The basic premise of open source software is that the software is made available under an open permissive license, as defined by the Open Source Initiative's Open Source Definition. Open source software doesn't, however, necessarily mean software that is available for free, or without cost.
That said, there is a lot of open source software is in fact freely available, where developers and maintainers have contributed time and effort and have not been compensated. Open source also isn't just about complete software suites, but also about components and libraries that often are widely used and deployed within commercial enterprise applications.
"Tidelift is filling an unmet need by connecting organizations that rely on open source with the maintainers who create the components they use every day," Larry Bohn, managing director at General Catalyst, wrote in a media advisory. "The approach is working because it addresses acute pain points for both creators and users of open source and brings those groups together on a common business and technology platform."
General Catalyst is among those that have invested in Tidelift, which raised a $25 million Series B round of funding on Jan. 7. Foundry Group and former Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik also participated in the funding round. Tidelift has raised a total of $40 million in funding since the company was founded in 2017, including a $15 million Series A that was announced in May 2018.
How Tidelift Works
Tidelift provides financial support and compensation to open source developers and project maintainers. That financial support isn't entirely altruistic -- it's also attached to a professional support service subscription that Tidelift offers to its commercial customers.
The Tidelift subscription also provides licensing insight about open source software. Different open source software applications have different licenses with different rules and possible restrictions. Tidelift provides what it refers to as "legal assurances" that document the license status for a given application or tool.
Different open source components also often have dependencies on other projects and libraries, which can sometimes be confusing. To help organizations better understand how components work together, the Tidelift subscription also offers a dashboard view showing all of an organization's open source software dependencies.
Tidelift's starter subscription with support for up to 25 developers starts at $1,500 a month.
"We've reached a crucial turning point for open source," said Tidelift co-founder and CEO Donald Fischer. "Tidelift has built, and now we’re scaling, a model that pays open source maintainers to do their important work even better by connecting them to the many software development teams who rely on their contributions."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at EnterpriseAppsToday and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.