Open source gets its own crowd-funding site, with bounties included

Bountysource is the crowd-funding site the open source community has been waiting for.

Raising funds to support open source projects can be...let's just call it "challenging."

Many open source projects (from phones to programming tools) have taken to crowd-funding sites (such as Kickstarter and indiegogo) in order to raise the cash needed for large-scale development. And, in some cases, this has worked out quite well.

But these sites really aren't built with open source projects in mind – they are much more general fund-raising platforms. And, as you are probably well aware, open source comes with its own benefits and challenges.

Bountysource, the self-described "funding platform for open-source software," seeks to fill that gap.

It first came onto my radar earlier this year and, I'll be honest, I kind of wrote it off as a fly-by-night project. I loved the idea of crowd-funding with an open source focus, but who were these guys? Would they even still exist in a few months? What sort of track record do they have? I wanted to believe...but I wasn't yet convinced. (I know. I'm a skeptic.)

So I sat back. And watched. Then, a few weeks back, they raised $1.1 million in funding from investors to continue building and expanding their system. That's right. They're legit.

So I got on the phone with the Bountysource CEO, Warren Konkel. I wanted to hear his thoughts and plans. And, here's what I took away from that conversation:

Not only do these guys understand open source software, they're passionate about it. This guy was on the phone with me doing what a CEO does – explaining the idea behind the company for the 7,528th time that day – and he was truly jazzed. His enthusiasm for building a community and ecosystem around financially supporting open source... well, it damn near made my phone explode. And I liked that.

Here's how Bountysource works.

There are two methods of funding: Fundraisers and Bounties.

Fundraisers are just like what you would expect from the various other crowd-funding sites. The real distinction here is that Bountysource will actually handle the pledge rewards for you. Want to offer a T-shirt for everyone who contributes $25 toward your project? Bountysource will handle the printing and shipping for you, so you can focus on things like... actually building the project. That's pretty cool.

Bounties are a little different. A bounty is created by someone to fix a bug or add a feature to a project (add a new plugin for Gimp, fix bugs in a Javascript framework, etc.). Then folks can contribute toward that bounty. Then a coder comes along and fixes that bug, or adds that feature, and then checks the changes in to GitHub. Once the changes have been accepted and merged into the project, the developer gets paid.

Software development bounties have been around for a long time, but having a site dedicated to doing it properly (with a community around it) is a major plus.

Bountysource even makes its front-end available as Open Source...and they put bounties in place to improve it. They're using their own system to improve the software that drives their company. Big thumbs up there.

The big question left is how quickly companies, projects and developers will adopt this system. After all, it doesn't matter how awesome a system is if nobody uses it. Luckily, judging by some of the current successes (such as this Git client and server built entirely in Javascript that recently raised nearly $35,000) I'd say they're off to a pretty solid start.

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