The payments technology company Stripe and other vendors say they get the best feedback from prospective clients by simply opening up their technology.
It's much better to allow developers to use a product instead of making them sit through a long sales pitch, says John Collison, co-founder of Stripe, during a panel at the TechCrunch Disrupt NYC conference on May 6.
Open-sourcing, or providing software code openly to any developer or user, makes the relationship between the software provider and client much more fluid. "Open source only helps developer companies like us," Collison says.
Some of Stripe's business is closed-source but its application programming interfaces (APIs) for merchants are open for developers to build on, says Collison.
Other companies on the panel echoed Collison's thoughts.
"Open source is a pragmatic tool," says Chris Wanstrath, co-founder and CEO of Github, a code hosting platform. Open source is a "new way to talk to customers...through code."
There has been a "viral network effect" of building developer tools, says Ben Uretsky, co-founder and CEO of DigitalOcean, a cloud-hosting provider for developers. Now there are 20 million developers worldwide, he says.
And large businesses are starting to realize that upper management should allow their developers to experiment with various tools to decide what works best.
"Large companies don't want to use bad tools," however, rolling out new products company-wide can be costly, Collison says. "But smaller companies are learning to speak the larger company's language better."
Stripe has had to create separate marketing materials for large companies and individual developers.
Companies want whitepapers to help them make decisions, says Collison. Developers want Stripe to get out of the way and let them use the product, he says.
A company's passion about the problem it's solving shines through in the product's development, and this characteristic is something very important to developers, says Collison.
"That's how we started Stripe. We were totally fed up, this was back in 2009, with how hard it was to accept payments online," he says. "That shines through...knowing that we're building a product we want to use."
Another characteristic important to developers is transparency, which can help vendors improve their products, says Uretsky. Especially when there's a problem with the product, if the vendor takes responsibility for the issue, developers are more likely to give the vendor feedback about how to eliminate the problem and forgive the mishap, he says.