What is our story?
We are Mostapha and Chris. If you are a user of our software, then you probably know that the two of us met through the development of Ladybug Tools. I [Mostapha] started the development of Ladybug in 2012 mainly out of frustration. I couldn’t stand the repetitive, simplified and disconnected workflows that I had to use on a daily basis as well as the overall lack of knowledge about environmental building design. I wanted educate more people about the principles of environmental building design and that happened to be through Ladybug!
I released Ladybug for Grasshopper in January 2013 and Chris joined shortly after and became a critical part of the development through his significant contributions to both the source code and the community. Together, we have been developing the software ever since and, with the help from some awesome people from around the globe, Ladybug Tools has not only “survived” but has flourished during the last couple of years. It’s now an industry standard toolkit, with more than 100,000 downloads just for the Grasshopper version and is used by both professionals and professors alike.
Ladybug Tools has been lucky to get a great start through the help and support of an enthusiastic and knowledgeable community. In the last 5 years we have written close a million lines of code, helped several thousand of people learn the software, answered thousands of questions on our forum, and created hundreds of example files and tutorial videos.
Here is a surprise for most of you: Ladybug Tools has always been a side-project for both of us. Two years ago, in September 2015, I changed my job and left the industry to join academia, which affords me more time to work on the development. Because I had more time, I was able to team up with Theodore and Sarith to work on Butterfly and Honeybee[+] which are now both released. Chris is still improving and maintaining the original Ladybug Tools while continuing to have a full-time job in the industry. Now imagine what can happen if we can work on this full-time!
After this whole experience, we have become certain of two things:
- We want Ladybug Tools to go on for long time. In software development terms, our beta test is over. We have proven the concept and this is evidenced by our ever-growing community as well as our direct observations of how Ladybug Tools has changed the industry for the better. We want to continue working on Ladybug Tools for as long as possible and level up our game in documentation, learning materials, cloud services and user support.
- Ladybug Tools needs to be our full-time job. The “do it as a side project” plan was good for the first few years and would have been fine if the project had stayed small but, with the current scale of our community, it is not sustainable. If Ladybug Tools is going to keep changing the industry for the better and last for a long time, at least the two of us need to work on the development full-time.
What is the plan moving forward?
Thinking about the long-term plan for supporting the project, we decided that any option which limited the freedom of our community would not work for us and so we dismissed the notion of venture capital funding. When someone invests money in a company or startup, they rightfully expect to have a say in where the venture should go and, while there are benevolent investors in the world, a goal of maximal profit is too clearly at odds with our future development map and the way that we currently measure the success of our project. With profit as a primary goal, important technical subjects would likely be secondary to our marketability.
While you might say this is how most technology projects in the world work, I argue that this model is not right for everyone. If you have an idea for startup, you already know how to run it, and you can think of a humane way to sustain it that does not limit the freedom of the community that depends on it, then it is a mistake to take investor funding. I would also add that one of the critical reasons why the project has been so successful up to this point is that we have been focused on addressing technical matters rather than extracting money from customers.
With the notion of a startup ruled out, the other option was to begin a non-profit organization and this could have given us both the freedom and the funding. We could accept tax-deductible donations and many of the large offices that use us could donate money and enjoy large tax breaks. Two birds with one stone! This option was originally the front runner until I found this report. Go to page 5 and read the “Shift in IRS Policy” part and you will understand why we couldn’t consider the non-profit organization as an option.
After much research, brainstorming, and deliberating we came up with the following plan:
- Ladybug Tools LLC. We decided to start a small company, Ladybug Tools LLC and provide services off of the core software. We will teach workshops, provide consulting, sell early access to new tutorial videos, and operate a cloud computing service. We hope that the LLC will eventually provide enough income to fully support the development. However, the challenge is to find and keep a balance between providing the services and developing the project. In other words, these services can end up being our new full time job next to the development, which again becomes a side project!
- Membership/contributions. We decided to create this Patreon page (that you are currently on) and develop two partnership programs. The membership structure is similar to projects like processing and will allow us to collect contributions from individuals, offices and institutions. You can read the options for individual contributions on the right side of this page and, as you can see, you can pledge a certain amount of money and your contribution will recur each month after you become a member. For offices and educational institutions, the pledge occurs annually and you can visit our membership page for more details. In exchange for your membership, you will receive cool privileges and even special rights to the services of the LLC. Most notably, if you pledge $25 per month, you will receive 6 months early access to all of our new tutorial videos, which is the best way to keep yourself up-to-date on the latest development and abilities.
I have been thinking about what I would say on this page for some time now, and even though I have read reports that suggest that crowdfunding like this won’t work, I do believe in the power of communities. I believe most people care to help those who have helped them in the past. I have had my moments of skepticism about whether we will be able to sustain ourselves on membership contributions alone but I also have moments of thinking this must work because, if it wasn’t working, we wouldn’t be where we are now! We have been there for those who have needed us and they will be here for us now when we need them!
The truth is that, by creating this account, I am handing over the decision about what Ladybug Tools will become to you. It’s now in your hands to determine what will happen next and how the project will sustain. "The power is yours!"
What We'll Use the Money For
Your pledge and the income from the LLC will be used to cover the following:
- Hosting our discussion forum. As many of you know, our discussion forum is the heart of our community. From the thousands of replies that we've posted there, you can tell that’s where we spend most of our time when we're not developing software. We have recently moved to a Discourse platform which ultimately makes it easier for our community members to help each other. However, we need to pay for the server and email service. Your contributions will help us keep this forum online and thriving.
- Video tutorials. Chances are that you have watched one of our video tutorials and know that they are one of the fastest ways to learn how to use Ladybug Tools. We want to be able to produce more of this content for you and cover the multitude of capabilities that have not yet been "videoed". This means incentivizing the most knowledgeable members of our community to generate this content and so part of your support will help fund these creators and pay them back for video tutorials that they produce. As you can see to the right, you can get early access to the most recent materials when you become a supporter.
- Chris and Mostapha. If we are going to continue supporting our community and developing the project to the level that we all want, we need to minimize the time spent on extra tasks like consulting projects. The more income that we make from contributions here, the less time we will need to spend consulting and the more time we will spend making Ladybug Tools better and your life happier + easier!
- Other Ladybug Tools developers. Before we created this contribution page, we had a discussion with our major contributors and agreed that, if there are enough contributions to support all of the above, then we will start supporting more of our developers for what they do. Reaching this lofty goal will be fantastic!
If you have read this far - thank you! Thank you for caring about the future of Ladybug Tools! Thank you for all the support during the last couple of years and thank you for any support that you offer here.
Let us know if you any questions, concerns or suggestions!
-- Mostapha and Chris