On Friday, April 19, 2013, OLC attended Dumbo Developers’ event featuring Gittip’s founder, Chad Whitacre, who talked about his company and the idea of open companies.
Gittip launched 10 months ago as a weekly gift exchange platform. Gittip is about sustainable on-going support. “You give small cash gifts to people. Money is given anonymously, so there’s no strings attached,” Chad Whitacre said. “This is crowdsourced sustainable income.”
Whitacre’s goal is to bring users to Gittip and get it so that people eventually make a living using Gittip. “Companies are using it as a way to promote themselves as a giving brand,” he said.
Within Gittip, there are options to give a quarter, $1, $3, $6, $12 and $24 to someone that the user looks up to. “The twist is that Gittip is funded through Gittip,” Whitacre admitted. “That’s led to some interesting conversations and events.”
The idea of open companies was explored briefly. “Companies give us stuff. It’s a way of organizing ourselves, but companies have a firm bounding and aren’t renowned for transparency,” Whitacre said. “An open-source program is this fuzzy unbounded thing. It’s a gradient. There’s no firm boundary. Open-source projects have been proven to be extremely efficient at organizing ourselves. There’s an emphasis on personal freedom.
There’s transparency. The question is if we can take open-source beyond developer tools. Gittip isn’t just an open-source project. It’s an open-source product. Our goal is to have a consumer using the product in a transparent way. Think Wikipedia, where people that aren’t experts can contribute to maintain it and create content,” he said.
Whitacre said that at Gittip, they share as much as possible without giving away the password to the mainframe. They charge as little as possible and they don’t pay employees. “We don’t get salaries,” he said. “People were up in arms about us not giving salary and a lot of conversation started that way. A month later though, we had 20 new developers working on code on Github and we got productive content on these new opportunities.”
He talked about having conversations on open forums, which allow for a level of interaction that can be approached by literally anyone who is willing to listen. “Vendors can approach conversations pertaining to their interests and they can offer you their services, whereas if you were having a conversation offline and behind closed doors, they wouldn’t have been able to. It lets you talk about pricing even before the product is built. You don’t get this level of transparency from let’s say Paypal or even banks,” Whitacre said.
From here, the floor opened up to audience questions.
“What’s Gittip’s purpose,” an audience member asked.
“You’ve got extrinsic and intrinsic motivators,” Whitacre began. “Extrinsic, you’re doing it for the paycheck and intrinsic, you’re doing it because you love it. At Gittip, we want to sort of combine the two. Make money while you’re doing something you’re passionate about. It’s getting users to work on something they love.”
A member asked where else Gittip was gaining traction. Whitacre thought for a moment and said that YouTube channels were using Gittip to help fund their videos.
Whitacre revealed that he wants to figure out a way to decentralize the distribution of money.
“How does the decision-making process at Gittip work?” a member asked.
“It’s an open-source project, so we talk about it on open platforms and networks. It really depends on the issue, though. We don’t have a super-firm process just yet,” Whitacre said. “I want to be more fluid. I want people to trust. It’s the belief and trust in the person to carry out what they said they were going to do through Gittip and that’s what we’re trying to prove.”