SmartFile Develops Ecosystem With OSS Student Competition
How can a relatively small, relatively young company increase its exposure and reach within a fiercely competitive niche? The most obvious answer is to pour money into marketing or hiring expensive talent. But SmartFile, an enterprise data-sharing service, is doing something smarter by engaging students and the open-source channel to help develop the ecosystem for its products. Here’s the scoop.
SmartFile, which has been around since 2009, develops a cloud-based file-sharing solution for businesses — which places it in a field where competition is stiff. From ownCloud to DropBox to simple networked file shares built into modern operating systems, there’s no lack of internal data-sharing and syncing platforms out there. SmartFile has some unique approaches to file sharing, which include incorporating other syncing services — including Dropbox — into the broader storage platform it offers. And with some big-name enterprises among its international use base, the company enjoys an established presence in its niche. Still, its task is anything but easy as it works to defend its share of the market.
In a forward-thinking initiative to build more opportunities for itself in the channel, SmartFile has announced a “Bake-Off” for students to develop open-source tools and applications that connect to the company’s software. The competition offers quite flexible bounds, with participants encouraged to pursue any kind of project, in any language, as long as it relates directly to SmartFile and has an open-source license.
As examples of the kinds of potential work SmartFile executives envision, they mention phone apps and widgets. It’s easy to imagine how students might create open-source tools like this that connect to SmartFile, helping the company to build its brand and provide customers with new ways of interacting with its product. The competition also promises to facilitate engagement between SmartFile and the next generation of programmers, which may pay dividends down the road for all parties involved.
The bad news, if you don’t go to school in Indiana, is that only students enrolled in institutions in that state, which is home to SmartFile’s headquarters, are eligible to participate in the Bake-Off. On the other hand, for those who can take part, the company offers cash prizes totaling $17,000, which it will distribute in different amounts to three winning teams.
Each team must consist of exactly two members, and must register by February 28 — so students who meet the criteria should avoid the insipid urge to procrastinate and sign up soon. SmartFile will announce awards later this spring. We look forward to seeing what the contest produces.
In the meantime, other organizations might think about following examples like this by reaching out to a specific segment of the open-source community to help build their ecosystems while also expanding the open-source code base — not to mention getting students excited about programming, an activity of interest to a wide range of companies given the dearth of skilled developers in the United States, as I wrote about last week.