“Affordable websites with more bells and whistles than a symphony orchestra”
Or: Opening minds for open source websites
Mathias Bolt Lesniak is an open source evangelist and has been part of the toujou team since 2022. In the following interview he talks about similarities between his home country Norway and his new home New Zealand. He philosophizes about open source in general and explains what advantages an open source based website solution like toujou has to offer not only to customers but also to agencies.
Hey Mathias, in October 2022 you started your journey with toujou in Norway, and toujou.no is already launched. A few months later, you're traveling to the other side of the world, New Zealand to be precise. Why is that?
Mathias: I will remain a Norwegian and continue my work with toujou in Norway, of course. But – since my wife is a Kiwi – I have a great opportunity to go to New Zealand. And what would be better than to introduce toujou there as well?
So you aren’t afraid of the new adventure?
Mathias: Not at all. When you look at the numbers, New Zealand and Norway are similar in many ways. As a start, both countries have around 5 million inhabitants. The settlement structure is similar too and you will find many small and medium sized businesses. There is also something about the definition of size: “small” businesses in larger economies tend to be a lot larger in comparison to Norway and New Zealand.
How does toujou fit into that market?
Mathias: toujou offers a unique website solution. It’s easy to start and you get a lot of possibilities and space to grow. It fits in perfectly between the very cheap do-it-yourself website builder and the more expensive professional solutions offered by larger agencies. Who else can offer you that?
“With toujou you have the full freedom to grow. And you will always own your data and code.”
What do you have in mind when you call it a unique website solution?
Mathias: toujou lets you set up a website within a day for 2616,- €, including more bells and whistles than a symphony orchestra. There’s a whole professional website publishing system included, which means that you don’t have to deal with the limitations of similarly priced solutions. With toujou you have the full freedom to grow. This is an aspect that is very important to small sized businesses because they have a need to grow and expand as time goes by. And toujou has a lot more to offer.
So what would a major feature be like?
Mathias: Apart from the pure range of content options, toujou is 100% open source. You will always own your data and the code of your website. That is important for your business security and value retention. You are independent and flexible, and can adapt more easily to whatever the future brings.
Let’s dive deeper into that topic as you introduce yourself on your Twitter handle (@provenpudding) as an open source evangelist. What does open source mean to you in general?
Mathias: Open source gives people freedom instead of limitations. Think about what happens when you give people freedom in general, they do things together and collaborate. If you want to start a choir or organize to help those in need, do it. If you want to meet regularly about tech questions, nobody is going to stop you. This activity is what we call civil society, and, to be precise: A free society is based around civil society. It is where you learn how democracy works. So it is one of the core foundations for democracy and peace. And the community around open source is a part of that. Supporting these foundations is also important when you create your own business and your own website.
“The freedom of growing your website in a flexible and sustainable way is under-communicated.”
Regarding your business website you shouldn’t choose a limiting system, because …
Mathias: … you should not lock yourself to one provider. That is the intrinsic value of open source.
To be clear: Closed-source software can be useful in certain circumstances. But when choosing it, you have to be aware of what you’re opting out of. That it isn’t a collaboration. That restrictive license will lead you to dependency and not to freedom. And the more you are using that software, the more it will drive you deeper into a dependency of this single vendor.
In addition, with open source you have a low financial investment at the beginning, which may fit better to your business needs as an entrepreneur. It gives you the freedom of choosing exactly what you want to do and how you want to do it. You can grow your website in a flexible and sustainable way and start giving back when you’re able to.
Why isn’t everything in the world done by open source projects?
Mathias: I guess one of the problems is that you don’t notice the value of open source the very first day. You will recognize the value later. For example: You will only recognize you lost a right when your need for that right arises.
Even the obvious freedom of growing your website in a flexible and sustainable way is under-communicated and not a part of many people’s initial requirements. But growing your business without your website imposing limitations? Of course you should uphold that right!
“You can come to toujou without knowing anything about open source and you still get the benefits.”
So, how could open source projects provide a service where people already know what they get in advance instead of thinking of problems by themselves?
Mathias: Website solutions such as toujou are perfect for that because they allow people to grow into that open source mindset. You can come to toujou without knowing anything about open source and you still get the benefits. And when your website is growing, you will gradually recognize plenty more opportunities from open source that you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.
Setting up a website within a day, professional website publishing system at a low budget and all the advantages of open source. Sounds like toujou has a lot to offer. But of course this is not the end …
Mathias (laughs): Of course not. Another great thing you will love: Though it is an enabler in many ways, toujou doesn’t try to do everything for you. Instead, toujou tries to make everything possible for you with the help of a “professional network for your website”. We don’t try to provide every service. Instead we connect you with people that can help you make the most out of your website, such as designers, marketers, and SEO experts. With toujou you can start your website on your own and can involve more people when needed.
This could also be interesting for agencies that offer more than just website services then?
Mathias: Absolutely! It’s a huge business case for agencies. For example, they can use toujou to host the small business customers they would otherwise never take on. Once the client has grown to fit their normal offering, they are free to pick up the baton. So they don’t only help medium-sized businesses, but they also grow their own business by picking up good, burgeoning client-relationships early. I would say toujou isn’t just a service, but a platform for low-cost professional websites with a layer of collaboration that provides more opportunities to more people and businesses than any other solution of its class.
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