Gingko is, and always has been, small, self-funded, and profitable. It continues to grow steadily, via word of mouth alone.
But I’ve reached the limit of what I can accomplish alone. For a long time, I believed I faced a tough choice:
- Take the path of selling Gingko off, and hope that my successor follows the spirit of the project and doesn’t let it die.
- Take the path of opening Gingko up completely in one shot, and risk irrevocably damaging the business. Thereby failing in my responsibility to my current users, and the family I help support.
- Devote all my energies to growth and profit, and stop making improvements until I achieve “scale”. Go big or go home.
Each had its attractions, but none are ideal. But, towards the end of the 5 month journey I took with my wife and son, I realized another option: “sell” Gingko to the world. Open-source Gingko, but raise a buffer to support both my current users, and my family in the transition. Bring Gingko, and its vision, to a wider audience.
So, here’s what’s in store:
I’m creating a Kickstarter campaign to accomplish several things at once:
- Open-sourcing isn’t just “flipping a switch”. It’s going to take significant time and energy to make it work. If the campaign is successful, I’ll be able to dedicate myself full-time to the transition.
- Whether I realized it or not, Gingko for me was never about massive profits. I simply wanted it to be sustainable (meaning, make enough support the work of the developers), and to have an impact. Raising funds from Gingko’s users is a way of growing while remaining independent, so that this spirit remains part of the project.
- The Kickstarter campaign is also an attempt to reach a wider audience. I’m doing my best to make it appeal to both current users, and those who’ve never heard of Gingko.
- I also hope that the campaign will attract a core group of users with a collaborative spirit, to help with improving Gingko as it grows: via feedback, design discussions, translations, and code contributions (in the form of core improvements, or new plugins).
There are many of you who’ve followed along with Gingko’s journey from the beginning. I am grateful for all the support you’ve given me over the years.
And I’m sorry for the long hiatus in posting here… I know it’s given the wrong impression (that Gingko development is slowing down), when nothing could be further from the truth. I’m an introvert. So when I really need to make progress, I go into a sort of cocoon. Especially during incubation periods where I’m trying to make strategic decisions, like this one.
Of course, for me personally, this will be my biggest challenge in open-sourcing: being available to those who want to help Gingko grow.
But we can start here!
Your feedback now, and as I develop the campaign, will have a multiplying effect if the campaign is successful. In other words, helping me craft the campaign is a huge help to me, and to Gingko’s long term future.
Tell me your thoughts, and questions in the comments.
What excites you about this?
What worries you? Or are you indifferent?
22 thoughts on “Gingko’s Path to Growth”
I hope you’re able to really kickstart this new transition and accelerate Gingko’s exposure to the world 🙂 Best of luck!
Thanks Frank 🙂
It’s a lot of work, but it’ll be worth it no matter how it turns out.
I am absolutely on board with making Gingko open source, and I think that the Kickstarter is a perfectly valid way to cover some of the cost of doing so.
That said, upfront, you need to be aware that a number of people in the open source community will take the Kickstarter itself as an affront. They will campaign aggressively against your Kickstarter, because it is essentially – as they will see it – an attempt to have one last money grab. In a real sense, this is true. It is one last opportunity to have some personal profit from the tool to help pay off the cost of developing it. But you need to be aware that there will be some backlash of that nature.
The other thing that could be difficult is where you set your Kickstarter goal, and what you specify as the results of a successful Kickstarter versus a failed Kickstarter. Kickstarter, as an architecture, is geared toward the start of new projects and acquiring enough funds to make those projects a reality and then deliver them to the investors in the persons of the crowd funders from Kickstarter. In this case, your goal is to take in money to give something away for free – and that’s a hard sell. In fact, I’m not even sure that it’s a project that Kickstarter itself will sign off on, and it’s definitely going to be a problem in explaining why people should back the Kickstarter.
This is different from an IndieGoGo, because an IGG is explicitly a funding period In which all of the money donated is treated as just that, a donation toward a goal and all of which will be gathered by the project creators, whether or not the funding level is reached. That might be closer to something that you are looking to do, or at least it’s something that you should keep in mind.
Crowdfunding is a complicated, delicate process, and one that all too few creators actually understand from the community perspective. If I had one piece of advice to give you, it would be to think of anyone that provides money to you via crowdfunding system, whether it be Kickstarter or IndieGoGo as investors, venture capitalists, who are giving you money now in exchange for something of greater value to be given to them in the future. That’s the key. If you can do that, if your project can fit that shape, you can be successfully crowdfunding. If not, or if you can’t or won’t think about the people give you money as investors, then you’re going to have a rough time of it.
I look forward to learning more about your plans as we go forward.
I appreciate your taking the time to post this, Alexander.
Helps me think through some potential issues/objections to the Kickstarter approach.
And why is that a negative? This isn’t a side project for me… it’s how I help put food on the table for myself and my family.
I would be open sourcing the code, but I’m not shutting down the business. I do intend to continue making enough from Gingko for it to support itself, and my share of our (very basic) family expenses. It would be free to self-host, but if some would rather not self-host (as I suspect, most people wouldn’t), then you will be able to use the limited account free or subscribe as you currently do.
The funding level I’m setting is high enough to give me a bit of a buffer in case I need to immediately seek alternative sources of income (which I think is unlikely), but far lower than I know (from an independent appraisal) that I could get from selling privately.
My goal is to raise money to put the necessary work in, to be able to give contributors something of value (Gingko’s code, which represents many many hours of work by myself and my former partner). There are many similar projects on Kickstarter that have had successful fundraising campaigns (the excellent Ghost blogging platform, for instance).
“One last money grab” is a bit of a harsh response… I’m as far away from being a “money grabber” as you might imagine!
Not sure how I can prevent people from seeing it that way though. Do you have any ideas? Or do you, yourself, feel that this is indeed what I’m doing? Maybe you’ve assumed that I’m asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars, instead of the 15-25K USD that I will request?
Let me know if this clarifies any of your objections.
I think that kickstarters are definitely a new trend that will be around some time to come. It’s not only effective, but also much more manageable for new businesses. It seems like you aren’t that new, and I bet with your ideas that you’ll definitely be able to make it happen!
Good Luck to you,
This is exciting news. Do you think that an ios app is on the horizon considering the kickstarter. I’m planning to move my writing and other light work over to an ipad pro so browser only throws a kink in things.
I haven’t decided yet on the stretch goals for the campaign itself, but mobile apps are a good candidate.
More importantly, if the campaign is successful, what’s developed next is up to the community of developers and dedicated users we build around Gingko. I plan to move as quickly as possible to a more collaborative mode (as opposed to a dictatorial model).
PS: Have you tried Gingko on a mobile browser (Chrome for iOS, for example). Far from ideal, but it does work.
I have just discovered Ginko and am already a fan. I hope your plan to sustain this tool works out. I only wish I had the skills to help out, perhaps one day I will. On a selfish note how will this impact me if I decide to subscribe (I was planning to do this).
All the best
If all goes well, this should only affect you positively: Gingko itself will get better, faster. If it doesn’t go well, things will be about the same.
As for the actual subscription fees: I might change the pricing structure, but it will depend on how things go after the campaign. For the campaign itself, I’m considering giving free months (or years), depending on the level of contribution you make.
Does that answer your questions?
Yes, thanks for that. I like the app so much I subscribed straight after posting my first comment.
Good luck with the campaign.
The best is yet to come!
I stopped by for inspirations and here you go!
2 cents, like you mentioned in your blog, this service needs an upgrade. Not a complete redesign, but improvements and even a better/faster UI. Open sourcing the entire thing, will add more headache of managing the community of developers who will chip some code(sometimes bad code).
I guess you already know DHH open sources RoR, without open sourcing the entire Basecamp! It is possible to do the same, and I don’t think that needs fundraising campaign. Like modularize some code, and open source it.
Same for Chriss, He fundraised for css-tricks makeover. He outsourced nothing. Some perks such stopping by office, screen casting the process, etc. (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/chriscoyier/screencasting-a-complete-redesign/description).
Same goes to Medium, the editor is OpenSource, but they kept server side code!
When you raise money to improve the product, and keep control of the product, I guess it not dictatorial mode! We already ask for feature requests! People who love your product, we will always be glad to help.
Like if you are planning to release an iPad native app, raising money to fund the service and offer in return some perks(a year or two, or have 2 or 3 threes on free tier), is not a big deal! It makes sense.
Users(me included) needs a better service, how you get there is a no-brainer. For decisions such as webapp makeover, or UI makeover … may be a bit hard to coordinate with a swarm of developers! I suggest you just raise money to make the service better, everybody will understand!
That’d be really awesome! I hope I’ll manage to notice it (I don’t seem to be getting any email updates from you guys at gingko, but I’m hoping it’s just that you’re not sending them, not them being filtered out by gmail) so that I can be a backer.
You’re right, I don’t send email very regularly.
I used to feel guilty about that, since marketers recommend sending anywhere from weekly to monthly.
But I realize that I hate receiving self-serving “remember me” newsletters.
I’d rather send them out every 6 months or so, with big list of updates,
combined with whatever wisdom I feel I’ve gained in the interim. It’s what I naturally do anyway 🙂
It’s a pity you don’t hazve a donate button! I’d without a doubt donate to this fantastic blog!
I guss for noow i’ll settle for book-marking and addring your RSS feed
to my Google account. I look forward to brand neww updates and wiol talk about thi website with my Facebook group.
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