Less than one month ago, Creative Commons began a project designed to explore and develop business models built on CC licensing. Starting from the methods in the best-selling Business Model Generation handbook, Creative Commons is developing new tools specifically tailored for ventures that utilize CC-licensed or public domain content as a central component of their strategies. We are also working one-on-one with a handful of companies and organizations to brainstorm new business models and paths to sustainability.
In this short span of time, we have seen there is a real desire for this sort of work, and Creative Commons is uniquely-suited to lead it. And in just these first few weeks of this project, we have learned an incredible amount about all of the fascinating ways nonprofits, universities, and businesses are leveraging CC licensing in what they do. One immediate observation about these ventures is how the public interest plays a role in all of them. Whether for-profit or not, the social good furthered by the product or service is an important part of the value proposition.
Meet Openwords: A great example of that phenomenon is a young startup called Openwords, a company CC has been fortunate to work with in our business models initiative. Openwords is a foreign language learning app with a social mission – to provide free and open language learning technology for languages that currently have little or no options for mobile language learning. The small startup is able to do this at low cost thanks to open data. Openwords mines the vast pools of existing open data on sites like Wiktionary and Apertium and transforms the data into language learning tools for a wide range of languages, large and small. Openwords’ open data strategy has already been successful. Openwords has mined content for over 1000 languages.
While Openwords uses existing open data to fuel its product, it is also giving back new open data and content to the public. Everything Openwords creates — the modified data, software code, and educational content – is either dedicated to the public domain using CC0 or offered under an open license. This virtuous circle makes it possible for this for-profit venture to fulfill its social goals.
In 2014, Openwords released a prototype of its mobile app. Now, it has launched a Kickstarter to fund the development of a beta version of the app, and to involve the community in the Openwords app design.
Crowdfunding is just one avenue Openwords is pursuing to raise money, but it can be an effective way to generate funds and buzz simultaneously. In our business models work, we will be researching crowdfunding as a potential revenue model for ventures built on CC licensing. We even plan on trying it out ourselves by running a Kickstarter campaign this summer to write a book about CC business models.
Building sustainable models around open is important work. We encourage you to check out what Openwords is doing. If you are trying to determine how you can operate in a financially-sound manner while generating social good through the use of CC licenses, we encourage you to contact us and participate in our Creative Commons open business models initiative.