SugarCRM's customer base is a small fraction of that of major CRM vendors. SugarCRM has logged 150,000 downloads and sold licenses to 200 organizations, according to Roberts. The company is only lightly covered by analysts; in a recent report, Gartner listed SugarCRM among a pack of companies offering commoditized sales management tools suitable for "small, simple organizations."
Still, plenty of organizations don't need more than basic CRM functionality. "What percentage of the features do you actually use in Microsoft Word?" said Pride Industries Chief Financial Officer Tim Yamauchi, who picked SugarCRM for use in his 3,000-employee non-profit company.
Roseville, California-based Pride Industries employs disabled workers to provide a variety of outsourced maintenance and administrative services. Yamauchi had used a variety of CRM systems in previous jobs, and wasn't overly impressed by any of them. Pride Industries uses a number of open-source applications, and when its IT team brought SugarCRM to Yamauchi's attention, he was impressed by both the technology and the ethos of SugarCRM's executives.
"They're a young, entrepreneurial company, and they've been great to work with," Yamauchi said. When he requested functionality that would push out sales and marketing reports by e-mail, SugarCRM's developers provided it.
Freelance programmer Dave Fancella said he went looking several years ago for an open-source CRM systems to use in his work, but found the available options abysmal. He ended up opting for GoldMine, a commercial contact management system. Then, in December, NewsForge bought SugarCRM to Fancella's attention and asked him to write a review.
"I was really impressed with what I saw. I thought it was a very solid design," Fancella said in an interview. "For me, it doesn't make sense that a CRM package should ever be closed-source, because nine times out of ten you need some customization. CRM and open source is like a no-brainer. They should have been married years ago."
In his review, Fancella had a few quibbles with SugarCRM -- criticizing, for instance, the lack of an embedded e-mail client or support for outside clients other than Microsoft Outlook -- but concluded the software should satisfy the needs of most small to medium-sized organizations. He became so intrigued with the software that he later accepted a freelance development contract with SugarCRM, and is now working on the system.
SugarCRM's Roberts said the software is on a release cycle of around four months between versions. It's now available in more than a dozen languages, varying from French to Swedish and Lithuanian. What's next on the development schedule?
"That depends on our development community," said Roberts.