[Challenge|Project] Open Source Circular Business Model Explanation Tool


This is where the development of the Video Series on “Open Source Business Models For Circular Economy” was started. Please find the completed resource HERE and comment there.


Intro: This challenge is an outcome of a discussion at a OSCEdays meeting of the OSCEdays community Berlin in March 2016. I/We decided to create a simple accessible resource including a video and tools explaining Open Source Business Models especially for Circular Economy.

The Goal is to have something simple, easy to consume, and that triggers phantasy and further research rather than en exhaustable resource.

I develop the full script for the Video including the tool below (in second comment). I am happy about any contributions. Just add to the discussion. Thank you.

The discussion happens below in the comments.


@Jan_D posted on March 30 in the topic where we started the discussion before this one was created (you can edit below the list of Jan - this topic here is a wiki) | @Jaime also added to the list later on.

Please edit along, I unlocked it (so said the interface)

Business Models:

Consulting (monetizing expertise and service)

  • RedHat
  • Tripalium
  • Wikispeed
  • Open Source Ecology


  • Tons. The basic version is open source, the “pro” version has some closed source components (e.g. PyCharm)

Good maintainability (not open source, but…)

  • Business Laptops by Lenovo, HP etc. are comparatively easy to repair and have Service Manuals (a how-to-repair guide by the manufacturer), Reason: Probably businesses want their things to work again quickly. No 2 Weeks send in etc.
  • Some IKEA furniture is rather easy to extend, long running. E.g. IVAR

Strengthen the ecosystem

  • Google: Chromium (is base of Chrome (which itself is not fully open)), Android
  • Microsoft (very recently, but still…)
  • Apple
  • Tesla

Manufacture and distribute the finished products for an affordable price

  • Sparkfun
  • Adafruit
  • Snootlab
    *Open Source Ecology

Platform model

  • Open Desk
  • OS Vehicle

Organisation focused on Design and R&D while manufacturing is done by a third-party

1- third party supplier provides parts as a kit that he designer can sell as a kit: OpenROV, Open Energy Monitor
2- A partner manufactures finished products that will be distributed under the brands name: Arduino
3- An ecosystem of of manufacturers selling their own products based on shared designs managed by an open source foundation or company: Wikihouse, Dronecode…

Source: http://www.slideshare.net/btincq

Hey @Jan_D

That is great!

I think there are resources on OS Business Model on many places in the web. Question is who will read them? Especially since then still the transfer to CE is super hard to make . . .

I thought maybe we can put in the center of the resource a very simple tool. I created a while ago this tool – The open platform design flowchart. And I thought maybe we can make it even simpler.

The initial idea is to have 4 questions. Here is a very first and quick draft:

##[1] SHARE
What can you share/open up? (From all your assets.)

There are one million ways of sharing/beeing open. Here is a list of examples:

And then under each bullet point we need a list of things. Examples! Because examples inspire. This list can be open, and can grow. So anyone can contribute points to them.

An example for the „SHARE“ question could be:

  • Publish your building plans
  • Make your whole workflow transparent . . .


Here should follow a brief explanation of the „Roles“ idea that is also present in the flowchart: When you open up things this means other people can do others things with it than consuming. Use it for teaching, become a co-designer and so on. What kind of activities become possible, when you open one or some assets.

Here should also be a list of examples – to inspire. The longer the better. You can read it till you got it.

  • list . . .


Here should be an explanation of the ways to benefit from the Roles. In my business model matrix this is the upper part with the advantages.

Of course here should be a list with examples again. With for example:

  • My product becomes richer – has more possibilities – because a decentralized ecosystem develops extra features for it – like in Wordpress the themes or with Arduino the Shields . . . My favourite idea of this week: The network effect of ecosystems.

  • More trustable because repairable

  • . . .


How to adjust the business model to really benefit from the Roles. This question probably needs to be divided into 2 Subquestions:


How to support the Roles in their actions? What channels, communication etc. to provide.

Explanation of the channels and again a list of examples:

  • Arduino has a forum on their webpage
  • Strong protected brand for trust
  • Strong and clear documentation people can use to improve and build upon the initial design. . .


After that of course again a long list of examples where the money can come from. Stuff like I have in the lower part of the Business Model Matrix.

  • Sell stuff
  • Offer Support
  • Offer Workshops
  • . . .

Ok. That’s it for the idea. The collective operation would then of course be to fill the list with examples. But is the structure good?

The idea is, that you go through the questions with your business in mind – not linear – but you jump around till you got an idea / first plan for your product/company.

The Video/text would of course have to have an intro about OS and CE and that not everything must be Open Source! Just the parts that are necessary to make real circularity happen – enable circularity.

What do you think. We can work together a bit on the structure of the 4 Questions/The Tool. And if we have a stable structure we need to collect examples and links to the examples. And come up with a way to explain them quickly and inspiring. Arduino to non-techies in 3 sentences . . .

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##Setting Of The Video

Sitting on a desk with a laptop infront of me. I will read the text.

Next to me a card with the URL where people can find (this) a topic with the full script, the tool, and links – like material they can follow while listening to the video.

The video will not be edited. Everything in one shot.

During the video I will pick some more cards with bullet points and also some objects to show.


  • Android Phone
  • MP3 Player or other small device running Linux
  • Dinosaur Figure
  • Matroschka
  • A card with the URL to the Script
  • A Board with different cards when the tool part starts
  • An Arduino



I am Lars, Lars Zimmermann. I am an Artist & Economist. And one of the founders of the Open Source Circular Economy Days.

This is a Video about Open Source Business Models for Circular Economy – which is one questions of Open Source Circular Economy Days.

What is the Open Source Circular Economy Days? The Open Source Circular Economy Days – or in short OSCEdays – is a global community, event and organisation to support the building of a sustainable circular economy by using and exploring the collaboration methodology of Open Source.

For this video you can find several resources like the full script, images, links and a tool I will talk about by following one of this links:

Pointing to a Card staying next to me with two URLS oscedays.org/b1 and bloglz.de/b1 (On Both URLS there will be a link to the forum topic where the Video will be embedded.

Ok. Let’s start.

#OSCEdays CORE Question & Idea

Part One: What is the Core-Idea of the Open Source Circular Economy Days?

When we talk about a Circular Economy we are talking about the idea of an economy that does not produce any waste! Because everything is designed and organized in a way that our products can be repaired, reused, refurbished and if all of this is not working anymore fully recycled – so that the materials can be won back 100% for new products of the same quality. The circular economy is an economy works in productive and evolving symbiosis with our bioshpere – constantly growing each others potentials.

When we look at this idea and compare it to our current world it quickly becomes clear that almost everything in our current economy has to change for this. Not just the designs of the products but also the collaboration methods we use to make them and distribute them.

Many people in Circular Economy often talk a lot about “transparency”. We would need a lot more transparency to make our economy circular.

But the next thing is people start to talk about trading secrets and the need to hide knowledge from competitors.

And here is where Open Source comes in!

Because in Open Source there is a lot of transparency. But also a number of successful businesses and products! Many are successful not DESPITE but BECAUSE they are open, and transparent. What can we adapt from this to create successful circular economy businesses?


Part Two: What Is Open Source?

Sam Muirhead and I did a video on this last year [LINK].

And to sum it up: It basically means that have your “Building Plans” in the public. It is openly visible for others how things work and how you make them work. And all of is shared in such a way that ti allows others to study, use, modify and distribute it – also commercially. Meaning you provide it under licenses and in formats that enables others to do all this.

In the world of Software Open Source is very successful, in many areas. And areas outside of software are also catching up.

There are a lot of people, there is a clear Definition [LINK] and a good number of working business models and business cases.

There is a number of misconceptions out there about Open Source. Like it is all DIY – Do It Yourself – or Everything Is For Free! But in software Open Source is foremost a collaboration method between experts and highly specialized professionals. And it really made and makes a difference in the world.

The Open Source Software Linux is probably the most important and most used software in todays world. Wherever you are watching this right now it is pretty likely that very close to you is one or more devices running Linux.

Like here or here.

Put my Android Phone and an MP3 Player on the Table

The whole web is based in its critical infrastructure on Open Source and also big companies with incredibly sophisticated software solutions like Facebook would not be possible in that dimension without Open Source. There is Open Source everywhere in Facebook.

So without Open Source the web would probably be where it was . . . I don’t know, ten years ago.

Can we take this methodology to enable the building of a Circular Economy? Make quicker progress here? Or enable the Circular Economy at all?

That is our question. That is what the OSCEdays are here to figure out.


Part Three: The Business Models

Yes, the Business Models. Bringing Open Source to new areas is often not trivial. We need to be very creative!

And understanding Open Business Models is not what we all learned in school or are teached around every corner in today’s world.

So with this Video I like to share a little bit of my perspectives on Open Source Business Models.

The goal of this video is not to give an exhaustive Overview. My hope is that it will seed some ideas and clues in your head, enable you to engage in your own creative process, and find an open business model.


The first idea or clue I’d like to share is, that you maybe don’t need to make everything Open Source!

Not even in the world of software everything is open source. People write Open Source software using closed languages for example.

And let’s say you are building a piece of furniture that is Open Source like a desk where the plan is open. You will still use wood and nuts and bolts that are most probably not from a factory that works open source. But everyone can see that you are using the wood and can find out where to get similar wood to get started with an own table.

And here in our context of the Open Source Circular Economy Community the question is always:

###What parts of the product or process needs to be Open Source to enable circularity?

Picks Dinosaur from under the table


I have here this dinosaur but imagine I would hold an action-figure of Superman in my hand. And imagine the superman would be made from a fully recyclable material – this material, that fact that it is used here and the way how to proper recycle it should be open source! That will make the recycling much more likely. The Material.

But the shape and the character of Superman would still be owned by Warner/DC. It does not need to be open to make the circularity of the action figure work!

And this may be a good time to mention, that in Open Source brands are still protected. Brands are as strong as everywhere. Because if the Building Plan of something is open it matters even more who actually produces the device, piece of clothing or whatever. How careful, with what skills, materials, ethical standards and so on. How good is the quality of the actual physical thing?


Picks a Matroschka From Under The Table

If you have a fantastic machine in your factory that is able to draw a beautiful face on this Matroschka in under a second – this process does not necessarily need to be open source. But make sure it is open source how people can wash away the ink, reuse, recycle or biodegrade it. And that the ink itself is Open Source so others can use it. And a recycler can collect a big pile of parts with that ink on them before he turns on the actual process of recycling.

The best case scenario is that you are to use that ink – because it is open source – and you are open about it.

But again, the face of the Matroschka and the maybe sophisticated process you use to paint it on can remain closed and yours – your competitive advantage.


The next core Idea I’d like to share is, that you should try to find a way to structure your company, product or project in a way that it is successful not DESPITE but BECAUSE it is open.

This means: If you chose the Open Source road a lot of new possibilities pop up. For example for partnerships, for new products, for innovation and so on. Try to make those work for you.

Open Source is not necessarily a “gift” or “charity” to the world. In Business Open Source is sometimes even used as an “aggressive” strategy for growth!

Google developed Android as Open Source to be able to catch up with Apples Iphone OS ecosystem. Because it was open a lot of people and companies could contribute very easily to it – use it on their phones, create new apps and so on – resulting into an ecosystem with even more apps and so on. And Google could place his Play Store right into the middle of everything.

Android is the most spread computer operating system in the world today. By far!

Tesla Motors made a similar move when they opened up their patents. Because Electric Cars need a huge infrastructure and an ecosystem of chargers and pit stops to work, no company can build this alone. The stronger this ecosystem is the more people will start to think about getting an electric car. The more potential customers Tesla Motors has!

These are just two examples of how a company can be successful BECAUSE they are Open Source!


And now I already mentioned the next core idea – which is important: platforms, or ecosystems.

Successful Open Source products often work as platforms. They provide opportunities for other partners to become active. They allow open ecosystems with a lot of other actors like businesses to emerge around the core product. Actors that use the product or add to it. Making it stronger and more useful to the consumers.

There has been a lot written about platforms. And people think that in the future everything that can become a platform will become a platform. Platforms are a fantastic way to collaborate. And openness can be a great driver to build a platform.

I want to give you two examples. One is software, the other is hardware.

I’ll talk about Wordpress and Arduino. If you know them already you can skip the next maybe 4 to 5 minutes of this video I guess. If not, stay with me:

##[Example: WORDPRESS]
The first example is Wordpress. Wordpress is an open source software to create blogs and websites. You can just download the software, install it and you have a basic website online within minutes that you can then customize.

Wordpress is incredibly successful. 24% of all websites today are built with wordpress. 24 %! If you have followed these two links you have been on one.

How could wordpress become so big? Because it is Open Source! There is an incredible rich ecoystem of commercial actors around wordpress constantly growing the system together. If you decide to hire a webdesigner to set up a professional website for you, there is a good chance that this person will set up a wordpress page for you.

The Webdesigner will download the software, install it for you, and because it is open source will be able to make changes to customize the page just for you. And maybe the designer will share the customization as open source with other designers and developers to get feedback, fame, collaborators or whatever.

There are thousands of open source themes and plugins for wordpress everyone can just download, install and run. Creating a powerful, unique and sophisticated website.

Many people and companies are contributing to the system. And with every contribution it becomes stronger and more useful – allows thousands of professional web designers to do their paid job better!

The name of the company behind Wordpress is Automattic. And they make money in a lot of different ways benefiting from the ecosystem: They sell web hosting, support, premium accounts and opportunities, run ads and more. You can find out about it by clicking on the link provided in the resources for this video.

OK. That is a software example. A strong ecosystem that will result in a much better product and better business opportunities for all parties involved.

##[Example: ARDUINO]
Ok, I’d like to give you another example. A hardware example. From electronic hardware.


This is an Arduino. A product of an Italian company. And maybe the biggest Open Source Hardware Platform in the world today. It is a microcontroller.

If you are not familiar with electronics let me briefly explain to you what this thing is.


You have here on one side Inputs where you can plug in all kinds of things like for example a sensor for temperature.

And on the other side you have all kinds of outputs where you can plug in all kinds of actors let’s say a motor with a fan.

The middle part you can program and say stuff like: If the temperature sensor on the right says it is 30 degrees please turn on the motor with the fan on the left side. So you have an air conditioner. But if the heat goes up to 60 degrees please turn off the motor so the air conditioner does not set itself on fire.

A microcontroller you have in every “semi-intelligent” machine in your home – in your washing machine, in you air conditioner, you micro wave and so on.

The difference to all that other microcontrollers is that this one is open source. The hardware is open source. And the software you use to program this thing is open source as well. And the whole thing is very easy to access because it has an USB port.

And the most important thing is that the whole culture established around the Arduino breathes Open Source as well!

If you go to the Arduino website and visit the forum you find over 1 Million entries where people shared solutions and ideas on how to use an Arduino.

People all over the world build all kinds of crazy projects with this: From making plants doing phone calls to satellites in space to electric cars to drones … the list is endless. And many of them share what they are doing openly.

Meaning if you want to build an irrigation system with your Arduino you can go online and find hundreds of projects that already did something similar and you can learn from them, maybe download code and so on. You are much quicker and can do much more interesting things benefiting from this culture.

Hobbyists and Pros are using Arduino. My guess ist that all this “internet of things” start ups today – many of them if not most of them build their first prototypes with an Arduino – benefitting from that open ecosystem, and sometimes contributing to it.

This is one part of the story – software and use cases.

The other part is that a lot of companies are getting involved and providing products to combine with the Arduino. This is very easy through the openness of Arduino.

An example for this are “shields”. A shield is something you can stick on top of the Arduino to give it new powers. A regular Arduino does not have WiFi. But you can buy a shield from another company put it on top of the Arduino and make it have WiFi.

So many people and companies come up with good ideas for the system. Arduino could not do all of this alone.

All this companies have businesses. And they are helping to make Arduino an ever more powerful and useful tool. And Arduino is selling Arduinos. An ever more useful tool.

So here you have a product that really exists and works – also commercially – BECAUSE it is open! The whole difference it makes, the whole product it is – is because it is Open Source.

OK From here on I will dive into the tool (see above). The rest of the script and the tool will follow in the coming days.

Btw. I am building aside a teleprompter to record the video using the 3x3cm 3erlin Grid working with Mifactori using the 3erlin Grid (3x3cm)

Here is STEP 1

STEP 2 (everything is movable)

STEP 3 (old flat screen and usual picture frame)

1 Like

Hey Lars, I’m a bit confused and am not sure to understand what you meant with this bit. Would you be willing to rephrase it?

For the rest of the script I find it really interesting and it could be cool to repurpose it into a blog post we could share on our own blog and Medium.

Will let you know if I can think of anything intelligent to add :slightly_smiling:

Looking forward to see the video!

Cool! Thanks for the feedback. Will change the bit or elaborate on it. And thanks for working on the language a bit.

Jepp. Agree. If we are lucky we can reuse and build on this. Let’s wait for the tool. Hopefully it will turn out good.

1 Like


@cameralibre +

As you know, design is not my strong suit :-/. Maybe you can help me a bit with the design of the visual tool? I attach you here the first version I made.

Open Platform Design Flowchart Tool Vs 0.2 - DESIGN Vs1.odt (124.0 KB)

Open Platform Design Flowchart Tool Vs 0.2 - DESIGN Vs1.pdf (134.9 KB)

The goal is to have something like the Business Model Canvas from Osterwalder and Pigneur. So it is a tool that you print out and add in information. Interactive. Fun to work with.

I think the general layout is fine, maybe you could take inspiration from the business model canvas in incorporating some icons from the noun project for each section?
My first thought was “oh, but having to include the attributions on the page will mess up the simplicity of the design” but then I realised that it actually resonates quite well with the aims of the tool - if the attributions can be presented tidily, you can show and acknowledge how building upon the open work of others allows you to create a more visually effective tool, which allows yet more people to build more effective open source businesses, which enables… und so weiter.

ok, I added another session. For now its done. An I am going to publish. Yeai

Open Platform Design Flowchart Vs0.2.pdf (263.5 KB)

Open Platform Design Flowchart Vs0.2.doc (152 KB)


The link above takes you to Moonfish and their design of a Circular BMC

As discussed during the skype chat - simplicity is definitely key! I like Lars’ BMC above.

Topic closed. Tool is finished. Please continue the discussion under the finished tool.