An open source creator platform for developers • How to fix open source funding • New projects: morphic, LedgerLive, File Uploader • Fundraising from IoTeX, Viam, OpenPipe

Welcome to a new edition of Open Pioneers - your weekly update from the forefront of open source. Today, we talk about:

  • An extensive interview with Birk from Polar, an open source creator platform for developers

  • New open source projects, including an AI-powered answer engine, an desktop app to manage your crypto portfolio, and a shadcn-based file uploader.

  • Fundraising news from IoTeX, Viam, and OpenPipe

Since last week, we have welcomed 33 new Open Pioneers. 👋 If you like this week's post, it would make my day if you would share it with a friend or colleague.

🔍 Spotlight: Polar

polar.sh website

Today we have an interview with Birk Jernström (@birk), founder of Polar. He explained what Polar is, how he got the idea for it, how we all can improve open source funding, and how he got the founder of HashiCorp to join his advisory board. Enjoy!

Hi Birk! What is Polar, and what problem is it solving? 

Our mission is to empower developers to get paid coding on their passions. We focus on building better community-, funding- & monetization tools for open source- and indie developers. 

  • Community. Offer a free subscription to your newsletter & public posts - written in our markdown editor or pulled from your Astro content (community SDK).

  • Funding & Monetization. Get one-off donations, paid subscribers to seamless crowdfunding behind GitHub issues - rewarding your contributors with an adjustable share. Offer your subscribers access to our built-in benefits: From early- or premium access to posts, Discord invites & roles, README logo placements and private GitHub repo(s) access, and more to come. We’ll soon introduce products too.

  • We’re also the merchant of record & handle VAT. Enabling you to offer services and products without having to deal with VAT compliance.

All built fully open source (Apache 2.0) and API-first with OAuth & Webhooks around the corner to integrate with your sites & services.

Focus on building and sharing your passion. We’ll focus on the infrastructure to get you paid.

How did you come to start Polar?

I’m a self-taught developer. A statement I could not make had open source not existed - I owe my career to the ecosystem and absolutely love it. I also love independent entrepreneurship. Back in 2011, I co-founded Tictail. An e-commerce platform and marketplace supporting tens of thousands of small businesses that Shopify acquired in 2018.

So in 2022, I started working on an independent SaaS product for small businesses - built open source. One day, I had to build an OAuth provider in Python. Just like I did back at Tictail in 2013, but there was no open source solution at the time so it took me ~2 weeks to build. Now, 9 years later, I found Authlib and within an hour I was done.

I immediately went to GitHub Sponsors to show my genuine appreciation. Only to discover that despite thousands of commits and dependents they received coffee money!

I’ve always known about the problem with open source funding. So it didn’t really surprise me, but I got pissed off and thought: How can coffee money still be the status quo in open source and how can we fix it? That question threw me down a rabbit hole I haven’t been able to leave since (send help!).

How can we improve open source funding?

I’d boil it down to three things:

  • Better funding & monetization infrastructure for developers. It needs to be seamless to set up-, experiment-, grow- and scale more funding and monetization offerings in a compliant way.

  • Don’t open source everything. Don’t be afraid to offer early- or premium access to code (sponsorware) or content for additional value you’re giving or exploring. We have to encourage experimentation in our ecosystem. Not for you? That’s fine too. Just don’t open source your time as well: Offer issue funding behind feature requests you're aligned with to subscriptions with support benefits. Get support for support. 

  • Make it super easy for businesses to fund & subscribe. Current models require one-off sponsorship. It’s hard to sell with decision hierarchies and procurement processes at companies. We’re better off selling as one to cover their entire stack & needs from one invoice. That in turn requires new tooling to make it seamless for all parties involved. We’re going to do more here.

You recently announced Mitchell Hashimoto, founder of HashiCorp, joined you as an advisor. How did this come about?

Someone asked me two months ago: “Who would you personally love to see use Polar?”. I instantly said: Mitchell Hashimoto with his Ghostty project. True story.

I was about to reach out to him too. So imagine my excitement one day in late February when I saw that he had signed up to Polar! Obviously, I immediately sent him an email.

From our very first conversation, Mitchell has been genuinely invested in our mission and product combined with being a treasure trove of great feedback and ideas. Few people have such vast first-hand experience building both for sustainability & profitability within our ecosystem. 

So one day, after having sent countless emails discussing a few future product ideas together, I asked him if he would be interested in a more formal role in our journey. I’m honored & humbled that he did and for the chance to work with him.

What are 3 tips you would give developers starting with content creation?

  1. Share your journey & goals. Build your community. Don’t settle for stars alone. Write a devlog, create short video demos, share progress and ideas ahead. Start small. Make it fun & yours. Andreas Kling behind SerenityOS is a great example. Now it looks impossible to mimic him, but in the beginning Andreas posted raw videos of his progress. I’m sure he cringed at first too.

  2. Early- and premium access. I challenge developers to experiment with these models for anything in addition to their core offering. Read how Caleb Porzio behind Livewire made $100K+ in a year. We strive to make this easier for more developers.

  3. Educational material. It’s hard to sell to big companies, but they often offer their engineers have a learning & development allowance. Tap into it. I think the “I can expense it”-tier from Lenny’s Newsletter is hilariously honest, good and aptly named. Start small. Ask your community. Expand. Iterate.

Above all else. Experiment. Throw spaghetti. Nobody has solved this problem and we have to celebrate experimentation in our ecosystem, share learnings and adapt. The solution is not going to be a silver bullet, but different battle tested models from trial and error. Find yours and let us know how we can help - we’re here to offer the infrastructure.

Learn more about Polar: Website | GitHub | Twitter

🔥 New open source projects started last week

🦄 Fundraising news

  • IoTeX, building modular DePin infrastructure, announced $50M in funding. Link

  • Viam, accelerating innovation in robotics and IoT, announced their $45M Series B. Link

  • OpenPipe, supporting personalized fine-tune models, announced their $6.7M Seed round. Link

📚 More open source content

  • German State Ditches Microsoft for Open-Source Software Link

  • How HashiCorp's license shakeup seeded a new open source rebel Link

  • Feds to offer new support to open-source developers Link

  • Meta confirms that its Llama 3 open-source LLM is coming in the next month Link

🤡 Meme of the week

Seems like Cal.com and Supabase are getting ready to compete head-to-head on a ProductHunt launch (April 15th)? Who is taking bets?

Until next week,

Jonathan (@jonathimer)