In 2014, our CEO, Simon, was working at an agritech startup, leading product development. The app was designed for farmers working (literally) in the field, and tracked the user's GPS position.
The team kept hitting an app-killing issue - the constant use of GPS ate through 2014's batteries in a matter of a couple of hours; no good for a tool designed for a day of use. A team of 4 engineers worked on the problem for two weeks without significant improvements.
At the end of the two weeks, Simon frustratedly spent an evening trying to get in contact with the developer of the open-source package that provided the tracking functionality, finally digging up an email address in the commit history.
In the space of one 30-minute phone call, the original developer solved the issue and helped the team take battery life from a meagre two hours to over 8 without any loss in fidelity.
One phone call with an expert and 250 dollars had solved a problem that had stumped a team of excellent engineers for two weeks.
The kernel of the idea that became Ringer started to form.
Over the following 8 years, Simon took a simple philosophy to every development team that he ran.
"If we hit a problem with an open-source package that stumps us for more than a full working day, no matter how much stack-overflow or google-fu we throw at it, then we pay to speak directly to the experts on the package."
This approach has, over the years, saved tens of thousands of dollars and wasted engineering hours.
It turned out that the hardest part of the process was getting in touch with the right developers and making payment - most OSS engineers simply aren't set up to provide paid support.
Our goal with Ringer is to make it easy to provide paid support for an open-source project, and make it easy for users of open-source software to access that support.