, we learned that community health was an important subject.
At the Open Source Leadership Summit 2017, I suggested that we have an unconference session on community health. Against all expectations, we filled the room. In subsequent conversations with the Linux Foundation, we decided to form the CHAOSS project for two reasons. First, to give the conversation around community health a formal home, bringing professionals together on the subject. Second, to advance Bitergia’s GrimoireLab software that the Linux Foundation was using for analyzing its projects. For the history of how we grew and evolved the CHAOSS project, I recommend my article on The New Stack about the CHAOSS D&I Working Group.
Why did you want to join Bitergia?
I have known about Bitergia since I met Daniel Izquierdo in Berlin, Germany at OpenSym 2016. I remember being in awe about Bitergia’s capabilities to analyze open source projects and made a mental note that Bitergia would be a good collaboration partner. Only one year later, we did collaborate on founding the CHAOSS project. I met several Bitergians (people working at Bitergia) at CHAOSScon, the community organized event for the CHAOSS project. Maybe it is the shared academic background or the love for open source, but whatever it is, felt a fit between me and Bitergia.
During my job search, Daniel, Manrique, and Jesus approached me, each separately, about joining Bitergia. I was open to exploring this opportunity. To be honest, aligning the job description was a point of discussion. I wanted to work as a Community Manager because I enjoyed building up the CHAOSS community. Bitergia needed someone to grow their business, a sales person. We came to an agreement, that I would join as a “General Business Manager” and that I would have free reign for growing the business in the North America region.
I was ecstatic about this opportunity, because it would bring to bear my apprenticeship experience, my MBA training, my history as a freelancer, and I could continue the work in CHAOSS. I looked forward to building a stronger business around a product and service that I saw great need for in many organizations.
Spoiler alert: after I joined Bitergia and got to know the company better, I championed for my title “Director of Sales” because I believe it to be the most honest title for what my strategic goals are and I want people to know that they can talk to me for obtaining Bitergia services.
First impressions & future actions
Georg joined Bitergia 3 months ago and he already brought new ideas and approaches to the team. He has been helping Bitergia become more efficient with process documentation, improving product and services, and revising our customer experience.
We’ve got some upcoming changes influenced by Georg’s contribution to Bitergia:
- Improve the GrimoireLab tutorial. Weeks ago, the entire Bitergia team had a dogfooding session where Georg suggested the non-engineers try to follow the tutorial while the engineers are allowed to help without touching a keyboard. It was fun! but we realized following our current tutorial was harder that expected
- Have a weekly GrimoireLab call in the CHAOSS project. Georg made it clear to us that the CHAOSS community wants to see more about what is happening in GrimoireLab.
- Having a webinar series on Bitergia Analytics to launch this fall. This will show how to do specific things in the Bitergia Analytics platform and provide a place for answering questions.
- Cover more conferences in the USA, because travel is easier for Georg who is already living in the USA. Georg will be at the Open Core Summit in September, All Things Open in October, and GitHub Universe in November.
Don’t hesitate to meet Georg at a conference or feel free to drop him a message on Twitter, LinkedIn or Email. He will be happy to answer any questions regarding project health and software development analytics!