How to Find Funding for an Open Source Project
Ask people how to find funding for a technology project, and many of them will point to crowdsourcing sites. After all, the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, the Pebble smartwatch, and even the low-cost Raspberry Pi computer were launched after their inventors collectively raised millions of dollars from contributors. If you happen to have an open source project that you want to get funded, what are some of your options?
As it turns out, there are numerous avenues for finding funding. Here, you’ll find some of the best options:
Mozilla’s MOSS Program
Last year, Mozilla launched the Mozilla Open Source Support Program (MOSS) – a funding awards program specifically focused on supporting open source and free software. The program has already made a difference for a number of projects. Recently, Mozilla reported that it awarded a hefty $585,000 to nine open source projects in Q2 of this year alone. Here are just a few examples of funded projects:
Tor: Tor is a system for using a distributed network to communicate anonymously and without being tracked. Mozilla wants its developers to significantly enhance the Tor network's metrics infrastructure so that the performance of the network can be monitored and improvements made as appropriate.
Tails: Tails is a secure-by-default live operating system that focuses on preserving the user's privacy and anonymity. Mozilla's investments will go toward developing reproducible builds.
According to Mozilla: "If you think your project qualifies, we encourage you to apply…We are keen to enable applications from groups not currently connected with Mozilla and from communities outside the English-speaking free software world.
The Linux Foundation
The Linux Foundation not only provides a vendor-neutral collaborative platform that promotes open source for companies and individuals, but also helps foster like-minded diverse communities to help improve the quality, availability, and talent to produce open source software.
The Foundation functions as a community driver for many projects, ranging from OpenSSL to the Linux Kernel. And, it advances and funds open source projects through various initiatives, including the Core Infrastructure Initiative (CII), a diversity initiative, and scholarship awards and programs.
Crowdsourcing and Grants
There are several foundations and independent organizations, such as The Travis Foundation, focused on providing and finding funding for open source projects. The Travis Foundation is particularly known for connecting promising projects with sponsors. The Open Source Initiative and Free Software Foundation are also widely known for creating such connections.
Is your open source project going to drive a nonprofit initiative? If so, GitHub will give you your own “Organization GitHub Account” with unlimited private repositories and unlimited users. It’s not cash, but it’s a nice perk.
Meanwhile, crowdsourcing is indeed a fast-growing way for many projects to get funding. From Kickstarter to GoFundMe to Flattr and Pledgie, project leaders can often reach sponsors through these avenues. You can find a good review of these channels here.
Some open source projects start with one individual, but it’s increasingly common for projects originally launched at enterprises and smaller companies to get forked or otherwise branch out with their leaders seeking funding. Very promising companies arise from these scenarios. Mesosphere, for example, was launched based on the open source Apache Mesos project. Kubernetes began as an open source project at Google, but it is now helping to drive countless profit-driven initiatives.
If you or your team have a promising project, don’t give it short shrift. Funding may be much more obtainable than you think.