August 2007

"An ecosystem is an economic community supported by a foundation of interacting organizations and individuals--the organisms of the business world. This economic community produces goods and services of value to customers, who are themselves members of the ecosystem. The member organizations also include suppliers, lead producers, competitors, and other stakeholders."

James Moore, Harvard Business Review, May/June, 1993
Winner of the McKinsey Award for article of the year

Many companies, individuals and organizations in Ontario produce and use open source assets and processes to provide unique value to their customers, clients, and themselves. To better enable these companies, individuals and organizations to (i) co-evolve capabilities and roles, (ii) align themselves with companies holding leadership roles, and (iii) invest in shared visions, the Talent First Network (TFN) has become the keystone organization of Ontario's open source ecosystem. This article introduces the TFN and identifies the steps it is taking to better support the Ontario Open Source Ecosystem.

The mission of the TFN is to create an environment for Ontario to be a global leader in the development and commercialization of open source assets such as software, integrated circuits, printed circuit boards, content, scientific knowledge, and open source processes. Today, the TFN interacts with 40 companies located across Ontario. These companies operate in different product markets (e.g., modelling tools, online mapping, security, gaming, databases, knowledge management and small business services) and rely on different business models. Small and mid-size companies, as well as spin outs from academic institutions, produce and use open source assets to generate revenue, reduce their customers' costs, and carry out strategies that are not possible with proprietary products.

The TFN wishes to do much more that just interact with a group of Ontario companies that produce and use open source assets. We intend to build a province wide ecosystem that accelerates the investment in, and adoption of, open source assets and becomes a showcase to the world of what Ontario can accomplish.

The TFN intends to be the keystone organization in Ontario's Open Source Ecosystem. As a keystone, the TFN will:

  • provide services to Ontario companies and organizations that produce and use open source assets
  • improve the health of the Open Source Ecosystem
  • advocate issues that are important to Ontario companies that rely on open source assets to compete


The TFN currently provides the following high quality services to benefit the Ontario companies that are part of the Open Source Ecosystem:

The OSBR is a knowledge transfer resource which provides accurate, high quality, and relevant information to companies and organizations that produce and use open source worldwide.

The July 2007 issue of the OSBR was the inaugural issue. To date, 1,386 unique visitors from 76 countries retrieved the July issue from the OSBR website. Of the 1,386, 38% came from Canada, 19% from the United States, and 43% from 74 other countries. Ontario visitors accounted for 25% of the total unique visitors. You are reading the second issue of the OSBR.


  1. Talented students
  2. The TFN finds and pays suitable undergraduate and graduate students to work with companies that rely on open source assets to compete. For students, this provides first hand experience in the development and commercialization of open source products and services. For companies, this reduces development costs and accelerates time to market.

    During the summer of 2007, the TFN placed 20 undergraduate students in Ontario companies.

  3. Lead projects
  4. TFN works with companies and academic institutions in the design and launch of lead projects that integrate components off the shelf and open source stacks for the purpose of creating a new market or entering an existing market dominated by proprietary vendors.

    Today three TFN lead projects exist:

    i. TFN-100: Advancing an open source communications platform to benefit Ontario charities, undergraduate and graduate students, and companies. The TFN 100 project stands at the centre of a move towards the deployment of an open platform for unified communications to benefit Ontarians.

    ii. Corporate Directory Platform: Developing a Web 2.0 platform for corporate directories across Ontario.

    iii. Open Source Patterns: Capturing experiences with open source adoption and value creation from open source, and sharing them in an easily understood format through a pattern repository.

  5. Open source professional development program
  6. TFN provides a series of professional development programs to ensure companies realize the full potential of open source and are good open source citizens. To date, the TFN has delivered four partnership conferences.

  7. Open Source Business Resource (OSBR)
  8. Low cost, state of the art communications
  9. Companies and organizations that are part of the Open Source Ecosystem as well as Ontario charities and non-profits can use the TFN-100 to communicate at a very low cost.

  10. Business plans
  11. The TFN team reviews business plans and provides forums for dry runs of business plan presentations. To date, business plans for ten companies have been reviewed by TFN personnel.

  12. Contacts
  13. The TFN acts as a virtual business development office for companies that are part of the Open Source Ecosystem. It refers people and opportunities to companies and connects like minded individuals and companies within the ecosystem. This is an ongoing activity which has benefited many Ottawa companies and entrepreneurs seeking to start their companies.

The following services will be introduced in the near future:

  1. Experienced and talented individuals
  2. TFN will help companies find experienced individuals to carry out development and commercialization work. The output of the development work allows companies to better satisfy their customers' needs and concurrently contribute to open source projects.

  3. Social and technical innovation competitions
  4. To encourage the adoption of open source, the TFN will sponsor competitions where college professors, students and companies contribute to social and technology innovations.

  5. Capital
  6. The TFN will help companies that produce and use open source acquire capital.

  7. Auction of innovative technologies
  8. TFN will provide an on-line auction facility for Open Source projects where the companies working with TFN can place contracts for Open Source projects and Showcase Open Source solutions for sale. The Open Source auction provides further opportunities for a company to collaborate and leverage external resources.

Determine Ecosystem Health

The health of the Open Source Ecosystem is central to the success of Ontario companies that rely on open source assets to compete. Like an individual species in a biological ecosystem, each company in an ecosystem ultimately shares the fate of the network as a whole, regardless of the company's apparent strength.

The TFN uses four dimensions to assess the health of the Open Source Ecosystem. These dimensions are:

  • Number of companies in the ecosystem
  • Diversity of the product markets in which companies in the ecosystem operate
  • Number of new products or services introduced by the companies in the ecosystem
  • Duration of the ecosystem

The TFN acts to increase the number of companies in the Open Source Ecosystem, increase the diversity of the product markets served by these companies, increase the number of successful products and services that these companies introduce every year, and ensure the sustainability of the ecosystem.

Advocate Company Agenda

The TFN advocates the agenda of Ontario companies that produce and use open source assets to compete.

The TFN identifies issues relevant to open source and shapes the agenda to overcome obstacles in the adoption of open source by Ontario companies.

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