What I’ve learned over the past year funding open source

July 8 marks the 1 year birthday of CodeFund (previously Code Sponsor). It has been an amazing experience so far. I’ve met so many amazing people and have taken part in distributing over $36,000 to developers across the world.

I felt it would be helpful, not only to others but myself as well, to share the struggles and lessons I’ve learned over the past year. To have a business still running one year later is a pretty big accomplishment.

  • Jul 8, 2017 — Initial commit
  • Jul 27 — Code Sponsor, LLC was formed
  • Aug 1 — Paid $20.50 in distributions for July
  • Sept 1 — Paid $304.25 in distributions for August
  • Sep 11 —Published Fighting for Open Source Sustainability: Introducing Code Sponsor
  • Oct 1 — Paid $2,574.35 in distributions for September
  • Oct 10 — Sponsored GitHub Universe
  • Oct 12 — GitHub requests Code Sponsor to be removed from sindresorhus/awesome
  • Nov 1 — Paid $3,406 in distributions for October
  • Nov 17 — GitHub puts a deadline of removing Code Sponsor as Dec 8
  • Nov 21 — GitHub legal intervenes. I decide to shut down Code Sponsor
  • Dec 5 —Published Why Funding Open Source is Hard
  • Dec 10 — Paid $4,781.40 in distributions for November/December
  • Dec 21 — Donated $1,000 to fight human trafficking with remainder of distributions (too small to pay) to A21.org
  • Dec 30 — Rollbar commits to continued support through Q1 2018
  • Jan 1, 2018 — Pre-paid $3,748.50 in distributions for January
  • Jan 8 — I quit my job
  • Jan 16 — I joined the Gitcoin team and brought back Code Sponsor
  • Feb 1 — Pre-paid $3,748.50 in distributions for February
  • Feb 27 — Began rewrite in Elixir (open source)
  • Mar 1 — Pre-paid $3,748.50 in distributions for February
  • May 1 — Paid $3,896.24 in distributions for April
  • May 29 — Migrated from CPC to CPM model
  • Apr 18 — Renamed Code Sponsor to CodeFund
  • Apr 23 — Hired lead Elixir engineer
  • June 1 — Paid $3,298.67 in distributions for May
  • Jul 1 — Paid $2,598.83 in distributions for June
  • Jul 9 — CodeFund integrates with Discourse
  • Aug 1 — Paid $4,144.93 in distributions for July

Be Open

Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned and applied to this business is honestly and openness. During calls with advertisers, I often open up my books to them or show them my dashboard. By being open with them, I’ve found it much easier to discuss their needs and how we can help them.

Here are our numbers for July, right from the admin dashboard

In February, we rewrote CodeFund and kept it 100% open source.

Be Unapologetically Focused on the Mission

My mission since day one has been to help fund open source. I have built my career on open source and am proud to spend every day giving back. Anytime a question arises, I ask myself “does this help us fund open source?” If the answer is “no” than we don’t do it.

With this mission in mind, we have turned down publishers and advertisers, even though it would generate more revenue. We have been active participants in the Sustain conference planning. We even guide developers to competing solution if ours doesn’t fit their needs.

As long as ads continue to generate funding for open source developers, we will continue down this path. If that changes, we will pivot into other ways to help open source. The mission, not the product, is our lighthouse.

Be Ethical

Ad platforms are a funny thing. The industry is riddled with bad actors trying to deceive, steal data and increase their margins through unethical practices. Ad blockers are now commonplace, not because of ethical advertisers such as Eric Holscher’s Read the Docs, but bad ones.

We’ve adopted the core principles of Eric’s “Ethical Advertising” into CodeFund. What does this mean?

  • No user tracking
  • No cookies
  • No remarketing
  • No selling of data
  • No profiling

I do not remember parting ways with a publisher or advertiser on bad terms. Last year when we lost an advertiser, the owner sent me this:

Please know that I have the utmost respect for what you are doing and you as a person. By no means should by departure be an induction of anything personal. I trust you and the product you built.
I hope we can work together in the future! I really appreciate your time, patience, and hacking skills. Please keep in touch from time to time — I’m honestly impressed by your work and believe you will be successful.

I’ve been able to build real friendships with so many of our advertiser and publishers over the past year. I would not be able to do so if I was acting unethically.

Be Resilient

Over the past year I have received constant kicks to the groin. GitHub says no. OUCH! Day job is not happy with me building a company on the side. OOF! Burnout. UGH!!! Google data is not matching our data. YIKES!!

A good friend of mine and fellow entrepreneur told me that these kicks to the groin are a core part of a successful business. It forces the company to pivot into what it was really meant to become. Looking back now, I see that each hit has guided me towards better decision making.


Eric Berry is the founder of CodeFund and co-founder of Gitcoin. I believe that funding is critical to sustainable open source. Connect with me on LinkedIn or say hi on Twitter, mentioning this story.