ROSS Index Methodology

Our index detects the fastest-growing open-source startups via open data analysis. Here, we explain how exactly it works.

The Runa Open Source Startup (ROSS) Index collects data on all repos with 1,000+ GitHub stars. We publish the fastest-growing open-source startups that are affiliated with these repos on a quarterly or annual basis.  The purpose of this index is to highlight new, trending open-source startups, using a simple and transparent base. 

Why do we only use GitHub star growth?

We chose only one basic metric as, otherwise, it would be hard to verify the index results externally. Any composite and complex derivative metrics overcomplicate the picture and are better consumed internally. 

We chose “stars” because it allows for a reasonable comparison between various repos using the same scale while showing trending open-source products. There is no perfect business metric for open-source software — all have their flaws. For instance, “contributors” are good for comparing “apples to apples” (e.g. databases), but can barely be used for different categories of software. Stars seem the best single metric for index purposes.

We measure the relative growth of stars (not the absolute one) because it shifts focus from established open-source champions to interesting newcomers in the developer community. GitHub has network effects, so it is easier to acquire stars for already well-starred repos. But this index is about startups!

Calculation approach

We calculate the relative growth of stars within the target period for all repos with at least 1000 stars at the beginning of this period. Our investment team manually checks these repos, selects only startups and publishes a leaders’ list sorted by the growth rate.

If a company has several repos at the top, we mention only the repo with the best growth rate. For quarterly indexes, we use the annualised growth rate calculated as AGR = (value now / value 1 quarter ago)⁴ – 1.

Startup definition

For purposes of the index, we define a “startup” as a product-focused commercial organization that

  1. was founded fewer than ten years ago
  2. raised less than $100M in total known funding
  3. has a product reasonably connected to its open-source repos
  4. was not acquired or went public before the end of the target period

This definition does not cover, for instance, side projects. For example, when a founder has another full-time job. Nor does it include projects without any associated commercial product-focused entity or those developed by large tech corporations. The definition also excludes businesses that are mostly focused on the provision of professional services.

Open source definition

As VC investors, we stick to the commercial perception of “open-source”. So we would consider e.g. Elastic and MongoDB as commercial open-source companies, although their Server Side Public Licenses are not approved by the OSI. The same applies to many participants of the ROSS Index.

Data sources

The index publications are based only on public data from GitHub, Crunchbase, mass media, and other sources. We strive to show cities and countries connected with the origin of companies, not just formal HQ locations. We are purely focused on companies using English descriptions, so some local startups (e.g. Chinese) could be missed.

Given the open-source nature of data, some inaccuracies are possible. In any case, Runa Capital does not use any private information received from startups for the index. For instance, we may know that a company raised a new VC round but we will only publish publicly available numbers like those on Crunchbase.