More Startups Should Launch with Linux Support
I don't use Linux; I switch between my Windows desktop and my Macbook. My co-founder is exclusively a macOS person.
We decided to launch with Linux support anyways.
Today, ~5% of our users are Linux, and about a quarter of our open bugs are Linux specific.
You're probably thinking that launching with Linux is the wrong decision. After all, we could always support Linux later, and startups need to be focused.
However, I think it was absolutely the right decision and that more startups (at least in B2B) should do the same. Here are my five reasons why.
1. Products that everyone can use are disproportionately more valuable
Work products spread because everyone can use them, and having even one person who can't use your product makes the product way less valuable to the team.
- If your app is a video conferencing product, how do you hold a meeting in a product where one person can't get in?
- If your app is file sharing, how do you share a file that one person can't open?
To make this more mathematical, let's say a team has 4 people. If one person can't use the product, it decreases the number of 1 on 1 collaboration opportunities from 6 to 3, a 50% hit.
If you measure all possible groupings of people (including 3 or 4), the number of combinations of people drops from 11 to 4, an even larger hit. This doesn't even account for the additional negativity from the excluded person.
In most situations, it's simply too painful to rely on a work tool that even one person can't use.
2. Linux users are passionate, and they will direct that passion for you or against you
Linux users are some of the loudest, most passionate people on the internet. After all, only especially passionate people will live with the lack of applications to get the benefits of being on an open source OS.
Moreover, they are oftentimes very tech-savvy people who wield significant influence.
As a result, they can also be very passionate advocates for your product when you support them well. They can also be very publicly negative towards your product when you dismiss them. For example, in the case of Google Drive (link).
3. Linux users give lots of feedback
As a vocal and technical group of people, Linux users heavily report bugs and ask for features.
Some startups don't like the volume of feedback that Linux users provide, because they don't want to over-invest in a small segment of their users. To me, that's an issue of prioritization, not of input volume. More input is always better, and you can choose later where to put things on your roadmap.
4. Linux users are early adopters
The hardest part for many startups is attracting early users. You have an ugly product that's got all kinds of rough edges - who wants to try that?
Linux users have demonstrated technical ability and willingness to step outside of the mainstream. This means they're also willing to step outside the mainstream to try your crazy new product.
We experienced a lot more criticism but also a lot more willingness to try Pesto from Linux users in the early days.
Moreover, since Linux have the technical ability to work around the rough edges, they retain better.
5. Linux isn't always that hard to support
This comes with certain disclaimers; it depends on how you've built your app.
However, many startups (including Pesto) are built on Electron, a cross-platform Chromium wrapper for desktop apps.
These startups still shockingly frequently decide not to launch with Linux support; generally, they are scared about the volume of bugs / the additional QA work.
We've found that it's well worth it, especially since most bugs tend to be cross-platform with Electron anyways.
Pesto is a (currently free) virtual office for remote teams with a Linux desktop app. Learn more here.