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Sandstorm Blog

Sandstorm raises $1.3M seed; paying forward crowdfunds

By Kenton Varda - 15 Jan 2015

Lately, some of you may have noticed that Sandstorm’s daily meeting notes have often contained the ill-defined bullet point “business crap”. Today we’re finally able to share what that meant: we have secured $1.3M in seed funding from a great group of venture capitalists and angel investors, led by Quest Venture Partners.

When we decided to raise VC money, we insisted on doing it in a way that keeps us aligned with our original grassroots goals. We needed a business plan that allowed us to make money by protecting our users’ privacy, not by violating it. We’re happy to say that we found one.

As it turns out, every problem individuals have with increasing centralization of “the cloud”, businesses have ten-fold. Businesses, too, worry about things like privacy, security, being able to customize their software to their needs, and being able to smoothly integrate software from multiple vendors. In fact, businesses worry about these things far more than the average user. As a result, many businesses – especially the largest enterprises – maintain massive in-house compute infrastructure, at heavy cost. Securing this infrastructure has proven difficult, as attacks on Target, Sony Pictures, and so many other large companies have proven. We and our investors believe that the technology we are building in Sandstorm can solve these problems – and any time you solve a problem for big businesses, money is not far away.

We like this objective because it keeps us totally aligned with our users. In fact, we are now arguably more aligned with the community than before. Whereas previously there had been a lot of pressure on us to focus on our subscription-based managed hosting option as a way to get revenue, our immediate goal now is just to develop and prove the platform. That means that self-hosted users are just as important to us as paying subscribers. To that end, the first thing we have done with our new money is to hire Asheesh Laroia, a long-time self-hosting and Free Software enthusiast, whose main focus will be improving Sandstorm’s self-hosting experience. To be clear, everything you need to run your own Sandstorm server will always be free and open source, still developed in the open.

To fund Sandstorm’s development, we will be also starting a separate project – codenamed “Blackrock” – aimed specifically at building tools to maintain large Sandstorm clusters integrated with common enterprise-oriented infrastructure (such as Active Directory). Some of this may not be open source, but if it turns out that a feature of Blackrock is of interest to the community at large, we will look to move that code into Sandstorm proper. I personally hate the idea that some of my code may not be open – I have been releasing all of my personal code under open source licenses since high school – but I am happy that it means we can fund heavy development of the open source Sandstorm platform, without the need for advertising or data mining.

Paying it Forward: Indiegogo Backers

Back in August, the community gave us $58,929 to make Sandstorm happen. We could not have gotten to this point without the help of our Indiegogo backers, and we are deeply grateful for your support both during the campaign and since. You helped us prove that a decentralized internet is something people want. Now that we’ve raised VC money, we want to pay forward your investment in us.

First, all of our Indiegogo perks will of course be honored. T-shirts and stickers have been sent out already (if you didn’t get yours, please let us know), the App Committee has been actively meeting, and our managed hosting option will open later this year.

We would also like our backers’ help in growing a marketplace that makes open source web applications viable. With this new funding, we are able to build a marketplace in which open source Sandstorm apps will be sold on a “pay what you want” basis, with all proceeds going to the developer. To honor our backers, we will be providing credit in our marketplace equal to backers’ contribution on Indiegogo. Use this credit to fund any open source web application that matters to you. Yes, you can choose your own project – even if it contains only one line of code – but we hope you’ll spread the love and choose a project that is advancing the decentralized web.

Stretch Goals

With our new funding, we will be able to implement all of the “stretch goals” listed in our Indiegogo campaign. We don’t have a timeline for these yet, but they are coming! Here they are, for those that don’t remember:

Pre-order Managed Hosting

While Sandstorm is getting easier to run on your own Linux machine, many people don’t want the hassle of maintaining a physical server. Thus, we are planning to provide subscription-based managed hosting option as well.

For those who missed the Indiegogo campaign, we are now accepting pre-orders for this service. Pre-ordering now will get you free access to our beta (when it is ready); you will not actually be charged until the beta is over.

Get Involved

We regularly post internal meeting notes and answer questions on the sandstorm-dev mailing list, and we are usually available to chat on IRC (#sandstorm on freenode). Feel free to come talk to us in either place!

Want to write a Sandstorm app, or port an existing app to Sandstorm? Check out the Porting Guide and drop us a line in sandstorm-dev if you get stuck.


Who controls Sandstorm?

Sandstorm and Cap’n Proto are properties of Sandstorm Development Group, Inc., a company founded by Kenton Varda and Jade Wang. Kenton is the CEO. Jade is the President. The Board of Directors is Kenton and Jade. The company is majority-owned by Kenton and Jade, with room for additional financing rounds without losing that majority.

When will managed hosting be available?

Software project time estimates are always autorectumatic, but we anticipate the beta will open in Summer of this year. Once the service is stable, secure, and backed up, it will come out of beta and we will start charging for it. To get a spot in the beta, pre-order now (we won’t actually charge you until after the beta is over).

Thank You