The wrong paths for most of us
All right, this is the first controversial section of this guide. I know that some will 100% disagree with me, and even be offended by what I am going to say.
There are two approaches that seem to be dominant in software development:
1) Get outside financial support (investment)
2) Close off your project and only distribute the binaries to those who are willing to pay
I believe that for 99.99% of us with open source projects both of these are paths are folly. Pursuing either will just end up in frustration, stagnation, or loss of control of your own project.Lets first examine getting financial support...
One question will dominate your conversations with potential investors:
"How is this project going to make me/us a profit?"
If this can't be answered easily then don't waste your time seeking them out.
Another question that comes up is:
"How do we keep others from just copying what you are doing?" I mean, this is Open Source, right?
And they have a point, no matter how cool your project is, it could be copied a thousand times. So, the one who will end up on top will be the project with the biggest media budget and marketing know-how. Sad to say, but when it comes to doing big marketing size matters. You as an individual (and your investors) are going to have an incredibly hard time pushing up against the big boys when they could just copy your hard work and push it forward with a marketing budget 20 times your own.
That said, it may be possible for some of us to secure VC or angel money. If you think you have a shot don't let what I have to say stop you. But, watch out, they will try to take a lot of control for what they are willing to give At least this is my experience.