How much revenue can an unknown open-source project get

Discover how NocoBase, an open-source no-code platform, achieved remarkable growth and revenue over three years. Learn about their journey, strategies, and the significant impact on various industries, from AI to petrochemical construction. Explore insights on building a successful open-source project and fostering a global community. Read the full story of NocoBase’s transformation and future plans.

Zhou Yanliang |


In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread, I ran three companies simultaneously. The other two companies were unaffected except for one sports event platform that had to close due to the pandemic. Their revenues and profits continued to increase. However, being unable to travel or meet friends and clients for several months in a row made me feel depressed. One day, I told my wife I didn’t want to disconnect from the world. I wanted to hear fresh stories daily and start working on a product that would excite me in the long run.

So, I immediately contacted Chenlin. At that time, he was working on another team of ours and was responsible for developing the sports event platform. The two of us had been intermittently discussing this product since 2018. After several weeks of brainstorming, we finalized the target scenarios, design principles, product forms, technical architecture, and other vital factors. I also brought in a colleague from another team, and the initial team was formed.

It wasn’t until several months later that we settled on the final name for this product from several alternative names: NocoBase. It is a no-code development platform designed for developers, serving as the infrastructure for development teams. Its design principle is that 80% of requirements can be implemented without code, while the remaining 20% can be implemented through extension development. It is designed with a microkernel, plugin-based architecture, extending all functionalities as plugins.

At the same time, we also established three principles:

  • Open Source: The code for this product will be open source. Only by being open source and open can its extensibility advantage be maximized. Moreover, open source will help us reach users worldwide without investing too many resources in marketing and sales.
  • 6 Years: Refrain from judging whether this is correct too early; at least do it for six years before concluding. In the first two years, create an MVP to express our core ideas; in the second two years, deploy the product for actual use in production environments and continuously verify and improve it; in the third two years, introduce our product to more enterprises and invest in building the open-source community. We will gradually expand the team and balance development speed and risk according to income and expenditure.
  • 20%: Once we start making profits, allocate 20% (now increased to 30%) of the annual earnings to the core team. The core team is creating a career, jointly creating work they are proud of rather than just doing an ordinary job.

And so it began.

Current Situation

Over three years have passed since the first commit on GitHub on March 29, 2021, which is in the middle of our second two-year plan.

During these three years, we have posted a small number of posts about NocoBase on communities such as Reddit, Dev; besides that, we have yet to do much promotion and publicity. The reason is that NocoBase could be better as an enterprise product and infrastructure. We emphasize the documentation homepage and GitHub Readme: NocoBase is in the early development stage; please use it cautiously in production environments. In addition, users from multiple countries have introduced NocoBase on their blogs and social media, bringing many new users to NocoBase. Dozens of contributors have contributed code to NocoBase. Thank you all for your contributions.

Here are some of our current data. From these data, it can be seen that NocoBase is not well known and is not used by many people as an open-source project; it is still an unknown project.

GitHub Star5.7k
Google results11.2k
Npm package downloads37k
Docker image pulls50k
Git cloners50/day



It is worth celebrating that two weeks ago, on the last day of April, we upgraded the root version number from 0 to 1 and officially released version 1.0-alpha. We also opened official accounts for NocoBase on various social platforms. We are preparing to introduce NocoBase to more people and embark on our journey of commercialization.

Revenue for the Past 12 Months

Although we have just released 1.0-alpha and have yet to offer standard commercial licenses and commercial plugins publicly, we received our first considerable revenue in October 2022. In the past 12 months (from May 2023 to April 2024), our total revenue was $315,000 (the currency unit in the screenshot is CNY)


The primary sources of this revenue are:

  • United States
  • China
  • India
  • Europe
  • Brazil

The types of revenue mainly include:

  • Users paying us to prioritize the development of required plugins (non-customized)
  • Commercial licenses
  • Commercial plugins
  • Revenue sharing from derivative products

This revenue is just average for a product developed for three years, but it exceeded our expectations.

More Important Gains


Two months ago, while I was driving on the highway, Todd contacted me. So, I stopped by the roadside and chatted for over an hour. After the conversation, it was already evening. As I continued on the road, watching the fiery sunset in the rearview mirror, I felt increasingly excited, as if pulsating with the whole world.

Todd works at a company called PLAUD. Their flagship product, PLAUD NOTE, is the world’s first AI device that uses LLM for intelligent recording, transcription, and summarizing. At that time, they had just completed a crowdfunding campaign of millions of dollars, and today, their sales have exceeded 10 million dollars. They have a strong professional technical team to develop the world’s best products, but they could have invested more energy in developing business support systems, resulting in the market, after-sales, and other teams’ work efficiency far behind the pace of business growth.

After seeing PLAUD NOTE’s product introduction, I thought it was very cool, and the team behind it was also cool. I couldn’t help but introduce it to many friends around me. Todd’s team also found NocoBase very cool, and we hit it off. Their development team spent a few days developing a business support system based on NocoBase, greatly improving the team’s work efficiency.

In this process, the NocoBase team personally participated in the rapid growth of PLAUD.


Ke has been active in the NocoBase open-source community for two years and has become a contributor. He works at SINOPEC FIFTH CONSTRUCTION CO.LTD, the earliest large-scale construction enterprise engaged in petrochemical construction in China and the earliest construction unit to informatize and digitize petrochemical engineering systems. Facing the same problems as many traditional industries, external software development companies need to understand their industry, and their sector needs more professional developers.

NocoBase has significantly changed its development model. They have integrated the original databases and connected to many hardware devices, and business experts are exploring the digital transformation of the entire industry step by step based on the WYSIWYG no-code development method provided by NocoBase.

In daily communication with Ke, we learned about projects in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and listened to stories we never imagined. It is inevitable to admire and be proud of China’s construction capabilities.


800 years, 8000 kilometers – can you imagine opening your mailbox one clear morning and engaging in conversation or collaboration with someone from such a distant place as if he was an old friend?

Founded in 1240, the University of Siena is one of the oldest academic institutions globally. Nestled in the heart of a medieval town in Tuscany, Italy, it boasts a rich history of scholarship and innovation. The last time Italy and the year 1240 felt this close was when I was in high school, studying the tales of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance in history class. And today, in this university established 800 years ago, situated 8000 kilometers away, there’s a team comprised of tech experts, training specialists, and e-learning support departments, all using NocoBase as their infrastructure to streamline a vast array of processes, from administrative systems to online education platforms to ticketing systems.

The saga continues—just last Friday, Fabrizio from this team sent me news about a collaboration between Wenzhou University and the University of Siena. Suddenly, those 8,000 kilometers felt much closer, as Wenzhou University is right in our neighborhood. Fabrizio told me that his office is located in the building in the news photo.


We’ve never ventured into producing excellent hardware products like PLAUD NOTE, never touched upon petrochemical construction, and never even set foot in Italy. Without NocoBase, they might never have appeared in our sights and lives.

But now they have. We created NocoBase, and people around the world are discovering it. These individuals leverage digital technology to enhance lives, improve work, and even transform entire industries. In their journey of earnestly bettering the world, NocoBase becomes their reliable assistant. For us, NocoBase becomes our connector to the world. It bridges what we’ve never done, people we’ve never met, and places we’ve never been. Our life radius is no longer just a few kilometers, and our scope of work is no longer just a few lines of code. Every day, we step into fresh narratives. How can mere money measure such rewards?

How We Did It

1. Finding the Right Direction

The foremost topic discussed in all entrepreneurship courses is finding the right direction. Conventional wisdom suggests identifying user pain points and assessing market size.

On this subject, I have a different perspective. Over the years, I’ve run several companies and invested in others, some of which have closed down while others have steadily grown, continuously generating profits. When evaluating opportunities like NocoBase, my focus is on something other than user needs or market size. Instead, I’m more concerned with its suitability for me. I have the most profound understanding of my personality, knowing what I want, what I excel at, and what I’m not suited for. When deciding to create NocoBase, I considered the following questions:

  • Will it replenish my mental energy rather than deplete it?
  • Is it something worth investing ten years or more into, with more accumulation over time?
  • Does it offer a niche, less-traveled path?
  • Can it generate profits without relying on financing?
  • Is it a standardized product that generates revenue through licensing rather than project implementation?

Once all these questions received affirmative answers, we began.

2. Lowering Expectations and Going with the Flow

Almost all startup tutorials emphasize the importance of growth, even exponential growth. I admire companies that can proliferate. However, we cannot do the same. On one hand, our capabilities are limited; on the other hand, we don’t want ourselves and our team to be led by numbers. What we do can positively impact a stable life rather than relentlessly chasing figures.

Therefore, we set meager expectations from the beginning and pay little attention to the speed of growth or set income targets.

3. Embracing Shortcomings, Long-term Commitment

There are no dropouts from the world’s top universities or celebrity entrepreneurs surrounded by media glare in our team. Everyone is ordinary, emotionally stable, responsible, well-educated, and experienced. During the development of NocoBase, we often encounter complex problems to solve, frequently spend much more time than expected, and usually find certain aspects of NocoBase challenging to use. It took us three years to upgrade the version number to 1.0, and it’s still 1.0 alpha. We accept these situations calmly and without anxiety.

In the past 1000 days, we’ve had new commits almost every day, and every day, NocoBase is better than the day before.

4. Setting the Pace, Managing Risks

We don’t seek funding; we need healthy profits to ensure normal development. Profit = Income - Expenses, so we need to control expenses early to stay within income by less and achieve income greater than expenses as soon as possible.

Our worst-case scenario was no income for six years on the first day of operation. I prepared funding for six years to ensure we could survive even in extreme situations so everyone could create products with peace of mind without worrying about unemployment.

The main expense for a team like NocoBase is salaries. So, starting with three people, we kept costs under $10,000 per month for over ten months. As income generation approached, we gradually expanded the team until recently, when we reached ten people.

We are already profitable now, and the income structure is becoming healthier.

5. Working for an Ideal Life

NocoBase is a remote team living in different cities with different lifestyles. We have a fixed weekly meeting and no other constraints. There’s no workload tracking or clocking in and out; you don’t need to ask for permission. Each person is responsible for certain aspects, and everyone is accountable for the results.

As mentioned at the beginning, we distribute 30% of the profits annually to the core team. Everyone is responsible for NocoBase, which means being accountable for their career.

As I write this, everyone is preparing for a team gathering and vacation two weeks from now.

6. Helping Users Succeed

We don’t have a sales team and won’t have one for a long time. We aim to attract users through the product itself, establish a connection with them, and then help them achieve their goals through the product. We don’t sell commercial licenses to users; we recommend using open-source licenses to achieve their goals as much as possible or at least undergo several months of practical testing in their business scenarios. NocoBase effectively helps users earn more money or reduce costs, which is the basis for users willing to pay us.

What We Do Next?

We don’t have a detailed schedule or a growth plan, but we can be confident that our six-year plan has just passed its midpoint. Over the next 1000 days, we will still have commits almost every day, and NocoBase will continue to improve day by day.

Of course, we also look forward to connecting with more exciting stories and dancing closely with them. If your company is using or planning to try NocoBase, or if you’re interested in participating in its development, feel free to get in touch with us.