Funding is not the (only) solution
03-18, 10:10–10:50 (Europe/Berlin), Stage 1

How does a FOSS project survive its initial wave of wild enthusiasm? How does one build something sustainable far from the traditional path of “build a proprietary tool, gather user data, sell everything”? How do we prevent our small FOSS projects from dying out, replaced by overly powerful tech giants and start ups with no regard for their users?

At Prototype Fund we fund this initial phase where a person or a small team comes up with a great idea and spends a few months figuring out how to bring it to life. And we see that the hardest part is rarely the initial building time: Keeping a project alive in the long run is the real challenge. While we (obviously) believe that a diverse range of funders is key for a healthy FOSS ecosystem, we see over and over again how great projects focus on this path only, struggle to survive on funding and slowly give up.

Funding can be a valid model for specific projects, but it can’t be the only solution to survive. With this talk we would like to encourage the FOSS community to look into different options. Based on experiences mady by various projects who were initially funded by the Prototype Fund, we’ll give an overview of what can work, what definitely doesn’t, and where to look for inspiring examples.

Marie Gutbub and Patricia Leu are co-directors of Prototype Fund, a funding program for open source software at the Open Knowledge Foundation Germany.

See also: slides (3.8 MB)

Patricia is a communications expert who has worked in the campaign and communication teams of various NGOs and was responsible for the press and public relations of an association. Before that she studied religion and culture in Berlin and researched on medial discourse hegemony.

Marie is an open source and privacy advocate, campaigner, event organizer and information security trainer. She studied cultural journalism and researched new models for online journalism platforms. Since then, she has worked as a freelance journalist, campaigner, communications officer, infosec trainer and event organizer for various projects in journalism, privacy and open source.