chartJonathan Sims is Assistant Professor of Strategy at Babson College. A 2013 PhD graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, he wrote his dissertation on entrepreneurship within Drupal.

Over four years ago, as a 3rd year PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin, I made a risky move. I asked my advisors, all hard-core researchers, to foot the bill to send me to SXSW Interactive. I told them that “Interactive” was the future of SXSW, a conference that at the time was known far more for music and film.  I needed a dissertation topic, and argued that the conference that birthed Foursquare and Twitter was a great place to look.  They took the bait.

At the conference, I attended a session entitled, “Selling the Milk when the Cow is Free.”  Several of you were there. It was my first introduction to open source business models.  The panel spoke eloquently about the business benefits of “giving back” and “riding the community wave.”  For a student of strategy, these were almost heretical ideas.  Dominant strategy theories emphasized the “resource based view,” arguing that companies should protect, even at great cost, whatever resources they had that were valuable, rare, or difficult to imitate or substitute.

Here was a room full of entrepreneurs succeeding by doing the opposite.  I’d found my dissertation topic, and a new friend – for on that panel was Palatir’s Tiffany Farris, who told me I “must go” to my first DrupalCon in San Francisco. Four DrupalCons and a Drupal-themed dissertation now behind me, I continue to research the novel business ideas that make Drupal firms so successful.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be sharing those research findings in a series of posts.

In the next post, I’ll reflect the main findings of my dissertation, which was made possible thanks to the support of the Drupal Association and the 250 organizations that completed the Drupal Business Survey.  If you’re interested in reading more about the results of that survey, I’ve worked with a talented team at Palantir to make a formal report available for download.

Later this year, I will be launching another Drupal Business Survey in partnership with the DA.  We’re still putting on the finishing touches… and in the spirit of Drupal, we’re asking what you would like to know.  What research questions do you have for entrepreneurs in the Drupal community? Send you suggestions to me at jsims@babson.edu or tweet me @jonsims.

Next Up: Four “So What” Research Findings about the Drupal Community

Comments

Hello Jonathan,

I read your PhD dissertation while doing my literature review some months ago, congratulations for your work! I am planning to study the Drupal community as part of my PhD thesis as well. My idea is to take an ethnographic approach, framed in the wider context of Commons-Based Peer Production, which might help to provide some insights about the dynamics of the community. It is great to see that there is a growing interest in Academia on the study of the Drupal community. I have recently heard of the Pilot Study carried out by Dani Nordin and Adi Meir to study the motivations of Drupal contributors , it might be of your interest.
It would be great to share insights at some point if you are interested.

Best,

David