Update: It took a few hours, but we found what we need. We found a team that can answer these questions and more. For those who helped, thanks for your input!
In Pricing Hardware that Runs GNU/Linux, I started what I hope will be a new practice at ZaReason -- giving rebates at the end of each accounting cycle, giving back any profits that occur during that time period.
For the last two weeks I have been cringing, literally cringing. How do I tell people that there won't be any rebates this cycle? It was break-even.
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Interesting note: In the last month ZaReason could have reasonably given $100,000 ($1.2m/yr) to various organizations who could have made great use of those funds: the FSF, SFC, EFF, Ada Initiative, Partimus, and numerous LinuxFests and volunteer-run conferences. These orgs need the funds to function. Think about it: ZaReason makes hardware, a tangible item that costs money. ZaReason could be and should be a part of the engine supporting these groups.
The ZaReason Australasia base has such minimal overhead, you would think there would have been significant profit for our first month. For the first month's accounting, I didn't include any start-up costs, none. There still isn't any payroll. But, a large part of our costs for the first few months will continue to be shipping, getting inventory in-country at a rate that doesn't require investment funds (smaller shipments more regularly). We're building inventory slowly, currently: "Get enough to cover the next week's orders." It takes at least a week for inventory to ship from US / Asia --> the base in NZ.
Waiting for hardware is horrid. If you doubt, talk to one of the people who have ordered an UltraLap 430 and have had to wait. Even better, ask Brenda Wallace (current one of the rulers of the Internet in NZ).
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So, help me with this solution? Put yourself in my shoes?
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Perhaps I was using the wrong tool for the task?
Task = make ZaReason community-driven, give it that "we're all in this together" vibe.
Tool = REI style rebates to make sure there's no profit motive + give back to community
Perhaps the tool should be:
Tool = community ownership of some type with profits going to a mix of organizations that support FLOSS.
But to do any type of business shift, I need a business person to help. I need The Eben Moglen of Global Business Development, someone who understands why FLOSS is important, who won't waste my time on a profit-for-CEOs type of business structure.
I'm no Utopian, but I do think corporate business structure is, as my 11 year old son would say, "Freakin' unfair." I don't see any reason why ZaReason can't run differently than regular US corporations. I just need to figure out how.
If you haven't met or hear Eben Moglen speak, the top three traits we need are:
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1. Brilliant, well educated, deep experience.
2. Practical, gets the job done,
3. Currently retired, leaving the legacy of accumulated experience
I need a business person to come in and say, "Here's what a co-op would look like in the tech hardware industry and here's how you access the talent to get it done."
I need someone who understands the concept of limited time and won't dump a task list on my over-full plate, someone who knows how to build engines, in this case an engine for FLOSS as a whole.
Note that I haven't given up the 100 days promise. The first week of September, I'll review costs for August and hopefully there will be surplus. Who knows? ZaReason has seen all types of fluctuation in the past and there's nothing I would love more than to issue monetary "thank yous" to those people who believed in us enough from the start.
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Help me find my way through this particularly dense forest of corporate structure? So I can better build what's needed for hardware that supports FLOSS?
As always, thank you.