VenCorps: Crowd-Sourcing Venture Capital Funding

by Ostatic Staff - Jun. 04, 2008

Many people in the open source community agree that more economic fairness in the open source ecosystem could help users and developers alike. Increasingly, big tech companies are waking up to the concept, as seen in the hefty cash prizes that Google awarded top developers in its Android Developer Challenge. Now, a new venture capital-driven effort is taking shape that will ask for community participation in identifying startup companies to invest in. Dubbed VenCorps, Webware has an interesting analysis of it. I'm betting that some of the capital will go to open source developers.

In Ostatic's recent interview with Sam Ramji, Microsoft's head of global open source and Linux team, he made the following point about open source: ""The other thing I think is missing is implementation of a basic principle of economic fairness. Thousands of developers have put very hard work into building software used by millions of people and companies, yet only a fraction of these developers are rewarded financially. Currently there are perfectly good projects that have been abandoned by their developers despite being used by large corporations. Subsequently the projects fall out of use. This is unnecessary waste that would often be prevented by making it easy for companies to pay the developers directly."

I strongly agree with Ramji. The goal at VenCorps, as Webware reports, is to let community participants choose good investments from a list of submissions generated by VenCorps. Participants don't invest any money, but the most successful ones do gain reputation points, which can be exchanged for prizes, and may translate into job hires as VenCorps continues.

Webware reports that VenCorps' parent company is Spencer Trask, a venture firm with a $2 billion fund. Spencer Trask is underwriting the VenCorps project, and VenCorps will make real investments in startup companies based on top picks from the  community (it doesn't officially launch until three months from now).

The crowd-sourcing model that VenCorps chooses to use parallels several important open source principles. Likewise, records are being set for the total amount of VC money being thrown at open source.  Almost certainly, VenCorps will end up seeding open source companies, using a community-driven crowd-sourced model to do so.