When Ben Sperry and Max Lynch launched software startup Ionic in 2012, many native app developers held their gilt-edge skills close to the chest. In a novice industry, where developer talent was highly sought after—not to mention highly profitable—Sperry and Lynch chose a drastically different approach: They built an open-source framework for web developers and gave it away for free.

“If you had those skills [back then] you could build a lot of valuable stuff,” says Lynch during a phone call. “We kind of took the opposite approach: ‘What if we made this easier?’ We wanted to make it cheaper and faster, and it evolved into open-source. It was a way to have an impact.”

Once the Ionic Framework was released, news of its developer-friendly SDK quickly gained steam on social media. Soon, a growing fan base and several high-profile apps using the company’s cross-platform hybrid development technology propelled them into the spotlight.

“Those were early fuel for us,” says Lynch, adding that the attention drew the interest of early investors. They raised their first million with Arthur Ventures during that time. “We really spent time building the community around the project. [We thought] let’s get people in our orbit.’”

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