Episode 213

Chad Whitacre on Sponsoring $500,000 to Open Source


December 22nd, 2023

38 mins 8 secs

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Special Guest

About this Episode


Chad Whitacre


Richard Littauer | Abby Cabunoc Mayes | Leslie Hawthorne | Justin Dorfman


For this episode, we also recorded video! You can watch here.

Show Notes

In this episode of Sustain, host Richard Littauer is joined co-hosts Abby, Leslie, and Justin to talk with special guest, Chad Whitacre, co-founder of SustainOSS and Sentry’s Head of Open Source. Today, Chad sheds light on Sentry’s contributions in open source funding programs, the challenges, successes, and plans for progression. Chad also introduces FOSS Funder, a platform encouraging companies to give back to open source and shares his unique approach to business cards that has left a tangible imprint on the community. Hit download now to hear more!

[00:01:47] Chad is introduced, we hear his history with open source platforms and Sentry’s programs for community engagement, compliance, and funding.

[00:02:30] Justin asks Chad about changes since his last appearance, particularly Sentry’s 150k open source funding initiative, and Chad describes Sentry’s journey, the systematic approach to funding open source projects, and the growth of Sentry’s annual funding program from 150k to 500k.

[00:06:03] Justin interjects with a question about the math used to determine funding, leading Chad to reflect on the economic value of open source and the sense of unfairness in the community about companies not giving back. He continues to explain the reasoning behind funding figures.

[00:08:35] The conversation turns to defining the right amount to give, with discussions on per-engineer contributions and industry metrics for sponsorship.

[00:11:02] Richard asks about Sentry’s employee count, office locations, and if they pay a living wage, to which Chad confirms they do, and details Sentry’s office distribution and company policies.

[00:11:50] Richard raises a question about the focus of Sentry’s financial contributions, wondering if open source practitioners are the most appropriate recipients compared to other groups, and Chad states that Sentry does have contractors and they are paid adequately. He emphasizes that Sentry’s founders come from open an open source background, and the company still views itself as aligned with open source values. [00:14:00] Chad clarifies that when Sentry gives money to open source, it’s viewed as giving back for value received. He draws a distinction between charitable giving and investing in software, suggesting that the open source funding program is more about paying for the value received from open source software rather than charity.

[00:17:23] Chad speaks about the provision of public goods, touching on taxes and shame as mechanisms, and the role of corporate social validation.

[00:18:38] Leslie raises concern about the divestment from open source by corporations and the impact on the open source maintainer ecosystem. Chad discusses the multiple roles of OSPOs beyond funding and the cultural importance of open source at Sentry, and he tells the story of Sentry’s attempt to support every project on GitHub through GitHub sponsors and the challenges encountered.

[00:22:57] Chad acknowledges the effort required to sponsor every project, mentioning the help of thanks.dev crew and the need for better tools to simplify the process. He also introduces FOSS Funders, a platform started by Dwayne O’Brien, and explains the group’s activities and its Slack community.

[00:27:25] Abby inquires about how companies can join FOSS Funders and get their logos featured. Chad details how companies can participate in FOSS Funders through platforms, and the next phases of FOSS Funders.

[00:29:12] Abby shares how her and Chad met and making his special business cards which are pennies with a logo punched into them.

[00:32:14] Find out where you can learn more about Chad and his work on the web. He also touches on the connection and the need for honest conversations about sustainability in the community.


[00:05:26] “The open source community is not monolithic.”

[00:06:42] “There’s all these idealistic youths who put all of this software out there into the world, and then waking up ten years later totally burned out because they poured themselves out writing all this open source software.”

[00:09:20] “We need other companies to join us.”

[00:09:44] “We also need a better name for the non-commercial, sponsorable part of the community.”

[00:09:57] “Let’s make this real, let’s make this sustainable.”

[00:10:06] “It needs to be weird for companies not to do what Sentry is doing.”

[00:12:43] “If we’re going to do this Pledge1%, giving to open source is part of that.”

[00:13:09] “Open source is core to our company culture. And also, we’ve been there.”

[00:14:40] “Personal opinion: I think this line-item should be software, and not charity.”

[00:15:38] “Public goods are IOR: Invest On Return.”

[00:17:29] “Public goods are provisioned in two ways: taxes or shame.”

[00:23:00] “We need to start telling stories about the companies that are doing it.”


  • [00:34:08] Richard’s spotlight is the book, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl.
  • [00:34:44] Leslie’s spotlight is the Sovereign Tech Fund.
  • [00:35:12] Abby’s spotlight is The Wheel of Time audiobooks.
  • [00:35:45] Justin’s spotlight is the great city of Los Angeles.
  • [00:35:57] Chad’s spotlight is to commemorate Bram Moolenaar, author of VIM.



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