The Untapped Treasure: Community Qualified Leads, the Holy Grail of Open Source Monetization

Albert Wong
2 min readFeb 15, 2024


The open-source software (OSS) landscape boasts countless success stories, from Linux powering the internet to WordPress driving millions of websites. Yet, monetization for developers and companies behind these projects remains a complex challenge. Many dream of the “holy grail”: a sustainable model that thrives on open source principles while generating healthy revenue. Enter community qualified leads (CQLs), a strategy with the potential to unlock this hidden treasure. We use Common Room’s community-qualified leads feature to drive this community KPI to feed our commercial sales team, which allows us to pay for engineers to write more code.

By the way, I’m Albert, and I’m Head of Community and Developer Relations at CelerData. CelerData is a $60 million VC-funded startup that is building StarRocks, an open-source replacement for Snowflake, Big Query, and RedShift.

Why CQLs?

Traditional lead generation relies on external marketing efforts, often targeting a broad audience with limited success. CQLs shift the focus inward, leveraging the power of your existing community. These are individuals within your user base who, through their engagement and activity, demonstrate a clear interest and potential value fit for your paid offerings.

Benefits of CQLs:

  • Higher Conversion Rates: CQLs are pre-qualified, already familiar with your software and its value proposition. This translates to significantly higher conversion rates compared to cold leads.
  • Reduced Marketing Costs: By focusing on engaged users, you save resources compared to expensive external campaigns with uncertain ROI.
  • Stronger Community Relationship: Nurturing CQLs strengthens your community by demonstrating value and rewarding active members. This fosters loyalty and advocacy.
  • Data-Driven Insights: Analyzing CQL behavior provides valuable insights into user needs and preferences, helping you refine your offerings and roadmap.

How to Identify CQLs:

  1. Track User Activity: Monitor user actions like contributions, downloads, support requests, and feature usage.
  2. Leverage Community Analytics: Use tools like forums, polls, and surveys to gauge user sentiment and identify pain points.
  3. Implement Behavioral Scoring: Assign “points” based on specific actions, helping you identify high-value users.
  4. Engage Proactively: Reach out to promising users with targeted content, demos, and personalized offers.


  • Transparency is Key: Clearly communicate the distinction between free and paid offerings, respecting community expectations.
  • Offer Value: Ensure your paid products address specific needs identified within the CQL segment.
  • Continuously Refine: Regularly review and adjust your CQL identification criteria based on results and community feedback.


Identifying and nurturing CQLs isn’t a magic bullet, but it’s a powerful step towards sustainable open-source monetization. By harnessing the potential within your community, you can unlock valuable leads, strengthen relationships, and ultimately, ensure the continued success of your open-source project. So, embark on this journey, and discover the hidden treasure waiting within your own user base.



Albert Wong

#eCommerce #Java #Database #k8s #Automation. Hobbies: #BoardGames #Comics #Skeet #VideoGames #Pinball #Magic #YelpElite #Travel #Candy